NEW ORLEANS —The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Shreveport resident Gregory James Bledsoe, who brought malicious prosecution claims against Dean Willis and David McClure, members of the Shreveport Police Department, based on an alleged wrongful arrest without probable cause, which ultimately led to Mr. Bledsoe’s incarceration for crimes he did not commit. The decision marks the third Fifth Circuit win for the ACLU of Louisiana’s Justice Lab in 2023, following favorable decisions by the Court in Justice Lab’s Otkins and Washington cases.
On August 4, 2015, an officer with the Shreveport Police Department responded to reports of an alleged burglary of a residence. The officer observed a broken front-door window and lifted fingerprints from around the property. Three days later, the same officer was called back to the property due to discovery of a small splotch of blood on or around the front door by the resident that neither the resident nor the officer had observed during the first visit by the officer. A blood sample was collected and later determined to be a match to Gregory Bledsoe, an independent contractor associated with the property management company who was tasked with repairing the front door window at the property after the alleged burglary. In repairing the window, Mr. Bledsoe cut himself on glass. Despite providing evidence of this fact, Mr. Bledsoe was incarcerated for two years until he was found not guilty of criminal trespassing in early 2021–more than five years after the incident in question.
“Mr. Bledsoe, a Black man now in his late 60s, had years stolen from him because it was presumed that, like so many others, he would cave and cop a plea despite his innocence,” said Nora Ahmed, ACLU of Louisiana legal director. “While he did not and continues to fight for a just outcome for the abuse he endured, too many others faced with the Hobson’s choice of being jailed for their innocence or freed for falsely proclaiming their guilt do not. This case shines a light on how the criminal legal system is weaponized against innocent Black people engaged in doing nothing more than an honest day’s work.”
In its decision, the Fifth Circuit Court affirmed the district court’s finding that, at this juncture in the case, the criminal proceedings against Mr. Bledsoe appear to have been imposed “without sufficient probable cause based on a clearly deficient investigation.”
Read the full decision here: https://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/unpub/23/23-30238.0.pdf