A Juvenile Court judge Wednesday ordered an assessment by doctors into the competency of 15-year-old Marshall Coulter, who allegedly returned to crime last week, 10 months after he was shot in the head by a Marigny homeowner.
Doctors will determine whether Coulter can assist in his own defense against both a simple burglary charge from his arrest Friday in Marigny and an allegation that he broke into a home in the same neighborhood in 2012 and wrested a gun from a resident there.
Coulter remained in juvenile detention late Wednesday, a Juvenile Court source said.
He was shot in the head last summer by city employee Merritt Landry after he jumped the fence at Landry’s house in the middle of the night. Landry was booked on a count of attempted murder but has yet to be indicted. The case has prompted protests from both supporters and critics of Landry.
Coulter’s cases have been assigned to Juvenile Court Judge Mark Doherty, who ordered the determination by doctors of whether the teenager understands the charges against him and can assist his counsel. The judge delayed a planned custody hearing aimed at deciding whether the youth should stay locked up.
Coulter’s mother left the closed-door court hearing briskly Wednesday afternoon, refusing to speak with reporters. Her son is being represented by juvenile public defenders with the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights.
Coulter underwent numerous surgeries following his July shooting.
According to police, Landry — an inspector with the city’s Historic District Landmarks Commission — fired on Coulter from about 30 feet away, when the boy, then 14, was unarmed and “not posing an imminent threat.”
Coulter had apparently jumped the fence into Landry’s yard, prompting Landry’s backers to argue that he shot legally to protect his home and family.
Questions about Coulter’s mental state, and the possible fallout from his severe head injury, have swirled since his arrest about 3:45 p.m. Friday in the 2000 block of Royal Street, just blocks from Landry’s home. Nearby residents described him as acting oddly. One man said Coulter’s speech seemed impaired and he acted “stoned.”
Coulter also was booked on a warrant for the alleged aggravated battery in June 2012, police said. Residents of a home in the 900 block of Frenchmen Street “returned home and found the suspect inside of their house,” according to a police statement. “A struggle ensued, at which time the suspect armed himself with the victim’s gun. The suspect then fled the scene on foot.”
Whether Coulter could be tried as an adult on that count remains in doubt, and it is unclear whether District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro would take that option if he legally could. Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office, refused to discuss the case, citing Louisiana law and an office policy against commenting on open criminal cases.
If he was 13 at the time of the alleged aggravated burglary, Coulter could not be tried as an adult. A spokesman for the New Orleans Police Department, which released Coulter’s name Monday in connection with the 2012 allegation, refused Wednesday to provide his date of birth.
A grand jury in March declined either to indict Landry or issue a “no true bill” dropping the case. It is up to Cannizzaro to decide how to proceed with the case.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter @johnsimerman.