Bennett will reconsider order that Police Jury pay for expert witness
12th Judicial District Judge William "Billy" Bennett has set a Nov. 7 hearing date to reconsider his order that the Avoyelles Parish Police Jury pay for an expert witness in Derrick Stafford's murder trial. That hearing will be at 1:30 p.m.
Bennett had declared Stafford met criteria to be considered indigent, thus making him eligible for public funds for his defense. On Oct. 12, Bennett ordered the Police Jury to pay $4,368 for accident scene reconstruction expert Victor Holloman, of Sugarland, Texas. The judge has denied the request of defense attorneys Jonathan Goins and Christopher LaCour for funds to hire a use-of-force expert.
The Police Jury balked at paying the bill, choosing instead to hire a private attorney to appeal the court order. That request was filed this past Friday.
Police Jury President Charles Jones said the jury feared that this would be "opening the door" for future requests for defense funding in this and future trials. The district attorney's office would usually represent the Police Jury in such a matter, but the office has recused itself from this case because the co-defendant, Norris Greenhouse Jr., is the son of an assistant district attorney.
Stafford and Greenhouse are charged with 2nd-degree murder of 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis and the attempted 2nd-degree murder of the child's father, Chris Few, following a traffic stop at the dead-end of Martin Luther King Drive, in front of the Marksville Historic Site park and museum, on the night of Nov. 3, 2015. A reported 18 bullets were fired into the stopped vehilcle, killing the child and critically wounding Few.
Although both men are full-time law enforcement officers in other agencies, they were moonlighting as Ward 2/Marksville City Marshal's Office deputies at the time of the shooting. They were arrested by State Police three days later after body camera video of the shooting was reviewed by investigators. That video has since been made public and shows Few had his hands raised prior to the shots being fired.
Stafford's trial is scheduled for Nov. 28. Greenhouse will go to trial on March 13.
Police jurors voted not to approve the funds during a special meeting on Oct. 17 and authorized Jones to seek an attorney to represent the jury in the issue. Jones said jurors felt they had not had an opportunity to argue that Stafford either is not indigent or, if he is, that the parish is not the appropriate party to pay those costs. The motion filed Friday by Andrew P. Texada of the Alexandria law firm of Stafford, Stewart and Potter, makes those same arguments.
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."