Recently released police body cam footage revealed Topeka police officers lying to an innocent unarmed man moments before arresting him on false charges and beating him while handcuffed. After police suppressed the exonerating video until an hour before his trial, the prosecution violated due process by withholding it from the defense.
On September 27, 2014, a Topeka police dispatcher received a 911 hang up call. The dispatcher reportedly called back the phone number, but the person who answered said there was no emergency.
Topeka police responded to the residence around 10 p.m. and found Arthur Morris sitting in a chair in his backyard. As Topeka police officer Jeremy Carlisle-Simons shined his flashlight directly at Morris’ eyes, Morris stood up in an attempt to avoid the blinding light.
While another officer falsely informed Morris that they had received a 911 call from one of his neighbors, Morris knocked on his backdoor to get the attention of his girlfriend, Jeanie Becerra. As officers asked Morris if he had identification, Becerra opened the door and was immediately blinded by the officer’s flashlight.
When asked if she called the police department, Becerra told the officers, “No, I haven’t.”
As Morris noticed a plainclothes officer leaving the scene, Officer Carlisle-Simons suddenly grabbed Morris’ arm and shoved him back into the chair. With Morris accusing the officer of assault, Carlisle-Simons threw him to the ground while another cop helped to restrain Morris.
After the officers fired pepper spray in his eyes, Morris told Becerra to record the incident of police brutality on her camera. Instead, Becerra called 911 to report the officers for use of excessive force.
With both arms behind his back, Morris remained on his stomach as the officers began to place handcuffs on him. After releasing Morris’ left arm, Carlisle-Simons punched him at least 13 times without justification.
Placed under arrest, Morris was later convicted of disobeying a police order, disturbing the peace, assault on a law enforcement officer, and interfering with law enforcement. Becerra was charged with disobeying a police officer and interference with law enforcement.
After reviewing the police body cam footage, the Topeka Police Department suppressed the video until an hour before the trial. According to Topeka Police Department legal adviser Luther Ganieany, the department gave the video to the prosecution but “made no indication that there was anything inconsistent with the officer’s report on the video.”
In a blatant violation of the Brady rule, prosecutors failed to share the key evidence with the defense. Six months after the incident, Morris and Becerra filed a claim accusing the officers of assault, lacking probable cause, and lying during court testimony.
After reviewing the police body cam video, a judge vacated their sentences. Morris was eventually awarded a $40,000 settlement from the city of Topeka, while Becerra received $10,000.
Despite the fact that the Shawnee County District Attorney refused to file criminal charges against Carlisle-Simons, the overzealous cop later resigned from the department while two of the other officers returned to active duty. No criminal charges have been filed against the Topeka Police Department for suppressing the footage or the prosecutors for violating the Brady rule.