The legal property bonding process takes days, and had it been followed, Landry would have sat in jail all weekend.
His attorney, Michael Kennedy told Zibilich at a hearing on Tuesday that the family is scrambling to get the proper paperwork in order and it should be completed within an hour. Zibilich said Landry will be remanded into custody unless it comes through.
Landry, the son of St. Bernard Parish politicians, was at his home on Mandeville Street in the Faubourg Marigny around 2 a.m. Friday with his toddler and his wife, who is pregnant and due to give birth in days.
A 14-year-old boy named Marshall Coulter reportedly climbed over the gate that separates the street from Landry’s front door. Landry discovered him in the driveway.
Landry told officers that as he approached, the boy made a “thwarted move, as if to reach for something,” according to the New Orleans Police Department arrest warrant.
Landry fired at him from about 30 feet away, the warrant says. The bullet struck the teenager in the head.
He remains in critical condition.
The boy was a “professional thief,” his brother admitted to reporters. But he was not armed.
The police department, citing an unnamed witness, determined that Coulter “was not attempting to enter the residence” and “was not posing an imminent threat to Merritt Landry.”
Landry was booked with attempted second-degree murder, punishable by 10 to 50 years in prison.
Criminal defendants typically then appear before a magistrate judge to have a bond set.
But before Landry ever appeared in court, Zibilich set his bond at $100,000. Landry was soon released on a personal surety bond, which is essentially a mortgage on a piece of property worth at least the amount of the bond. If a person skips court, the state can seize the property. But all weekend, no paperwork existed with the court to back his bond.
Louisiana law specifically requires that a “natural person domiciled in the state” post the surety bond.
Landry’s father, an insurance agent and former longtime St. Bernard Parish Justice of the Peace Larry Landry, promised to use a piece of property at 1938-1940 Burgundy Street, owned by his company, Dutch Properties, a limited liability company. The property is worth $310,100, according to assessment records.
Because the law requires that a human being, not a company, post a property.
And Zibilich also did not require they post it immediately; he released Landry and gave his father until Tuesday to get the paperwork in order.
It is an unusual allowance. By state law, a person posting a surety bond for an inmate must get a certified copy of a the mortgage from Civil District Court which describes the property, its value and formally turns it over as collateral. It is then taken to the court’s bail-processing clerk, who analyzes the property’s ownership and equity. The process takes at least two days, and the inmate must wait it out in jail
But none of that happened in Landry’s case. His bond was not formally posted until Monday, three days after he was released from jail.
Landry’s bond included no paperwork, and had only “bail order per Judge Zibilich” handwritten across the top.
Inmates get out of jail faster when they go through a bondsman. But that requires they put down 13 percent of the bond amount, which is not refundable. It would have cost Landry $13,000. Property bonds require no cash up front, only a legal contract that the property will be seized if the defendant skips bond.
Ziblich on Monday said he doesn’t know Merritt Landry well, he’s met him only a handful of times. But he knows his parents and one of his brothers.
Merritt Landry’s mother, Luann Landry, is a Justice of the Peace in St. Bernard Parish.
His father, Larry Landry, an insurance agent, was also a Justice of the Peace who twice ran unsuccessfully for sheriff. In 2003, he came within 115 votes of unseating 20-year incumbent Sheriff Jack Stephens.
A decade ago, Zibilich was the defense attorney for Merritt Landry’s older brother when he was picked up in a Chalmette drug sting, according to 2004 accounts in The Times-Picayune. Landry at the time of his arrest said Stephens was targeting his family in retribution for his running against him. The son eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.
Merritt Landry, a Holy Cross graduate, is employed as a building inspector at City Hall for the Historic District Landmark Commission. He was suspended without pay pending the case’s resolution.
His friends and neighbors describe him as a hard-working and kind man, who hosted neighborhood crawfish boils and volunteered his time and his tools to help out the neighborhood.
Friday’s shooting has divided the community. Some described the neighborhood – and the city – a being under siege with rampant violence and crime. Houses and cars are routinely burglarized on Landry’s block in the Marigny, neighbors said. A person, they believe, has the right to protect themself and their family from the city’s intractable rate of violence. But others believe that it went to far, and question why a warning shot, or a call to the police, or a fistfight, couldn’t have resolved the problem without deadly violence.
A call for peace on the street corner near Landry’s house Monday evening turned into a shouting match, and Landry’s supporters created a Facebook page. It is called “Free Merritt Landry,” and has more than 2,600 followers.
Coulter, meanwhile, remains hospitalized and his family had said he will have permanent brain damage. They admit he’s been in and out of juvenile jail, on curfew violations and burglaries, but said he’s just an impressionable kid who started hanging around with a bad crowd. He was one of eight children, and his family calls him “Popeye.”
A neighbor said that his surveillance cameras caught Coulter and another boy riding bikes on the block just before the middle-of-the-night shooting. One of the teens, presumably Coulter, can be seen climbing over the iron gate just before the shot rang out.
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