A Marine reservist has been found not guilty of murdering a 34-year-old man in Louisiana in 2018.
A New Orleans jury on July 12 acquitted Lance Cpl. Quan T. Charles, 24, of second-degree murder in connection with the death of May Francois, but convicted him of obstruction of justice, according to entries in the court docket.
The defense team successfully argued that Charles had acted in self-defense when he shot Francois in August 2018, according to public defender Brian Woods, who represented Charles.
Charles told police in 2018 that he had gotten into Francois’ car for a drug deal, The Times-Picayune reported after his arrest.
Francois, a father of five, had moved to New Orleans while on probation for an armed robbery conviction in Florida and had hoped to turn his life around, his relatives told The Times-Picayune.
Woods told Marine Corps Times that Charles had been sitting in the backseat of a car, with Francois and a friend of Francois in the front, when Francois attacked him. Charles shot Francois three times, according to Woods, who said he believes the third bullet was the one that lodged in the head of Francois, killing him.
Woods noted that Francois was found in the backseat of the car, which he said lends credence to the narrative that he had been attacking Charles when he was shot.
“If he wasn’t able to defend himself, his family could have been burying him,” Woods said of his client.
Charles was arrested days after the shooting of Francois and indicted in December of that year, according to the court docket. He initially told police that “his gun went off” and that he then “somehow” fired his gun a second time, The Times-Picayune reported in 2018, quoting from the arrest warrant.
“At the time those statements were made, he was 19,” Wood said. “He was a kid. He was just scared… He was still processing what actually happened days prior.”
Charles was charged with obstruction of justice because police couldn’t locate the gun at the scene of the shooting, in Woods’ view.
Marine Corps Times requested comment from the New Orleans district attorney’s office but did not receive a response by time of publication. Marine Corps Times also made unsuccessful attempts to reach members of the Francois family through phone numbers listed online.
Charles enlisted in the Marine Corps in October 2017 and served as an administrative specialist at the Intelligence Support Battalion of Marine Forces Reserve’s Headquarters Group in New Orleans, according to Adam Bashaw, a spokesman for the Marine Corps.
The Marine received one award, the National Defense Service Medal, and never deployed, according to Bashaw.
Woods said Charles might like to reenter the Marine Corps upon his release from jail. The obstruction of justice conviction would make that impossible unless Charles secures a waiver, according to federal law.
“We currently are unaware of any plans to reinstate Quan Charles,” Bashaw said via email to Marine Corps Times on Wednesday.
Charles has been in jail since his 2018 arrest, according to the court docket. His bail amount had been set for $550,000 — which wasn’t possible for his family to pay, according to Woods.
His sentencing has been set for July 27.
But Charles is hoping the judge will give him time served, according to Woods.
“I know he’d be happy to be released, and his family would be excited,” Woods said. “He can try to put the pieces of his life together and move on.”
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.