Outside of the New Orleans area the Merritt Landry case has gone largely unnoticed, but it is shaping up to be the next case in which an NRA-backed “Stand Your Ground” law will be in the media spotlight.
This case and the George Zimmerman case have some similarities, and it will very likely be picked up by those who want the laws repealed across the country. However, there are also some differences as well, so let’s compare them before this becomes another hyped news story.
Here’s the background for those of you who are just now hearing about it. According to NOLA.com, 14 year old Marshall Coulter was shot by Merritt Landry early last Friday morning in Marigny, which is a neighborhood not far from the famous French Quarter. Coulter did not die, but he is still in the hospital in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head.
Unlike George Zimmerman, Mr. Landry was arrested right away and charged with attempted second degree murder. Unlike Trayvon Martin, Marshall Coulter wasn’t likely “minding his own business.” Being inside someone’s locked yard by their vehicle at 2 AM is different than walking home from the convenience store with Skittles and iced tea. In addition, his brother David Coulter admitted that Marshall had a history of burglary and was awaiting trial on charges.
“He would steal — he was a professional thief, sure,” David Coulter said. “But he would never pick up a gun, not in a million years. He was too scared to aim a gun at the grass, let alone aim it at a person. No way. Before he’ll ever pick up a gun, he’ll be your friend first.
“He’s still a little boy,” the brother said. “Who pulls a trigger on a 14-year-old? What if it was your little brother or your sister? How would you feel?”
In both cases we have a shooter who comes from a family with some privilege and a victim who comes from a broken home. Trayvon Martin’s family wasn’t poor like Marshall Coulter’s family is, but they certainly weren’t rich either.
Both Louisiana and Florida have a “stand your ground” law, but in the Louisiana case the shooter and the victim weren’t locked in a struggle on the ground. Marshall Coulter was approximately 30 feet away from Mr. Landry when he was shot and made the mistake of moving his hand, but never produced a weapon according to WWLTV. In Louisiana, the justifiable homicide law reads as such:
RS 14:20 Justifiable homicide
§20. Justifiable homicide
A. A homicide is justifiable:
(1) When committed in self-defense by one who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and that the killing is necessary to save himself from that danger.
(2) When committed for the purpose of preventing a violent or forcible felony involving danger to life or of great bodily harm by one who reasonably believes that such an offense is about to be committed and that such action is necessary for its prevention. The circumstances must be sufficient to excite the fear of a reasonable person that there would be serious danger to his own life or person if he attempted to prevent the felony without the killing.
(3) When committed against a person whom one reasonably believes to be likely to use any unlawful force against a person present in a dwelling or a place of business, or when committed against a person whom one reasonably believes is attempting to use any unlawful force against a person present in a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40), while committing or attempting to commit a burglary or robbery of such dwelling, business, or motor vehicle.
(4)(a) When committed by a person lawfully inside a dwelling, a place of business, or a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40), against a person who is attempting to make an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, or who has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, and the person committing the homicide reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave the premises or motor vehicle.
(b) The provisions of this Paragraph shall not apply when the person committing the homicide is engaged, at the time of the homicide, in the acquisition of, the distribution of, or possession of, with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance in violation of the provisions of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.
B. For the purposes of this Section, there shall be a presumption that a person lawfully inside a dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle held a reasonable belief that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent unlawful entry thereto, or to compel an unlawful intruder to leave the premises or motor vehicle, if both of the following occur:
(1) The person against whom deadly force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering or had unlawfully and forcibly entered the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle.
(2) The person who used deadly force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry was occurring or had occurred.
C. A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using deadly force as provided for in this Section, and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.
D. No finder of fact shall be permitted to consider the possibility of retreat as a factor in determining whether or not the person who used deadly force had a reasonable belief that deadly force was reasonable and apparently necessary to prevent a violent or forcible felony involving life or great bodily harm or to prevent the unlawful entry.
Marshall Coulter could have been planning on breaking into the vehicle, but he had not committed the act when he was shot. Besides, is losing a car stereo or some change worth shooting and almost killing a child over?
Race is going to be a factor here as well. In states that have “Stand Your Ground” laws, cases with a white shooter and black victim are ten times more likely to end with a verdict in favor of the defendant than cases with a black shooter and a white victim. Couple that with the fact that Merritt Landry’s family is well off and probably pretty well connected, and I believe the defendant will be acquitted, if it even goes to trial. I’d love to be proven wrong and see this get an honest trip through our criminal justice system — only time will tell, but history doesn’t bode well for the odds of that happening.
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