DA refuses case of teenager shot by Marigny homeowner

Merritt Landry will not face any criminal charges for shooting Marshall Coulter. (Source: OPCSO)
Merritt Landry will not face any criminal charges for shooting Marshall Coulter. (Source: OPCSO)

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro has refused the high-profile case against Marigny homeowner Merritt Landry.

In July of 2013, police booked Landry for attempted second-degree murder after investigators say he shot and injured 14-year-old Marshall Coulter, who had allegedly climbed over a locked fence on Landry's property.

Over the past year, the case sparked controversy as critics said Landry's reaction was excessive, while supporters argued he had a right to protect his family.

"I mean, Merritt never wanted to be in a position to have to shoot anyone, never wanted to be in a position to have to defend his family, but he did that, and now he's had to live through this ordeal which is a nightmare for anyone," said Landry attorney Roger Jordan Jr. "You can only imagine. So, he's taken it in stride and he's going to hopefully go on with his life with his family and live in peace."

Cannizzaro made the announcement Thursday afternoon. In an unusual move, he invited FOX 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti, and legal analysts from other television stations, to his office to reveal his decision.

"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," Cannizzaro said.

A grand jury was unable to come to a decision on whether to move forward with the case.

Attorney Kevin Boshea thinks his client acted rationally. He broke his silence about the shooting earlier this month.

"What happened is that an individual was confronted at 1:45 in the morning with an intruder 25 feet from his door. Inside was his family, his wife, his children and he had one second to make that decision," Boshea said. "He acted in order to defend his wife, his children as well as himself. I feel his actions were justified under those circumstances," Boshea said.

After a lengthy investigation that included interviews with Coulter's family, health care providers, police and Coulter himself, the DA's office was led to believe Coulter was in "an irreparable semi-vegetative state."

But that did not seem to be the case.

Recently, Coulter has found himself in legal trouble that the DA says ruined any case his office might have had against Landry.

He was arrested for simple burglary earlier this month. On that same day, a neighbor said he captured Coulter on his home surveillance video attempting to break into his house.

"I think it solidified, in many ways, what we had believed through our investigation, in that he was more than just a burglar, but that he had, certainly, some dangerous tendencies to him," said attorney Kevin Boshea.

While in custody, police booked him on another crime from 2012.

"Following Coulter's most recent burglary arrests, any case that this office had against Landry was irreversibly damaged," Cannizzaro said.

The investigation is closed.

"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," Cannizzaro said. "Such evidence does not exist in this case."

Boshea said in a statement that Landry appreciated the investigation into the matter by the DA's office. "We are thankful for his decision. Mr. Landry and his family will now hopefully be able to move forward with their lives."

Landry, who prior to the shooting worked for the city as an inspector with the Historic District Landmarks Commission, remains a city employee. The mayor's office released the following statement:

"The City placed Merritt Landry on emergency suspension without pay on July 26, 2013. Upon returning to work on November 23, 2013, Merritt Landry was reassigned to desk duty pending a criminal investigation. In light of the District Attorney's decision, the City is reviewing Landry's assignment."

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