Iraq Veteran Found Not Guilty in Home Invasion

February 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A veteran of the Iraq war has been found not guilty in the stabbing of a retired judge during a home invasion last March.A jury found Phillip Dominick Landry not guilty on all counts, but several members have their doubts about whether he's innocent. As they left the courtroom, one juror pointed at Landry at told him to "behave."

Another juror told Action News Landry was a liar, but they couldn't convict him for lying, and there were too many missing pieces in the case against him.

Landry's head bowed when the jury gave him a second lease on life Thursday. The 27-year-old U.S. Navy veteran was charged with nine felony counts, including kidnapping and elder abuse, for the March 2008 attack at a northwest Fresno home. "He was looking at life in prison," said his defense attorney Ralph Torres. "His entire life in prison. He would never get out, so we had everything on the line."

Retired judge Robert Martin was left with stab wounds on his chin and arms, and Landry admits he ended up with one of the guns stolen from the home, but he denied the testimony of another defendant. The five-time felon James Cox claimed the break-in was Landry's brainchild and that they carried it out together.

Jurors say they struggled over the decision, but ultimately, Cox's testimony was the only evidence against Landry. There was no physical evidence tying him to the crime, so they couldn't convict him, even if their gut instincts told them he might be guilty. "In my gut's irrelevant," said the jury foreman, Michael Gaskin. "I have to be honest with you. That's what was a struggle. That's why you might've seen the somber faces [on the jurors.]"

Landry has an EMT license and his attorney says the veteran of two tours in Iraq is not perfect, but he'll make the most of a life outside of prison. "He drinks a lot of alcohol, but that's consistent with a lot of young men who come back from Iraq," Torres said. "And he may have a few problems, but he is not a bad person."

Landry will still be sentenced for receiving the judge's stolen gun, and for a drunk driving charge. That'll happen on Feb. 10, but Torres says he'll probably get sentenced to time already served, and then released. Cox admitted his role in the crime and he could be sentenced on Friday, Feb. 6. Prosecutors will recommend 28 years in prison.

Both Torres and Landry's parents sent condolences to Judge Martin and his wife. "We felt what happened to them was terrible, but we never believed our son was involved," said Landry's stepfather, Jeff Heller. "Right," added his mother, Cherylle Heller. "And we would like to have them catch the person who actually did it."

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