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Murder victim’s family wants accountability after detective’s mistake


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    NEW ORLEANS (WDSU ) — Alicia Morgan’s life falls into two categories: Before her brother’s murder, and after.

“Because, for me, everything stopped in 2018 on Jan. 8,” she said.

That morning, Idrick Brister walked outside his home near the Little Woods neighborhood on Trapier Boulevard to head to work. He was a carpenter who had recently been promoted at a construction firm.

The first poilice officer on the scene found Brister’s body in his home’s carport with a gunshot wound to his head. Morgan sat with Brister at the hospital during the four days he was kept on life support.

“We know he’s way in a way better place, you know, in our selfishness we want him here,” Morgan said. “But also … we want to make things right in the Earth in his name.”

Morgan and her father, Arthur Gillum Jr., said their early impression of the case against the man police say killed Brister was that it was “open-and-shut.” An NOPD narrative in the arrest warrant for Christopher Alexander says he was read his Miranda rights and confessed.

Morgan said Alexander, 30, was the former longtime boyfriend of her brother’s new girlfriend. Police booked him Jan. 16, 2018, and a grand jury indicted him that May.

But now the family questions whether anyone will be held accountable for Brister’s death.

“The justice system is accessory to this crime,” Gillum said.

The Louisiana Supreme Court issued two rulings in the case against Alexander, deciding that a jury will never hear his confession. In December 2018 , the state’s highest court said that in the interrogation room, a NOPD detective “subverted” Alexander’s Miranda rights, which include a warning that anything he said could be used against him in court.

Detective Rayell Johnson told Alexander no one would need to know what he told him, according to the ruling, which the court says “amounted to a false promise of confidentiality.”

A second statement from Alexander in the interrogation room was also thrown out a year later. The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled in December 2019 that what Alexander told his mother after his alleged confession would also be barred as evidence. The same detective told Alexander to “apologize to his mother for what he did,” according to the ruling, and said to Alexander’s mother “nobody needs to know the specifics of what we talk about in here.”

WDSU legal analyst and defense attorney Robert Jenkins said murder confessions can be strong evidence, though they can also be attacked by the defense. Juries tend to have an idea what kind of evidence they want to see, such as DNA, fingerprints and other physical proof, he explained, “but it’s often based on (what they see on ) TV,”

In real life and real courtrooms, physical evidence is often more limited, Jenkins said. Morgan said her family is not sure what evidence Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams has to go on, and Jenkins said this information isn’t typically shared with victims’ families.

Following the case and its developments has been frustrating and full of disappointments, but Morgan said she feels compelled to advocate for justice for her brother.

“At this point, whose fault is this now if he gets to walk free? Cause it’s not (Alexander’s), because he did his part,” Morgan said. “… That solely lies on the detectives … the police department, on their training.”

WDSU asked the NOPD about the suppressed confession and whether it resulted in any training. A department spokesperson responded with a statement: “The Supreme Court of Louisiana has ruled on this matter. NOPD will abide by that ruling.”

‘All we really want is closure’

Losing Brister was hard enough, Morgan said. What makes it worse, she said, “it’s the way he went.”

In the three years before Brister died, his faith and its role in his life deepened, his family said. It was a change that started in prison, Morgan said. Because of past convictions, he was sentenced to prison time for third marijuana possession charge. When he came out, Morgan said, her little brother was a different person.

“There was a patience that he had, there was a walk that he had that was full of mercy, full of grace, full of understanding. Even for me, it taught me, you know, other ways to think of people and how God loves people,” Morgan said. “It blessed my life.”

Brister shared his faith on social media, “in the streets,” and through spoken word church services at Living the Word International Ministries in Slidell.

His impact on people became clear at his funeral, Morgan said. She estimates more than 1,000 people showed up, many who she didn’t recognize. A line dozens of people long waited to speak aloud about him.

Morgan said she knows Brister has already forgiven his killer. She is learning to forgive, she said, but mercy doesn’t temper her urge for justice.

Morgan and her family met with recently installed DA Williams and his staff members and made clear their desire to fight for Brister, despite the hurdles in the case. A spokesperson for Williams said in a statement the DA met with Brister’s family “and confirmed that the DA’s Office will work to vigorously prosecute this case.”

Recognizing the difficulties of the case, Morgan said she appreciated that Williams made no guarantees he would get a conviction but pledged to fight. “And that’s what we want,” she said.

Morgan said she has reflected on her urge to see her brother’s killer punished in light of his tendency toward forgiveness. A clear-cut case with confessions would have lifted a mental burden. “Just a house taken off my shoulders,” she said.

But instead with the case’s twists and turns, it’s been a “nightmare that just does not end, it won’t go away.”

“All we really want is closure,” she said.

Morgan said she wanted to share her family’s story in hopes that similar legal mistakes don’t tarnish other’s sense of justice and search for closure.

“I feel like this is still a part of me protecting him, and this is a part of me saying that, ‘I can’t let your memory just be a memory of us, me walking away,’” she said.

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