The Louisiana 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a district court’s rejection of Derrick Stafford’s request for funds for a “use-of-force” expert and ordered the district court to hold a hearing on the matter.
Death of Jeremy Mardis
In November 2015, 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis was shot and killed in an incident involving two Marksville City Marshals, Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse Jr. Jeremy suffered from autism and died after being shot six times during an alleged traffic stop. Jeremy’s father, Chris Few, was also critically injured in the same incident.
Stafford and Greenhouse were arrested on counts of second-degree murder and attempted murder. The town of Marksville, the town and city court, the Parish of Avoyelles, the city court marshal and deputy marshals, along with Stafford and Greenhouse, are also being sued in a federal court by the family of Jeremy Mardis.
District Court’s Rulings
Derrick Stafford’s criminal case is being heard by 12th Judicial District Judge William “Billy” Bennett. Stafford requested public funds for a “use-of-force expert” and an accident scene reconstruction expert.
Under Louisiana law, “If a defendant is indigent and unable to pay for witnesses desired by him in addition to those summoned at the expense of the parish, he shall make a sworn application to the court for the additional witnesses.”
Judge Bennett declared Stafford met criteria to be considered indigent, thus making him eligible for public funds for his defense. Stafford’s attorneys filed a motion requesting for the court to pay for accident scene reconstruction expert Victor Holloman, of Sugarland, Texas.
On October 12, Judge Bennett ordered the Police Jury to pay $4,368 for Holloman. However, Judge Bennett denied the request of defense attorneys Jonathan Goins and Christopher LaCour for funds to hire a use-of-force expert.
The Police Jury voted not to approve the funds to pay for the accident scene reconstruction expert and appealed the court order approving funds for the expert on October 21. In its motion, the Police Jury argued that Stafford is either not indigent or that the parish is not the appropriate party to pay for those costs. The motion states that if Stafford “is indigent, as determined by this court, then any expert witness fees and expenses should be paid by the Louisiana Public Defender Board, through the 12th Judicial District Court Public Defender District, not the Avoyelles Parish Police Jury.”
Third Circuit Ruling
On appeal, the Third Circuit ruled that Stafford “is entitled to a hearing on his motion for funds to hire a use-of-force expert” and “the trial court’s ruling denying the motion for funds to hire a use-of-force expert is vacated and this matter is remanded for a contradictory hearing on the motion.” The Third Circuit has yet to rule on the appeal of the order for the Police Jury to pay for Stafford’s accident scene reconstruction expert.
Marksville residents have stated that they view Jeremy’s death as an indicator of the ongoing problems with local law enforcement. Describing a number of run-ins with Marksville authorities, Ruby Ivory, a resident of nearby Mansura, has stated, “Y’all just don’t know what the hell we go through around here.”