One of the Marksville deputy city marshals accused in the fatal shooting of a boy and the wounding of his father is asking a judge to move his murder trial out of Avoyelles Parish.
Attorneys for Derrick Stafford claim publicity surrounding the November shooting of 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis and his father has prejudiced the residents who would sit on the jury. They filed a motion Monday seeking a change of venue.
Attorneys Jonathan Goins and Chris LaCour wrote in the motion that other factors that could bias a jury include “government officials (who) made invidious and inflammatory statements” against Stafford after the shooting.
“Since the incident, the publicity of the case has been extensive and thorough and inflammatory at times,” Goins and LaCour wrote.
Stafford’s police career also could work against seating an impartial jury in Avoyelles because the 33-year-old spent the bulk of his law enforcement career in Avoyelles Parish.
Stafford, his attorneys wrote, “has arrested a significant number (of) people in the parish and written thousands of tickets to individuals in the parish.”
Stafford, 33, was moonlighting with the Marksville City Marshal’s Office when he and deputy marshal Norris Greenhouse Jr. are accused of shooting Christopher Few and his son, Jeremy, after a car chase through Marksville.
According to an arrest report, the two officers fired multiple times after Few had stopped his 2000 Kia Sport at Martin Luther King and Taensas streets. Two other officers, one a deputy marshal and the other a Marksville police officer with a body camera switched on, also were at the intersection but did not fire.
Few was hit twice but survived. Jeremy, who sat in the front passenger seat, was shot five times and died at the scene.
Stafford’s family has claimed that he and Greenhouse feared for their lives and shot at Few in self-defense. But State Police arrested both men soon after watching the video from the Marksville officer’s body camera, saying Few’s hands were visible and weapon-free as the officers fired.
Both officers were charged with one count each of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder and both have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Stafford’s trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 26, and Greenhouse’s on Nov. 28, though it’s possible the trials will be delayed. Both men remain free on $1 million bail.
Stafford’s attorneys noted in their arguments filed Monday instances in the case they said have tarnished the jury pool in Avoyelles Parish. The incidents cited in the legal filing include:
State Police Col. Mike Edmunson, after watching the video, said it was “the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen” and that the boy “didn’t deserve to die like that”;
Mayor John Lemoine told CNN he believed there were problems of corruption among local police;
Avoyelles Parish Sheriff Doug Anderson stated at a news conference that Stafford would never have been allowed to become a sheriff’s deputy because he faced two rape charges. The status of those rape charges is unclear.
Media coverage by local, state, national and international news outlets has been “extensive and thorough,” Stafford’s attorneys wrote. The coverage included articles and broadcasts that featured Marksville residents alleging corruption and brutality among the ranks of law enforcement, including Stafford.
A hearing on the change of venue request and other motions is set for June 29 in Judge William Bennett’s 12th District Courtroom in Marksville.
Messages left at the law offices of Goins and LaCour were not returned.
Greenhouse’s lawyer, George Higgins of Alexandria, said he would not seek to move the trial out of Avoyelles Parish. Higgins said he’s tried several jury trials in the parish.
“I’ve always thought they had jurors who were fair minded,” Higgins said. “That is where the allegations took place. That’s where it should be tried.”