Statement of District Attorney Leon A. Cannizzaro, Jr. Regarding the Disposition of the Merritt Landry Investigation
(New Orleans, LA) – In conjunction with the Grand Jury returns of Thursday, May 15, 2014, the District Attorney’s office filed paper work with the clerk of Criminal District Court in which it declined to institute prosecution in the investigation of Merritt Landry.
In response, District Attorney Leon A. Cannizzaro, Jr. said, “As District Attorney for the parish of Orleans, I must answer two questions. What did the law allow Merritt Landry to do? And, do I possess evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Landry acted contrary to the law?
A person who is in his dwelling may use force or violence against another who is unlawfully attempting to enter his dwelling. Furthermore, the law expressly prohibits the jury from considering the possibility of retreat as a factor in determining whether or not the person who used force or violence acted reasonably.
My Assistant District Attorneys and other members of my staff interviewed Marshall Coulter’s family and health care providers, ballistics experts, police officers, Landry’s neighbors, and attempted to interview Coulter himself. Furthermore, based on the numerous interactions with Coulter as well as interviews with his family and healthcare providers, we were repeatedly led to believe that he was in what can best be described as an irreparable semi-vegetative state. When we visited with Coulter less than three months ago, we were led to believe that he could not walk without assistance and could only provide single word responses to the simplest questions.
In an effort to obtain an indictment of Merritt Landry, my office presented an in-depth and thorough case to the Grand Jury. They pretermitted the case, which means that nine jurors could not agree to either charge or not charge Landry with a crime. Following Coulter’s most recent burglary arrests, any case that this office had against Landry was irreversibly damaged.
Accordingly, my office has closed its investigation of Merritt Landry and has declined to institute prosecution for any charges arising out of his arrest on July 26th of last year. As the District Attorney for the parish of Orleans, I am ethically obligated not to charge an individual against whom I do not possess evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed a crime. Such evidence does not exist in this case.