…and in some respects this is even more of a perfect storm for the race industry to capitalize on.
At around 2 a.m. Friday morning, a white homeowner in the Marigny (white, not “white hispanic”) shot an unarmed black 14-year old (not a 17-year old whose family circulates pictures of him when he was 14; an actual 14-year old).
The teen, who is fighting for life in the hospital at present and apparently will be severely brain damaged if he survives.
The homeowner shot the teen from 30 feet away, in his yard. That’s why he was charged; the New Orleans Police Department arrest warrant says that the teenager, whose name is Marshall Coulter, did not post an “imminent threat” to the homeowner.
So cue the narrative of trigger-happy-white-racist-deals-death-to-innocent-black-teen.
Except here’s the other part of the perfect storm.
The homeowner, Merritt Landry, who is a building inspector for the city of New Orleans’ Historic District Landmarks Commission, had a pregnant wife and a baby in the house. And Coulter, whose own family admits is a professional thief but says that he doesn’t carry a gun – as though it’s a perfectly understandable lifestyle choice for a 14-year old to be a burglar so long as he doesn’t shoot anybody – scaled a six-foot-high spiked fence to get into Landry’s yard at 2 in the morning on a Thursday night, spooking Landry’s dog.
Here’s the fence…
Landry’s car was parked in that driveway and Coulter was near the car. Here’s the back door Landry came out of…
Just like the neighborhood George Zimmerman was patrolling on the night he shot Trayvon Martin, the Marigny neighborhood in which the Coulter shooting took place has suffered a rash of break-ins with the perps being almost exclusively young black kids.
A neighbor of Landry’s actually caught the run-up to the shooting on a surveillance camera…
“Merritt is a friend. I can’t blame him one bit,” Charles Hazouri said. “He’s got a family. You’ve got to protect your own.”
Hazouri, who owns property near Landry’s house, said his surveillance cameras captured two juveniles riding BMX bikes up and down Mandeville and Dauphine streets around 1:44 a.m. One of the teens was wearing a blue tank top with white stripes; the other was wearing a light-colored T-shirt, Hazouri said.
Earlier in the evening, a different neighbor said the teen in the blue tank top had been biking around the area around 8 p.m. and the neighbor believed he was looking at different houses.
“I thought about calling the cops, but the last thing I want to do is racially profile a little kid who’s just biking,” said the neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The neighbor and Landry are white; the two teens are black.
Hazouri said his video, which he gave to NOPD detectives, shows the two teens talking in the middle of Mandeville Street outside of Landry’s house. The video then shows the teen in the light-colored T-shirt walk his bike across Mandeville toward Landry’s house. Then, the teen walks back out to the middle of the road before climbing over Landry’s fence, Hazouri said. The other teen in the tank top stayed on the other side of Mandeville Street, Hazouri said.
Landry’s large dog started barking, which alerted Landry to the teen being inside his yard, according to Landry’s friends.
A few other items surrounding this sad case.
This took place in New Orleans, which means unlike the jury pool in Sanford, Florida, you can bet that Landry will get a jury which contains a significant number of black people. By reputation that won’t help him much, but on the other hand black homeowners in New Orleans are quite likely to sympathize with him because they’re no less familiar with punk kids burgling their houses than white homeowners are.
Also of interest, Landry’s attorneys in the case are Michael Kennedy and Miles Swanson, who might be familiar to our readers for their prior representation of Brian Downing, the Alabama fan who teabagged a passed-out LSU fan on video in a crowded Krystal restaurant in the French Quarter the night of the 2012 BCS football championship game.
Another item – Coulter had been diagnosed with ADHD and was on medication for it. He’s the seventh of eight children and his 23-year old brother David is reputed to have raised him. He was awaiting trial for “stealing stuff” – it’s probably not a stretch to interpret that as meaning burglary.
The ADHD thing is significant only to the extent that it’s possibly evidence of a “crazy check,” which is a Social Security scam rampant among the poor nowadays. Find something wrong with your kid, get a doctor to sign off on it, and then stick the government with a bill and generate an income stream.
A little more: Louisiana’s Castle Doctrine is pretty expansive – it allows for “deadly or otherwise, to protect oneself on his or her property.” But there’s a catch – the statute in question, RS 14:19, talks about the unlawful entry into a “dwelling.” The question is whether a yard protected by an eight-foot fence can be considered a “dwelling.”
Here’s the statute…
§19. Use of force or violence in defense
A. The use of force or violence upon the person of another is justifiable when committed for the purpose of preventing a forcible offense against the person or a forcible offense or trespass against property in a person’s lawful possession, provided that the force or violence used must be reasonable and apparently necessary to prevent such offense, and that this Section shall not apply where the force or violence results in a homicide.
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 force or violence 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 the force or violence 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 force or violence 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 force or violence 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 force or violence in defense of his person or property had a reasonable belief that force or violence was reasonable and apparently necessary to prevent a forcible offense or to prevent the unlawful entry.
Acts 2006, No. 141, §1.
It’s a little muddy where this case is concerned.
Particularly in light of some of the circumstances in the neighborhood. For example…
Hazouri, who gave the tape to police investigators, said the neighborhood endures occasional waves of break-ins and other crimes that set residents on edge. He noted that a couple blocks away, on Spain Street, there had been a home invasion less than two hours before Landry shot the 14-year-old. In that incident, an armed man robbed three people inside a house, according to a police log.
