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Louisiana’s stand-your-ground law complicated matter

Last Modified: Monday, August 05, 2013 11:32 AM

By Johnathan Manning / American Press

Louisiana’s stand-your-ground law says a person defending himself or herself in a place where they have a right to be doesn’t have to retreat “and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.”

But Louisiana case law says a jury does have to consider the possibility of escape, prosecutors said.

Stand-your-ground laws were subject to a recent national debate after the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida.

Locally, the law became an issue recently during jury selection for a murder trial as prosecutors and defense attorneys discussed retreat versus escape.

Louisiana’s stand-your-ground law was enacted in 2006.

While questioning a panel of potential jurors, Richard Bourke, a defense attorney for Robert Wilkins, said the possibility of retreat does not have to be considered in a self-defense claim.

Wilkins is accused of killing Anthony Fontenot in 2004 near Choupique Bridge. He is charged with second-degree murder.

When prosecutor Rick Bryant questioned the next panel of jurors, he told them they did not have to consider the possibility of retreat in a self-defense claim, but, according to state case law, did have to consider whether there was a possibility of escape.

Judge Kent Savoie agreed with Bryant, but ultimately granted the defense a mistrial because the panel of jurors couldn’t be brought back and requestioned.

District Attorney John DeRosier described the difference between retreat and escape as such: “If we are in a Marine platoon in Vietnam and we are engaging a company-sized regiment of the North Vietnamese army and we are outnumbered 10 to one and realize we don’t have a shot, we suspect that we may want to retreat — that is to disengage in something that we are currently engaged in.”

However, DeRosier, a Vietnam veteran, continued, if that same outnumbered Marine platoon is in a valley and realizes that the enemy is waiting to attack in the morning, but escapes, “we never have to engage the enemy.”

“We have not retreated from a battle that is ongoing, we have escaped and avoided a battle,” the district attorney said.

DeRosier said the two are different concepts.

“If you are in the middle of a fight with somebody, then your decision-making process is going to be different from you and I sitting here today doing a logical, rational analysis of retreat versus escape,” he said.

DeRosier declined to discuss the specifics of the Wilkins case, as did Bourke.

Wilkins was convicted in 2011 of killing Fontenot, but the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal overturned the verdict because jurors were improperly excused.

During the 2011 trial, prosecutor Tony Clayton said Wilkins “assassinated” Fontenot to cancel a drug debt, slicing his neck with a knife twice while they sat in a truck.

Bourke said during the trial it was self-defense, done because Wilkins was afraid Fontenot would kill him for not paying off a drug debt.

In a videotaped police interview, Wilkins said Fontenot didn’t make any threatening gestures, but that he believed he was going to kill him based on a prior threat.

Wilkins claimed Fontenot repeated the threat in the truck and that he pulled out a knife from his front pocket and stabbed Fontenot in the neck.

Posted By: Doug On: 8/3/2013

Title: Terrible Analogy!!

What a terrible analogy of retreat vs. escape from De Rosier. Why would anyone with connected brain cells need to go all the way to a situation in Viet Nam for such? SMH

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