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Fired RPSO corrections officer calls termination and arrest for malfeasance ‘political’ at trial

Judge Chris Hazel to take case against Jeremy Morrow under advisement
A fired RPSO corrections officer called his termination and arrest for malfeasance ‘political’ at his trial on October 29, 2021.
Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 2:12 PM CDT
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RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - A Rapides Parish judge will take a malfeasance case under advisement, making a determination later if a former Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office correctional officer is guilty or innocent.

Jeremy Morrow is accused of using excessive force on DC 1 inmate, Damian Francisco, back in March 2019 during a search for a shank in two jail cells. A shank was never found.

Another corrections officer who testified at trial on Tuesday said the inmate was argumentative, cursed, and didn’t want to be handcuffed during the search. Once the inmate was handcuffed, he was moved out into a hallway where video surveillance shows the inmate being taken to the ground by Morrow.

Morrow, who chose to take the stand at his trial, told the court on Friday that he attempted to de-escalate a situation that he felt was emerging with the inmate.

“He was non-compliant,” said Morrow.

Morrow told the court he had overheard what was happening in the cell when Francisco was being cuffed, and the fact he didn’t want to be moved out into the hall.

“I thought there had to be a reason,” he testified.

Morrow testified that Francisco wasn’t following orders once being placed in handcuffs against the hallway wall.

“My previous attempts to keep him in compliance [...], I placed him on the wall, [...] verbal commands,” he said. “When he did not comply, I put him on the wall. It was an attempt to not do anything else.”

Morrow said, at one point, Francisco turned his head.

“As he turned that last time, I took that as an act of aggression,” he said. “I tried to prevent injury to myself.”

Morrow maintained that he didn’t “slam” Francisco to the ground and that he tried to break the fall.

Morrow told the court that he made the decision to take Francisco to the ground “based on context.”

Morrow’s attorney, George Higgins, reminded the court that Morrow did not go through the correctional training academy, but was a POST certified police officer since 1995.

Video surveillance was played again for Judge Chris Hazel. In a point of clarification from testimony on Tuesday, it was revealed that Morrow was never issued a body camera, so there was no video to provide from one.

Assistant Attorney General Joseph Lebeau went over disciplinary letters Morrow has received over the years in law enforcement, including one for “conduct unbecoming.”

When asked by Lebeau about his termination and arrest for malfeasance for the March 2019 jail incident and if he believed it was “politics,” Morrow told Lebeau, “yes it was.”

During closing arguments, Lebeau told Judge Hazel, “A hothead like Jeremy Morrow doesn’t need to be a police officer.”

Higgins reminded Judge Hazel, “He’s being charged with malfeasance. He’s not charged with battery.”

There’s no word yet on when Judge Hazel will rule in the case.

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