A man was shot to death in the St. Roch neighborhood Saturday afternoon. New Orleans police said they responded to a report of a shooting in the 1600 block of Mandeville Street around 5 p.m and arrived to find a 38-year-old man who had received multiple gunshot wounds.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene. Several people claiming to be family members of the victim showed up at the scene, but none wished to speak about the incident, and police have not released the man’s name.
That was about 39 hours after the shooting of Coulter.
Landry was booked with attempted second-degree murder.
Here’s the applicable Louisiana law on justifiable homicide in this case, at RS 14:20…
(4)(a) [DEFENSE OF PROPERTY]. 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 COMPEL THE PERSON TO LEAVE THE PREMISES OR MOTOR VEHICLE.
Two things on the statutes in question. First, there is no requirement that the intruder actually be in your home to trigger the legal protection, and second, there is no requirement that you be in fear for your life or personal safety.
Legal Insurrection’s Andrew Branca, who is an expert on the law of self-defense and actually wrote a book on the subject, isn’t impressed with the attempted second degree murder charge…
The attempted second degree murder charge is as blatant a piece of overcharging as was the second degree murder charge brought against George Zimmerman.
Under LRS 14:30.1 Second degree murder, there are four paths to a conviction on second degree murder. Two of these involve the distribution of drugs and can be discarded on their face. A third involves a killing during the course of committing a violent felony, and this also clearly does not apply to these facts.
The last path involves the offender with a specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm. Although such intent can form quickly, and Louisiana’s second degree murder charge does not incorporate the element of a “depraved murder” as is the case in Florida, it seems clear that Landry’s only use of force was in a perceived need to act in self-defense.
That perception may have been unreasonable, and therefore self-defense may fail in this instance, but even then the killing can not have been second degree murder where the killer possessed a genuine (if unreasonable) belief that he must use deadly force in self-defense rather than the intentional mental state of committing a murder.
A more reasonable charge would have been manslaughter, under LRS 14:31, if the victim’s intrusion into the property might be seen as adequate provocation, or perhaps negligent homicide under LRS 14:32.
He says this is a manslaughter case, if anything, and that Landry will have a defense to it.
Dreher does a pretty good job of framing this case from the perspective of homeowners everywhere, though time will tell whether the legal system will agree…
I’ll wait for more information from the police before I decide if this shooting was justified or not, but I tell you, if I found a prowler in my backyard at two in the morning, someone who jumped the fence to get in there (versus a kid taking a shortcut), and it looked to me in the darkness like he was reaching for a gun, like Merritt Landry, I would have shot too. Trayvon Martin wasn’t breaking any laws, and nobody had any reason to think he was. Not so with Marshall Coulter, whose own brother even acknowledged that he was a hoodlum.
I’d say the lesson here is that you shouldn’t jump over the fence at two in the morning and prowl around someone’s yard. They might have a gun, and shoot you. Whatever the legal status of the homeowner’s act, Marshall Coulter brought this on himself.
And here’s the Coulter family’s side of the story…
Friends and family said that whatever he was up to early Friday morning, Marshall Coulter didn’t deserve to get shot in the head.
“He will never be the same again,” said Clarissa Keller, who lives at the Elysian Fields address with Marshall’s brother Brandon and their 1-year-old son.
Referring to Coulter by his nickname, Keller said “Uncle Popeye” had been “caught up with the wrong people at the wrong time.”
Keller said the night he got shot, Marshall Coulter had left the house around 10 p.m. to take out the garbage — but never came back inside.
She alluded to curfew violations and other small-time burglaries that the boy had been caught up in, but insisted that Coulter was a good kid who loved his nieces and nephews.
“The next thing we knew, we were getting a phone call that said Popeye had been shot,” Keller said.
“I love Marshall,” Keller added, “I really just see him being with the wrong crowd, trying to fit in with the wrong people. He’s not crazy, he’s not stupid — he’s just a follower. Now he’s got a big hole in his head.”
The youth, she said, had struggled with depression since his stepfather, David Douglas, died a couple of years ago from esophageal cancer.
“He raised him as his own child before he passed,” Keller said. “David died in this house, and Marshall was in the house when he died.”
Coulter’s grandmother was sitting on a white plastic chair on the second-story porch, saying little as Keller described Marshall’s struggles following the death of his stepfather.
She looked up upon hearing Keller’s comment and said, “That’s why he’s traumatized!”
Keller said whenever she’d ask the troubled youth what was bothering him, he’d say, “I’m missing my daddy.”
He liked lasagna and pizza, playing the drums and watching comedies and horror movies, Keller said. “My son misses him, and wants him to come home. But he’s not going to be the same Marshall again.”
Keller also spoke up on behalf of Coulter’s mother, Sarah Coulter, who was grieving on the porch with the boy’s grandmother and Marshall’s friends and siblings.
Marshall is one of eight children, Keller said.
“She’s a good mother,” Keller said. “I wish she was my mother. Marshall had a lot going on, and she was always there, trying to stay on top of it.”
So far we haven’t had an Al Sharpton sighting in New Orleans. Give it a few days. It took almost a month to crank up the circus in Sanford after the Trayvon Martin shooting; this could take longer since Landry was charged in the case.
UPDATE: And then there’s this, which came from David Coulter’s Facebook page. Here’s one way to celebrate New Year’s Eve…