MARKSVILLE — An Avoyelles Parish jury convicted a former Marksville deputy marshal of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter in a shooting at the end of a chase that left a 6-year-old boy dead and the boy's father seriously wounded.
Derrick Stafford, a 33-year-old former Marksville police officer and part-time city marshal, left the courthouse in shackles after the jury returned to the courtroom to announce their verdict by a 10-2 vote following nearly three hours of deliberation.
Stafford had been charged with counts of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder in the shooting, which came after 26-year-old Christopher Few led deputies on a two-mile chase through the town just after 9 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2015. Stafford and another officer, Norris Greenhouse Jr., fired a total of 18 rounds at Few's Kia Sportage, killing Jeremy Mardis, Few's 6-year-old son, who sat buckled in the front seat.
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After hearing the verdict, Stafford hugged and kissed his sobbing wife -- telling her "it'll be alright" -- and bid goodbye to his family for about 20 minutes as Avoyelles sheriff's deputies stood guard. He handed over his watch, necktie and jacket to his wife just before a Sheriff's Office captain shackled him and led him from the courtroom.
Greenhouse, whose parents sat in the courtroom for much of Friday's testimony, is also facing charges of second-degree murder and attempted second degree murder. He's scheduled to go on trial in June.
Outside the courthouse Friday night, Stafford's attorneys expressed some relief that he wouldn't be facing the mandatory life sentence that accompanies a murder conviction in Louisiana. But Christopher LaCour, one of Stafford's attorneys, decried the lack of support Stafford received from other law enforcement officers.
Update, 11:05 a.m.: Derrick Stafford, the Marksville officer charged with murder in 6-year-o…
"I saw an officer on trial and no officers supported him at all," LaCour told reporters. "You think they'd stand up for the man and they didn't."
Both Stafford and Greenhouse were arrested just days after their barrage of gunfire at the end of the chase -- 14 rounds fired from Stafford's gun and another four rounds fired by Greenhouse -- killed Jeremy, an autistic first-grader. At the trial, prosecutors repeatedly showed clips from a body camera video of the shooting that showed Few's hands raised out of the window as the shots struck the vehicle.
Prosecutors portrayed the shooting as unnecessary and excessive, arguing that all of the officers stood a safe distance from Few's vehicle and repeatedly pointed out that all of the bullets struck the driver's side, indicating that Few's vehicle couldn't have been pointed directly at either of the officers.
Few "certainly made some bad decisions," said John Sinquefield, one of the prosecutors, during closing arguments. But Sinquefield said the vehicle pursuit shouldn't be seen as particularly dangerous and that nothing justified the gunfire, which he called "an execution."
At one point during the chase, Sinquefield noted, surveillance footage from the courthouse showed Few stopping at an intersection before making a turn and carrying on the pursuit. Experts estimated the average speed of the two-mile chase at roughly 30 miles per hour.
The driver in the fatal incident, 26-year-old Christopher Few, testified for over an hour Tuesday afternoon, describing the events of Nov. 3, 2015, and recounting the hail of gunfire that wounded him and killed his 6-year-old son, Jeremy Mardis.
"I wouldn't even call it a chase," Sinquefield said, "I'd call it a parade."
Few, who survived the shooting and has since found work doing sand-blasting at an Avoyelles Parish shop, watched closing arguments in a crisp purple shirt from the first bank of benches behind the prosecution table, his arm wrapped around his girlfriend, his hands stained with what appeared to be paint. He wasn't in court when the verdict was read, but Cathy Mardis, Jeremy's maternal grandmother, quietly sobbed on the far end of a bench.
Stafford's conviction came just hours after he took the stand in his own defense, telling jurors Friday morning how he never saw the boy in the passenger seat of his father's Kia and how he only opened fire in self defense.
MARKSVILLE — Prosecutors have wrapped up their case against a former Marksville deputy marsh…
While prosecutors said the video shows Few, the driver of the SUV, had his hands up when officers fired, Stafford said he never saw Few raise his hands before or during the shooting. But he did believe that Few — who Stafford said had already backed into Greenhouse's patrol car — had thrown his car back into reverse, looked backward and appeared like he might run over Greenhouse.
"I felt I had no choice but to save Norris. That is the only reason I fired my weapon," Stafford said, adding that he didn't know a child was in the vehicle. "Never in a million years would I have fired my weapon if I knew a child was in that car. I would have called off the pursuit myself."
On cross examination, Sinquefield, the prosecutor, handed Stafford a small stack of photos showing Jeremy's dead body. Tears began clouding the imposing former officer's eyes as he flipped through the pictures.
"Do those photos show you what a .40 caliber Glock will do to a 6-year-old boy?" Sinquefield asked.
Stafford paused for a moment. With his head slumped and hands crossed in his lap, Stafford very softly replied, "Yes."
A few minutes later, Stafford told jurors through tears that the pictures made him think of his own child.
MARKSVILLE — Jurors sat glued to a big-screen TV in a cramped upstairs courtroom, listening …