Jeremy Mardis had a short life. He was gunned down by two Marksville police officers on Nov. 3, 2015. He was 6 years old. Mardis was also autistic.
Officers Norris Greenhouse and Derrick Stafford fired a total of 18 shots into a car where Mardis was sitting on the passenger side. The officers claimed they feared the driver of the car, Christopher Few, who was Jeremy's father, might try to run them over. They said they opened fire out of self-defense.
But bodycam video from a third officer proved otherwise. It showed Few had his hands raised and extending out of the parked vehicle's window even as Greenhouse and Stafford continued firing. At least four of the bullets struck Mardis, killing him.
Greenhouse and Stafford even lied about why they pulled over Few in the first place, claiming they had a warrant. But no such warrant existed.
Stafford’s case went to trial, and he got 40 years in prison.
"The evidence is totally clear that at the time that officer Stafford pointed his 40-millimeter handgun at Christopher Few and shot 14 times, the Few vehicle was stopped, and Christopher Few was looking at Officer Stafford and had either already raised his hands in surrender or was in the process of doing so,” said Judge Billy Bennett of the 12th Judicial District Court during sentencing.
Greenhouse, who fired four shots, pleaded guilty in 2017 to charges of negligent homicide and malfeasance in office. He was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.
At the time of the sentencing, prosecutors argued Greenhouse had engaged in a pattern of misconduct by using his badge for sexual favors. He was previously fired from another department after the mother of a 14-year-old found him lying next to her daughter on the sofa in his uniform. Prosecutors also claimed Greenhouse had made "sexual advances" toward a girlfriend of Few's before the shooting. They said that may have motivated Greenhouse to open fire in the first place.
A vivid reminder of how unjust the criminal justice system can often be, Greenhouse was released from prison last week after serving less than two years. Two years for the killing of a 6-year-old?
"Unfortunately, Greenhouse's early release is yet another example of the lack of transparency in our criminal justice system, as it relates to victims and their families,” said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.
Greenhouse was only required to serve 35 percent of his sentence because he plea-bargained down to a nonviolent offense.
"I want to remind everyone that this case dealt with the tragic death of a child," said Landry.
Landry blames Greenhouse’s early release on criminal justice changes promoted by Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and a bipartisan group of legislators. The measure was also supported by several leaders in the religious and conservative community.
Landry, and some state district attorneys and sheriffs, have criticized the criminal justice changes, claiming they can lead to the release of violent offenders after they plea bargain down to a lesser, nonviolent charge. The Greenhouse case is a perfect example.
“This so-called reform has once again failed the victims of violent crime,” said Landry. “This child was an innocent bystander in his father's car when Officers Norris Greenhouse and Derrick Stafford fired shots at the vehicle, killing Jeremy Mardis."
Edwards signed criminal justice reform legislation in June of 2017. The state’s prison population currently sits at approximately 32,000. We are in a virtual tie with Oklahoma as the incarceration capital of the United States. The state’s prison population reached an all-time high of 40,170 in 2012.
At the end of 2017, Louisiana had a violent crime rate of 566 such crimes per 100,000, according to the FBI. In 2018, the first full year of criminal justice reform, the state’s violent crime rate dropped slightly to 557 per 100,000. That makes Louisiana the 47th most violent state in the nation.
Unfortunately, our 30-continuous years of holding the title of the state with the highest murder rate per capita went unchallenged in 2018.
Email Dan Fagan at email@example.com.