A Marksville officer accused in the on-duty shooting death of a 6-year-old couldn’t be bailed out by his lawyer father Thursday, as planned, at least in part because of a Louisiana law that prohibits lawyers from posting bond for any defendant, Avoyelles Parish Sheriff Doug Anderson said.
Also Thursday, State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson showed up at the Avoyelles Parish Courthouse to meet with state District Judge William Bennett about the sweeping gag order imposed by the court earlier this week. The order prohibits attorneys, the accused, victims, witnesses and law enforcement from speaking to the press about the case.
Edmonson said he wanted clarification on what information authorities could release to the public about the shooting.
“We’d like to get some direction from the judge on what the parameters are,” Edmonson said of the gag order. “My belief is that the public should be kept informed, but I certainly want to be respectful of this order.”
Edmonson said after the meeting that Bennett was “adamant” that no information about evidence be released. He said the judge is concerned about rumors and “inaccurate information” about the case being reported by the media.
Edmonson said the investigation into the shooting is ongoing and the State Crime Lab is expected to complete an analysis of ballistic and other evidence this week.
Bennett issued the gag order Monday shortly after an attorney for the shooting victims told the Associated Press that body camera footage of the shooting showed Christopher Few with his hands up before officers fired on his stopped vehicle. The two officers, moonlighting at the time as deputy local marshals, had chased Few’s SUV on the night of Nov. 3. Few was in the driver’s seat, while his young son sat next to him. Both were shot and 6-year-old Jeremy David Mardis died.
Edmonson said the only people who have seen the video are the judge, State Police investigators and prosecutors with the state Attorney General’s Office, which is handling the case. Few’s attorney described the video to the AP based off what he heard during a closed-door bail hearing on Monday.
One of the accused officers in the shooting, Norris Greenhouse Jr., was expected to be released on bail Thursday after Anderson said earlier this week the officer’s father, Norris Greenhouse Sr., was gathering materials to post a property bond secured by land he owns that’s worth $1 million. But Anderson told reporters outside the Avoyelles Parish Jail in Marksville on Thursday morning that a “paperwork issue” is preventing that move.
Anderson confirmed the hiccup involved Article 320 of Louisiana’s Criminal Code, which says “a person shall not be released on bail for which an attorney at law, a judge, or ministerial officer of a court becomes a surety or provides money or property for bail.”
Norris Greenhouse Sr. is an assistant prosecutor in the Avoyelles Parish District Attorney’s Office, which has recused itself in the proceedings. The state Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case.
Aaron Sadler, spokesman for the attorney general, declined to comment on that law as it relates to Norris Greenhouse Jr., citing the gag order.
“We obviously know that lawyers can’t put up bond,” Anderson said.
A 2015 opinion by the Attorney General’s Office — responding to a question about whether court clerks can post bond for anyone — established that clerks are on the same level as lawyers and judges in being subject to a statewide ban on providing bond for any defendant.
“It is the further opinion of this office that (the law prohibits clerks) from becoming a surety or providing money or property for bail statewide for themselves, spouses, family members or friends,” the opinion said.
Legal professionals say they don’t think the law has been tested often.
“I can’t imagine that a father can’t bail his son out, just because he’s an attorney. That doesn’t make sense,” said Pete Adams, executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association.
“I know what (the law) says, but I would imagine that it has not been tested,” he said.
Brett Brunson, president of the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, said there is very little case law on the rule prohibiting attorneys from posting bail for anyone.
“It’s written in a manner that is overly broad,” he said. “I think the sheriff is probably being very cautious because the child’s father is an assistant DA and they don’t want there to be any appearance of collusion.”
Greenhouse, 23, and Derrick Stafford, 32, were booked by State Police on Friday on one count each of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder in Mardis’ death, as well as the wounding of his father. Few was released from an Alexandria hospital on Wednesday, a lawyer for the child’s family told the Associated Press.
Both Greenhouse and Stafford are being held in isolation at the Rapides Parish Jail in Alexandria, about 35 miles from Marksville.
Anderson said he’s not aware of any plans at this time for Stafford to post bail, which is also set at $1 million.