Marksville: Defense asks for continuance due to WAFB report

Marksville: Defense asks for continuance due to WAFB report
Marksville Shooting Diagram (Ground Level)
Marksville Shooting Diagram (Ground Level)

MARKSVILLE, LA (WAFB) - Prosecutor John Sinquefield and Derrick Stafford walked out of court Monday afternoon, as jury selection in the killing of Jeremy Mardis got underway in Marksville.

Stafford and another Marksville officer, Norris Greenhouse Jr. face murder charges. Greenhouse who will go on trial later.

Six people have been seated as tentative jurors after the first day of jury selection in Stafford's trial. Officials said 300 people were sent subpoenas ordering them to be at the Avoyelles Parish Courthouse in Marksville for Monday morning as jury selection for Derrick Stafford's murder trial started, but only about 60 ended up showing.

Stafford was present for his own jury selection, walking into court with his wife by his side as well as his attorneys, Jonathon Goins and Chris Lacour. The prosecutors on the case are John Sinquefield and Matthew Derbes from the Louisiana Attorney General's Office.

Outside the courthouse, the parking lot was barricaded off with a very large presence of law enforcement.

Inside the courtroom, there was standing room only as hundreds of potential jurors tried to make their way into a tiny courtroom. But before jury selection could get started, the potential jurors were asked to step out for a 15-minute break that turned into an hour.

The defense asked Judge William Bennett to continue the case over a 9News Investigators report last Monday.

"Officer Parnell draws his weapons," Goins said in an interview to WAFB last week. "If you look at the footage, on at least one occasion, you can see his arm move. To me, that tells me he shot that gun."

Goins was referring to a diagram showing the trajectory, or the direction, of some of the bullets from the shooting.

On the left of the trajectory diagram, there are three figures. Two of those are deputy marshals Stafford and Greenhouse. During pre-trial hearings, the lead detective on the case testified that 14 of the 18 shots came from Stafford's gun and the other four came from Greenhouse's.

On the right, there is one trajectory by itself. Stafford's lawyer said that shot came was another responding officer, Sgt. Kenneth Parnell. His body camera is what captured some of what happened.

"There was enough threat to officer safety at the time of the shooting that Mr. Parnell shot his service weapon because he wanted to protect the life and the bodies of Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse," Goins explained.

After our report aired last week, the prosecution had an expert run a firearms test with the scenario as close to the Nov. 3, 2015 shooting. Prosecutor Derbes said in court that test revealed when firing a semi-automatic .40 caliber Glock at night that the body camera captures a muzzle flash, slide movement and smoke from the barrel, but Parnell's body camera did not capture any of that, meaning the prosecution said there is no third shooter.

Prosecutors sent that video simulation to the defense this past Friday after 5 p.m. via email.

Stafford's attorneys argued Monday morning in court that they needed time to find an expert to be able to respond to that video, which is why they asked for a continuance.

"This is an ambush. This late-hour email violates Derrick Stafford's fundamental rights," Goins said in court.

"They created this, not us," said Sinquefield, the lead prosecutor in the case. "They are not entitled to any continuance. They're not entitled to anything. It's time to go to trial."

Judge Bennett said all those diagrams have been in evidence since last year in March. It's why he denied the continuance and jury selection started around 10:30 a.m.

During questioning of the potential jurors, Judge Bennett asked how many people watch TV, watch the news, read the newspaper, have Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts and most importantly, if they had seen the body camera footage.

There is a change of venue motion that is still lurking. The defense filed to change the venue last year, saying Stafford could not get a fair and impartial trial in Marksville, but Judge Bennett said he would not rule on the change of venue motion at that time saying they had to get to jury selection first. If they're not able to find a fair and impartial jury in Marksville, then the judge would consider the change of venue motion.

They need 12 jurors and two alternates.

Fourteen people were sworn in Monday evening in the second round of jury pool to return Tuesday morning. Everyone else who received subpoenas on Monday will return at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The 300 people getting subpoenas for Tuesday will go through roll call Tuesday morning and return Wednesday.

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