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Marshall Coulter unable to stand trial

30th June 2014   ·   0 Comments

On Thursday, an Orleans Parish Juvenile Court judge decided that Marshall Coulter, the 15-year-old shot in the head by a Faubourg Marigny homeowner after he discovered the teen in his backyard last summer, is unable to stand trial and should be sent to a mental facility on the Northshore for treatment.

Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge Candice Bates-Anderson handed down her decision after reviewing the reports of three doctors who evaluated Coulter.

Coulter, who has been held at the Youth Study Center since being arrested during the spring, will be sent to a state-run facility on the Northshore where he will undergo treatment and be re-evaluated to determine whether or not he is fit to stand trial.

Coulter, then 14, was shot in the head by City of New Orleans employee Merritt Landry, who told police that he thought the teen had a gun. No gun was found at the scene and police arrested Landry and charged him with Landry and charged him with attempted second-degree attempted second-degree murder since Marshall Coulter was standing about 30 feet away from Landry when he was shot and posed no immediate threat to the homeowner.

Coming on the heels of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin after following the youth as he walked in the gated community where his father lived, the Marshall Coulter case sparked racial anger.

Landry’s Marigny neighbors and other white residents said the homeowner had the right to “stand his ground” and protect his family from criminals while community activists and civil rights leaders pointed out that Marshall Coulter posed no immediate threat to Landry and his family.

Tempers flared when Landry supporters confronted Coulter defenders in several public standoffs and after Landry was released from jail after only spending several hours behind bars. Civil rights leaders accused Orleans Parish Criminal Court Judge Franz Zibilich, an attorney who defended Merritt Landry’s brother in a drug-related case and had a relationship with the family, of pulling strings at Orleans Parish Prison to expedite Landry’s release.

During the spring, local media showed images of Marshall Coulter, who suffered brain damage from the 2013 incident, on the property of another Faubourg Marigny homeowner, prompting Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro to announce that he will not pursue charges against Merritt Landry.

Members of the community suggested that the entire news story showing Marshall Coulter on the property of another Marigny homeowner, was part of a carefully orchestrated plan to give the district attorney a way to back out of indicting Merritt Landry without suffering a political backlash from voters and public opinion.

“You could see from the beginning that this was what the news story was intended to do,” the Rev. Raymond Brown, a community activist and president of National Action Now, told The Louisiana Weekly. “Somebody told Marshall Coulter that the keys to the house were in the mailbox and told him to go into the house. This kid, who was already shot in the head by a trigger-happy homeowner, was tricked into committing another crime that allowed the D.A. to let Merritt Landry off the hook.”

Brown agreed with other community activists and civil rights leaders who say that Merritt Landry should still be charged with second-degree attempted murder regardless of any charges Marshall Culter might face.

“None of that changes the fact that Landry didn’t have the right to shoot Marshall Coulter in the head for trespassing on his property,” Brown said. “If Marshall Coulter was white and Merritt Landry was Black, this would have never happened.”

Judge Bates-Anderson said Thursday that she ordered “restorative” treatment for Marshall Coulter to begin immediately at a Northshore state-run facility in order to make him competent to stand trial and defend himself against the criminal charges he faces and to improve his overall quality of life.

This article originally published in the June 30, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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