Norris Greenhouse Jr. (center) is placed into a prisoner transport vehicle after being sentenced to 7 1/2 years for negligent homicide and malfeasance by a police officer in connection with the Nov. 3, 2015 shooting incident that killed 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis and wounded the child’s father, Chris Few. {Photo by Tiffany Trichell}

Bennett blasts 'Facebook School of Law' critics in Greenhouse case

Norris Greenhouse Jr. sentenced to 7 1/2 years for Nov. 3, 2015 shooting of Jeremy Mardis

For most of the past 23 months, 12th Judicial District Judge William “Billy” Bennett has endured the slings and arrows of outrageous comments on Facebook and in news reports, columns and letters to the editor. This past Wednesday, he took his opportunity to respond to his critics as he sentenced Norris Greenhouse Jr., 26, of Marksville to 7 1/2 years for the negligent homicide of 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis and malfeasance by a police officer.

Bennett began his comments by noting that the “tragic event” of Nov. 3, 2015 “forever altered the lives of multiple individuals.”

Those altered lives included those of the two Marksville City Marshal’s Office deputies, Greenhouse and Derrick Stafford, who shot and killed the child as he sat seatbelted in the front seat next to his father, Chris Few. Few’s life was also forever changed, Bennett said.

He then solemnly noted that there is one life involved in that event that was not altered.

“The life of young, innocent Jeremy Mardis was not given the opportunity to change. His life was ended,” Bennett said.

‘UNIVERSITY OF FACEBOOK SCHOOL OF LAW'

Bennett said the “legal scholars from the University of Facebook School of Law” have weighed in on the case, as have certain news media reports. He said those individuals must “know more about the evidence in this case” than the attorneys involved in the case, based on the posted and printed comments.

“Having presided over this case and the Stafford case since November 2015, this court has consistently been amazed at the lack of knowledge of evidence -- actual evidence -- that this court has concerning the tragic events of that night,” Bennett said.

Bennett said he learned of much more evidence during the trial of Derrick Stafford -- also charged in connection with the Nov. 3, 2015 incident -- than he knew before that time. He added that he fully expected to see and hear even more evidence in the Greenhouse trial, had it not been cancelled due to the plea deal the Friday before it was to begin.

To those critical of the plea bargain with Greenhouse, Bennett pointed out that the prosecutors agreed with it, the defendant and his attorney agreed with it, the victim and the victims’ family agreed with it, “so who are we to complain?”

He said such comments are “disrespectful to the memory of Jeremy Mardis.”

In handing down the sentence, Bennett noted that Greenhouse would be given credit for actual time served in jail, but not credit for time spent on “home incarceration” while on bond. He also said Greenhouse would be eligible to accumulate “good time” that could be used toward early release once the first two years are served.

The Oct. 4 sentencing hearing is expected to be the last action in a criminal case that affected this parish like few -- if any -- have ever done before.

Prior to the hearing, Greenhouse embraced his father, assistant district attorney Norris Greenhouse Sr., for several minutes. The courtroom was filled with members of the Greenhouse family and family friends.

After sentencing,there was call out from the audience, “We love you, baby,” and loud sobs.

BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

Greenhouse and Stafford were moonlighting as deputy marshals when, for still unexplained reasons, Greenhouse initiated a pursuit of Few’s vehicle and called for assistance from other police units.

The slow-speed chase through Marksville led to the deadend of Martin Luther King Drive. There, apparently in fear for their lives, the two officers fired a total of 18 shots into Few’s stopped or almost stopped vehicle, critically wounding the driver and killing his son.

The scene was captured on another officer’s body camera video and the two men were arrested three days later.

Stafford was tried on 2nd degree murder and attempted 2nd degree murder in March. The jury voted 10-2 to convict him of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, for which he was sentenced to a total of 40 years in prison.

For weeks after the shocking incident was first reported, news media from across the state and nation flocked to Marksville. Live television broadcasts from the front of the courthouse were common.

Then they were gone.

The case is over. There are still critical comments about how it ended, but those will also fade.

Among the many bitter verbal jabs and social media posts have been a few calls for healing, unity, forgiveness and rational thinking instead of emotional outbursts.

In his comments to the court, Few thanked the Attorney General’s prosecutors for their efforts on his family’s behalf. He said he was aware of the plea deal and agreed with it.

He said he is glad his family will not have to endure another trial and hopes that someday he will get answers to questions he still has about the events of that night.

Few said he hopes his family's tragedy will result in better training of police officers so that no other families will have to endure what his has.

After the sentencing, Few said he hopes there can now be peace in Avoyelles Parish.

Lead prosecutor John Sinquefield said he is satisfied that justice was done in both the Greenhouse and Stafford cases.

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