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    Merritt Landry home-defense shooting prosecution stalls

    Merritt Landry home-defense shooting prosecution stalls

    Merritt Landry, charged with attempted 2nd degree murder in the shooting of Marshal Coulter, remains in limbo as the Grand Jury twice declines to take action on his case.

    Following my update, posted yesterday, of upcoming self-defense trials for summer 2014, I received numerous inquiries about the Merritt Landry case.

    Landry, you may recall, confronted a dark figure in the small, enclosed fenced-in yard of his New Orleans home at 2AM.  Landry fired a single shot, striking the figure–who would turn out to be 14-year-old Marshall Coulter.  Coulter survived the injury, and remains alive albeit suffering traumatic brain injury.

    We have previously covered the Merritt Landry case here at Legal Insurrection in numerous posts:

    Zimmerman Redux: The Breaking Louisiana Self-Defense Case of Merritt Landry (July 27, 2013)

    Merritt Landry Allies Developing Narrative of Innocence (August 7, 2013)

    Merritt Landry Case: Overview of Louisiana’s Self-Defense Statutes (August 18, 2013)

    I did not include the Landry matter in my “self-defense trials for summer 2014” for the simple reason that it appears unlikely that Landry will face a trial in summer 2014.

    Landry, charged with attempted second degree murder, had his case referred to an empaneled Grand Jury.  For those who may not know, the role of the Grand Jury is to ascertain that the prosecution has met its burden of production–that is, that there exists at least sufficient evidence on each element of the crime, and insufficient evidence supporting any legal defenses, that a prosecution is at least technically possible.

    Typically in a Grand Jury proceeding only the prosecution may present evidence.  The defense may challenge that evidence–for example, they may cross examine any witnesses presented by the state–but they may not present their own defense evidence.  Further, the legal standard for evidence needed to support an indictment is merely probable cause, a very low standard, indeed.

    It is because of this disparity in evidentiary presentation and the low legal threshold  that it is often said that a prosecutor can “get a ham sandwich indicted” if they like.

    As noted by The New Orleans Advocate, however, it appears that Merritt Landry is no ham sandwich.

    Following the prosecution’s presentation, the Grand Jury can do one of the things.  They can return an indictment, in which case the matter is free to proceed to trial.  They can return a “no true bill,” in which case the matter is dismissed.  Or they can simply do nothing.  Either and indictment or a “true bill” requires the vote of 9 of the 12 Grand Jurors.

    In this case, the Grand Jury took the Landry presentation under consideration twice, and on both occasions they declined to take any substantive action.  This particular Grand Jury ended its service at the end of February 2014.

    There is no way to know on what basis they declined to act decisively, because Grand Jury proceedings are conducted in secret.  The New Orleans Advocate, cited above, speculates that perhaps Merritt Landry himself testified, as an explanation for the prosecution’s failure to obtain an indictment, but again there is simply no way to know.

    The prosecution is free to present the case to a subsequently empaneled Grand Jury, which would likely take place some months down the road, but they have not yet indicated what course they are inclined to take.

    And that’s where things stand re: Merritt Landry.

    –-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog, (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.


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    You’d think there’d be a 3 strikes law for taking a case to the grand jury.

      MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to Paul. | April 30, 2014 at 1:22 am

      In some states there is a two strikes rule. In others you need a judges permission to resubmit. In any case, if it drags on I think a lawyer would file a motion for a writ of habeus corpus with a judge.

      Which reminds me. What is Landry’s status vis a vis hislife?
      Is hein jail or out on bail? Is he just free? What about his job. I seem to remember he was ob unpaid leave. Can they keep him on unpaid leave if he is not indicted?

      Estragon in reply to Paul. | April 30, 2014 at 1:32 am

      There are different rules in different states but the evident problem is that if you can’t convince 9/12 on a grand jury which only hears the evidence you (as prosecutor) present, how are you ever going to convict with 12/12 on a trial jury when the defense gets to cross-examine and present its own case and arguments?

      I can think of two reasons a prosecutor might persist. If there is a perception of public outrage about the case, he might feel he has to continue until he got a “no bill.” Or sometimes prosecutors just really have it in for a particular case or defendant. They may be right or wrong about the case, but won’t let go because they are certain in their own minds.

    MouseTheLuckyDog | April 30, 2014 at 3:03 am

    Sorry to repeat, but I am not sure anyone is reading the other thread anymore.

    It appears that the Suuny Hostin wikipedia entry is now protected.

    What does that mean? Only certain privileged will be allowed to edit the page for a few weeks.

    Charles Curran | April 30, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Mr. Branca. Are you still following this case?

    sequester | April 30, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Landry makes a poor target for anyone with political ambitions in Louisiana. Merritt Landry’s family is very well connected politically. Landry has returned to his job at City Hall. The district attorney’s office said:

    We believe it’s more important to make the right decision than a quick decision

    We do not know if the second grand jury voted “no true bill” or just took no action.

    If a politician wanted to let a politically charged case die, the best way is a grand jury investigation that yields no public result and can be forever ongoing in the minds of the rabble rousers.

    Given the Landry family’s political connections, a sensible District Attorney will need a very solid case. The District Attorney publicly stated that more evidence is required than the narrative of the New Orleans detective who arrested Landry but failed to charge Coulter with burglary.

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