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:
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 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, Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.DONATE
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