It was just days ago that I provided an update of the Merritt Landry self-defense case down in New Orleans: Merritt Landry home-defense shooting prosecution stalls.

In that post I noted the remarkable degree to which the Prosecutor was struggling to obtain an indictment from the Grand Jury on the charges of attempted second degree murder brought against Landry.  Twice the Grand Jury had taken up the case, and twice they had declined to take any definitive action, neither returning a “no-bill” (which would have dismissed the second degree murder charges against Landry) or an indictment (which would have progressed the matter to trial).

Keeping in mind that the Grand Jury really only gets to hear the Prosecution’s side of the story, with little or no pushback from the defense, struggling to get an indictment in such a one-sided affair with a relatively low bar to success (probable cause) does not bode well for the Prosecution winning at trial where they will face both a vigorous legal defense and a substantially higher burden of proof (guilty beyond a reasonable doubt).

Bottom line, such a case is all but certain to be a “loser” from the Prosecution’s perspective, and is rarely provided the time and resources necessary to bring to trial.  Absent, that is, other political motivations for pursuing the matter.  In this case, of course, we have Merritt Landry (white)  who shot Marshall Coulter (black 14-year-old) through the head, all in the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s (white) lawful killing of Trayvon Martin (black 17-year-old).   Landry told police he believed that Coulter (whom he did not know) was attempting to break into his home that July 26th night at 2AM.

Well, Marshall Coulter is back in the news, because he appears to have gone back to his chosen trade:  burglary.  (Following Coulter’s shooting his family acknowledged his extensive history of burglary arrests, and Coulter’s older brother referred to him publicly as a “professional thief.  This was, you’ll recall, a 14-year-old.)

The New Orleans Times Picayune and other local media sources are today reporting that Coulter, whom his family had been portraying for months as being essentially bedridden following the bullet to the head, was arrested yesterday in New Orleans on residential burglary charges.  A local resident phoned police to report a burglar in the area.  8th District detectives reporting to the scene detained Coulter, questioned, him, and charged him with burglary.

With this news it is my expectation that Landry’s prospects for being convicted on the attempted second degree murder charges have slipped from very low to essentially zero.  Coulter’s arrest on burglary charges–precisely the activity, combined with Coulter’s furtive movement as if reaching for a weapon, that Landry stated was the foundation for his reasonable fear of imminent harm goes straight to the heart of the State’s compelling (not so much here) narrative of guilt.

This prosecution was only ever going to have legs if Coulter could have been convincingly portrayed to the jury as an innocent 14-year-old looking for his ball that had accidentally gotten over the Landry fence that Coulter scaled at 2AM, and Landry as a hateful white man with an irrational fear of young black males.

Instead, this newest arrest shows Coulter, even at a mere 15 years of age, to be an experienced and hardened burglar so determined to ply his chosen trade that even having been shot through the head could not deter him.

I call this prosecution finished.  Over/under for when the official call is made?

–-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, Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.