It is perhaps inevitable that comparisons will be drawn between the recently completed murder/self-defense trial of George Zimmerman in Florida and the just beginning travails of self-defense shooter Merritt Landry in New Orleans.
Indeed, I’ve already begun to do so myself (see “Zimmerman Redux: The Breaking Louisiana Self-Defense Case of Merritt Landry”).
More interesting than seeing how the two cases compare, however, will be seeing how they contrast.
How will the two opposing sides in the Landry case draw lessons from Zimmerman and adopt different tactics and strategies in pursuing their desired ends?
New Orleans Police Chief “Got the Memo”
We saw one such “learning” within hours of the New Orleans shooting when Landry was swiftly arrested and charged.
In the Zimmerman case, you will recall, George was not arrested and charged for some weeks after he shot Trayvon Martin in lawful self-defense. Until that point, local law enforcement and prosecutors had declined to charge Zimmerman with a crime based on the facts in evidence strongly supporting his claim of self-defense.
There, it was not until the racial agitators came to town and brought political pressure to bear that the evisceration of Zimmerman’s due process rights was begun, starting with the travesty of an affidavit of probable cause. The fallout of this lawlessness was the resignation of the region’s top prosecutor, the firing of the local police chief, and the demotion of the department’s chief investigator to patrolman.
The police chief of New Orleans clearly got the memo. He wasn’t going to lose his job because he appeared to be “too slow” in bringing “justice” to Merritt Landry. Landry was swiftly overcharged with attempted second degree murder, booked, and released on $10,000 bail.
Zimmerman Defenders Were Caught Off-Balance, Overwhelmed by Disinformation Campaign
Fortunately, it is not just the forces of the State and racial agitators who have learned lessons from the Zimmerman case. So have the pro-self-defense forces and friends and allies of Merritt Landry.
In the Zimmerman case, George’s many friends were caught off-balance by the sudden shift in prosecutorial aggression. Their voices in defense of George were simply overwhelmed by the tsunami of myths, lies, and disinformation provided to the mainstream media by the Martin family lawyers in their ravenous pursuit of “justice” (read “money”), and happily excreted by that media at ever opportunity. Indeed, on several occasions the media itself generated anti-Zimmerman propaganda, such as by creatively editing audio or video evidence.
Racially Diverse Landry Supporters Swiftly Organize in His Defense
Landry’s supporters are not about to be caught similarly off-balance.
From the first moments following the shooting one of Landry’s neighbors (and a good friend) provided the police with security camera footage of 14-year-old trespasser, Marshall Coulter, scaling the iron fence surrounding Landry’s yard–and, as importantly, made sure that the public was aware of the video’s existence by immediately speaking of the video to reporters.
In another sign of lessons learned by the pro-self-defense crowd, yesterday a group of them met in support of Landry at a meeting organized by the Home Defense Foundation of New Orleans (HDFNOLA). There a racially diverse group of homeowners met to coordinate their support of Merritt Landry and to voice their support to attending reporters.
As reported by WNGO, the local ABC affiliate, Benjamin John, a black man and local resident told reporters, “If it happened to me, somebody jumped over my fence, I live with an eight foot fence around where I live, I wake up in the morning and somebody’s inside my fence, they would be killed.”
Another black attendee, civil rights activist Nadar Enzi, also known as Captain Black, stated “If we can move past the racial narrative and just say New Orleanians are suffering, New Orleanians are dying, and New Orleanians are being victimized by other regrettably other New Orleanians, I think that it would put our community in a much better place.”
Also present to coordinate the meeting in support of Landry was Mike Weinberger, a white man and leader with HDFNOLA.
Landry Attorney Explicitly Positioning Defense Narrative of Innocence
Another particularly interesting comment was made by Landry’s attorney, Tanzanika Ruffin. Those of you who have read “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” will recall how much emphasis I place on the importance of the defense being able to construct a “compelling narrative of innocence,” to counter the efforts of the State prosecutors to build a “compelling narrative of guilt.” At the end of the day, it is that narrative presented to the jury and made up of the facts in evidence, the law of self defense, and each side’s rhetoric that leads to a verdict.
Here we can see Attorney Ruffin explicitly recognizing the strategic importance of the narrative. When asked if she thinks that Landry was justified in using deadly force, she responds, “I think time will tell, and the facts, the narrative will speak for itself.” By which, I presume, she means she’ll be hard at work at her rhetorical forge hammering together the facts and the law into a compelling narrative of innocence.
We can only wonder how the public narrative that surrounded George Zimmerman would have differed had there been any similar forces on his behalf to counter the massive disinformation campaign waged against him with the eager collusion of the media.
In the developing case of Merritt Landry we will have the opportunity to see what happens when the forces of racial agitation and hatred are confronted early on by the forces of truth and lawful self-defense.
Keep your eyes right here at Legal Insurrection for our fact- and law-based coverage of the Merritt Landry case moving forward.
Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition” now available at www.lawofselfdefense.com as well at Amazon.com, as either a hardcopy or in Kindle version, and at Barnes & Noble as hardcopy or in Nook version.DONATE
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