Attorney: Facebook post claiming Derrick Stafford granted new trial, about to be released, untrue
Current post-conviction attorney addresses social media post by previous defense attorney
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - A post-conviction attorney currently representing Derrick Stafford, the former deputy city marshal serving 40 years in prison for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, says a Facebook post by Stafford’s former defense attorney claiming that a new trial has been ordered is untrue.
Stafford was sentenced in March 2017 for the shooting death of 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis and the shooting of his father, Chris Few, back in Nov. 2015. The shooting happened during a traffic stop in which Stafford and Norris Greenhouse, Jr. were later arrested and charged. Stafford appealed his conviction to the Third Circuit, but the appeals court upheld the conviction and sentence. The Louisiana Supreme Court denied a writ application on the case in Nov. 2018.
On Sunday, Jonathan Goins, who represented Stafford during his trial in Marksville in 2017, posted a Facebook post claiming that Stafford had been granted a new trial in Avoyelles Parish by Judge William Bennett.
“Because of the valiant efforts of Attorney Chris LaCour, Attorney Eric Santana and the entire legal team, Mr. Derrick Stafford has been granted a new trial,” the post read. “Judge William Bennett signed the Order for a new trial only because there was not a unanimous jury verdict following his original trial. The verdict was 10-2. As we all know, you now need a unanimous Jury verdict in the State of Louisiana to convict someone. In any other State, Mr. Stafford would have left that courthouse with his Family because the jury verdict was not unanimous. Nevertheless, He should be home soon on bond as he awaits the new trial. #TheDefenseNeverRests”
In the post, Goins referred to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision “Ramos v. Louisiana,” in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that verdicts in criminal trials must be unanimous. Questions over if the decision is retroactive are still being debated.
But, calls to the Clerk of Court’s Office and Judge William Bennett’s office in the 12th Judicial District Court for Avoyelles Parish conflicted with Goins’ post. Both the Clerk of Court’s Office and the Judge’s office told News Channel 5 that a motion for a new trial based on the Ramos decision was not in their system.
We reached out to Eric Santana, one of the attorneys Goins listed in his Facebook post as being responsible for securing the new trial. In a phone interview with News Channel 5, Santana told us he and co-counsel, Barry Ranshi, are Stafford’s post-conviction attorneys and that Goins’ post was incorrect. He said he and his team were still working on a motion for a new trial and were about three-quarters of the way finished, with a goal of getting the document filed before the end of the year. Santana told us that Goins did not consult with him on the Facebook post and he demanded that it be removed.
“It does somewhat put a wrench in things, right? You can’t predict what a judge is going to do, even if you feel very confident about it,” Santana said in an interview. When asked about why Goins would post the message, he told us he had “no idea.”
We also spoke to Ranshi who gave us this statement: “I had absolutely zero knowledge of this Facebook post until the family texted me with this info. The first time I spoke to Mr. Goins was last night. I immediately called Mr. Goins and I informed him that I am the attorney of record and I filed no such motion other than a motion to enroll.”
We reached out to the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office as well about the post. Prosecutors Matthew Derbes and John Sinquefield both argued the case on behalf of the State back in 2017. The AG’s Office told us they couldn’t comment.
By mid-morning on Monday, Goins removed the Facebook post. We were able to reach him for comment. He told us the post “was very inaccurate” and “misinformation.” Calls for comment to Chris LaCour, who was Goins’ co-counsel during the trial and who is also listed in the Facebook post, have not been returned.
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