A Marrero man faces a mandatory life sentence in prison for his conviction on Thursday (March 23) of killing another man in the Oakwood Center mall on Christmas Eve 2014.
Gary Francois, 28, is guilty as charged of second-degree murder in the death of James Vaughn, who was exchanging a pair of pants for a larger size at an athletic shoe store in the West Jefferson mall when he was killed about 4:15 p.m. The gunfire caused pandemonium among the Christmas Eve shoppers, some of whom took cover inside the mall or fled screaming toward the exits.
A Jefferson Parish jury deliberated under 2 ½ hours before rejecting Francois’ insanity defense, finding he knew the difference between right and wrong when he shot Vaughn.
His attorneys did not deny that Francois killed Vaughn. They argued that he could not be held criminally responsible because of schizophrenia and a paranoid episode triggered by a belief that Vaughn was at the center of a conspiracy against him.
The District Attorney’s Office rebutted the defense theory with testimony from forensic psychiatrist Dr. Richard Richoux and forensic psychologist Dr. Rafael Salcedo, both of whom evaluated Francois on behalf of the state. They concluded that although Francois has a psychiatric disorder, his actions preceding, during and immediately following the homicide prove that he was able to distinguish right from wrong when he shot Vaughn.
Judge Lee Faulkner of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Francois on May 18.
Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.