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Morris James

Summary of Iberia Parish Misconduct
On December 26, 2011, deputies Jacob Huckaby and Trevor Picard of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office stopped 40-year-old Morris James for an alleged traffic violation. Huckaby would later testify that he stopped James after he said he saw him complete a drug transaction with another man.

Huckaby said that he found cocaine on James during a search. James was charged with possession with intent to distribute. James denied being in possession of any contraband.

Prior to trial, James moved to suppress the evidence allegedly obtained by Huckaby. At a hearing on November 11, 2013, Huckaby testified about the stop and the search. He said that James consented to the search. Picard also testified. He said that he did not see the earlier drug transaction described by Huckaby and that he never heard James give his consent. A judge ruled in favor of the state, denying the motion.

In 2014, James’s lawyer, Harry Daniels, filed a request for Huckaby’s personnel file. The sheriff’s office opposed the motion but provided records for inspection by the trial judge, who found that the files contained no exculpatory evidence.

On July 15, 2014, with jury selection underway, James pled guilty to the possession charge and later received a sentence of 25 years in prison. He appealed his sentence as overly harsh, but it was affirmed by the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

On February 23, 2016, five sheriff’s deputies pled guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana to deprivation of civil rights based on beatings of inmates at the jail in 2011. During the next month, four more deputies entered guilty pleas in federal court.

Separately, the federal government indicted and then charged then-sheriff Louis Ackal and his chief deputy, Gerald Savoy, on March 9, 2016, with conspiracy and civil rights violations related to the jail beatings. Savoy pled guilty, but Ackal fought the charges and went to trial in November 2016 in U.S. District Court in Shreveport, Louisiana. The deputies appeared as the government’s key witnesses.

Huckaby, while not directly involved in the jail beatings, also testified. He said that he and other deputies beat up several Black men in New Iberia in 2008 and then falsified a police report on the incident. He also testified that he gave false answers in interviews with FBI agents and testified untruthfully before a federal grand jury.

Daniels filed a motion for a new trial on November 28, 2016, stating that “James was convicted on the testimony of a documented and admitted liar.”

After an evidentiary hearing on December 13, 2016, a judge vacated the conviction and granted the state’s motion to dismiss the case. James was released from prison that day.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 1/20/2023
Last Updated: 1/20/2023
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2011
Sentence:25 years
Age at the date of reported crime:40
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No