Defense Motion Granted In Theater Popcorn Shooting

Florida Judge Susan Barthle has granted a motion by the defense in the theater shooting that allows attorneys for retired Tampa police captain Curtis Reeves to not file depositions from witnesses and others who may be deposed in relation to the case. Judge Barthle’s May 24 ruling ensures that any pre-trial depositions will no longer be available for public scrutiny.

Reeves, 73 years-old, is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree battery for fatally shooting 43-year-old Chad Oulson and wounding Oulson’s wife, Nicole. The incident took place inside the Wesley Chapel Cobb movie theater in Pasco County on January 13, 2014.

Florida Wesley Chapel Theater

Florida Wesley Chapel Theater

Reeves is claiming self-defense under Florida’s stand your ground law, saying he fired on Oulson after the younger man threw an “unknown object” at him, which turned out to be a box of popcorn, and presumably a cell phone.

SEE: A Theater Shooting You May Have Forgotten About

The defense motion, filed April 29, asserted that the case had become a matter of public interest, and that news reports had contained incorrect, mischaracterized and/or otherwise inadmissible information. State prosecutors had responded by filing motions of their own against the defense motions.

Reeves’ attorneys had claimed that public access to depositions would violate the privacy of those who are deposed, and that media coverage leading up to any trial could potentially prejudice any prospective jury or harm Reeves, so he wouldn’t get a fair trial.

They also claimed that forcing them to file the depositions would cause a “wholly unpredictable and potentially devastating chain reaction in the media,” because the depositions contain “prejudicial, inadmissible, inflammatory, irrelevant, inaccurate, unreliable, demonstrably incorrect & false statements.”

Reeves’ attorneys argued that there was there was no possibility of media outlets not publicizing these things, which could possibly prejudice any potential jurors should the case go to trial.

SC Supreme Court Asks Lawmakers To Help Them Understand Stand Your Ground

As a bill that would expand the state’s stand your ground law stalled in the Senate, the South Carolina Supreme Court has asked legislators to clarify under what circumstances someone can claim self-defense if they kill a stranger or someone else in their home.

They also asked the state lawmakers to determine if all defendants deserve a stand your ground hearing before a trial.

standyourground

A bill that would shift the burden of proof in a stand your ground case to require prosecutors to prove there was no threat stalled in the state Senate on Thursday, May 19, when a subcommittee decided not to vote on it. The bill would essentially be an expansion of South Carolina’s existing “shoot first” stand your ground law.

Should the burden of proof shift from defendant to prosecutor, it would make it easier for a defendant to prove self-defense. Full story at theslate.com

What do Missouri and Trayvon Martin’s Killer Have in Common?

An online auction on the gun used to fatally shoot Trayvon Martin took place this week. Last week, the Missouri legislature passed SB 656, a stand your ground bill just like the one that let Trayvon Martin’s killer walk free in Florida.

In response to the auction, Lucy McBath, mother of Jordan Davis who was killed in November 2012 at a Florida gas station during an argument over loud music (whose killer used stand your ground as part of his defense) penned this oped for the New York Daily News, exposing how both the auction of the firearm that killed Trayvon and NRA-backed stand your ground laws (and the legislators who vote for them) share the same deplorable lack of value for human life.

Stand your ground laws make communities less safe by letting people shoot to kill in public places, even when they can clearly and safely walk away from danger. And now Missouri is on the verge of becoming the first state to pass a new stand your ground law since Trayvon was killed.

The research on how stand your ground laws endanger public safety and in particular, disproportionately affect African Americans, is clear:

  • Everytown for Gun Safety found that states with stand your ground laws have, on average, experienced a 53 percent increase in homicides deemed justifiable in the years following passage of the law, compared with a five percent decrease in states without stand your ground statutes during the same period—an increase disproportionately borne by the black community. And after Florida passed its stand your ground law, its “justifiable homicide” rate tripled.
  • A 2012 study by researchers at Texas A&M found that stand your ground laws are associated with an increase in homicides, resulting in 600 more homicides nationwide each year.
  • The Urban Institute also examined racial disparities in justified gun homicide rulings that involve a single shooter and victim who are strangers. The researchers found that when white shooters kill black victims, 34 percent of the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable, while only 3.3 percent of deaths are ruled justifiable when the shooter is black and the victim is white.

Beyond all of that, Missouri’s SB 656 would also dismantle the state’s concealed carry permit requirement and allow people – including some violent criminals – to legally carry hidden, loaded handguns in public without a permit or any safety training. Missouri legislators passed this despite opposition from 76% of Missourians.

These are all reasons why hundreds of volunteers with the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, have made phone calls, sent emails, met with their lawmakers and testified to defeat SB 656. The bill is now on the Governor’s desk.

Everytown for Gun Safety logo

Source: Everytown for Gun Safety/Moms Demand Action press release

What The Zimmerman Gun Auction Means

 

By now, you’ve probably heard that George Zimmerman placed an online auction on the gun he used to fatally shoot Trayvon Martin. He said the U.S. Department of Justice returned the gun to him, after holding it since his acquittal on July 13, 2012.

When many of us saw the name of America’s human disaster trending on twitter last week, we were hoping he had died, right? This latest fiasco by a sick, troubled, publicity hounding, murdering nut who claims to be so “patriotic” means some disturbing, haunting emotions and memories America experienced three years ago will return.

Gun used to kill Trayvon Martin

Gun used to fatally shoot Trayvon Martin

My first reaction was not to publicly post or comment on this. To just let it ride, while America’s reactions played out on major news outlets, and give it time to blow over. Then my own emotions took control, and the anger, disgust, and pain seeped into the fingers typing these words. As I waited to observe the original online auction, it mysteriously disappeared right about the time it was scheduled to begin.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that GZ later sent a text which read that the auction site “was not prepared for the traffic and publicity surrounding the auction of my firearm.” That site later issued a statement saying it reserves the right to reject listings, and had done so with this one.

So he cut and pasted the gun and description onto another site, unitedgungroup.com, with the same starting bid of $5000. The site publicly changed their position regarding the auction, at first denying, then allowing the sale (presumably at the advice of their legal counsel), conceding he had as much right to sell his weapon on their site as anyone else did.

The description says that sale proceeds will be used to “fight BLM violence against Law Enforcement officers, ensure the demise of Angela Correy’s (sic) persecution career and Hillary Clinton’s anti-firearm rhetoric.” It ends with the Latin words Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum (If you want peace prepare for war).” –

If there was any good intention in this creep, he would have donated the gun to a museum, or had it destroyed. Instead, he claims in the sale description that he turned down a Smithsonian offer, but the museum has issued the following statement on twitter:

This new auctioneer site reportedly crashed as the second auction began, but was back up the next morning. The auction was scheduled to run 4 more days. But after it was targeted by fake bidders, and reached a high bid of $65.4 million USD, that user’s account was deleted.

Then a new bidder posted a high bid of $485,000. The disturbed gun owner soon deleted the first auction himself, vowing to start over days later, and did so yesterday (May 17), with a starting bid of $100,000.

Zimmerman gun auction screen shot

Zimmerman gun auction screen shot from unitedgungroup.com (click to enlarge)

This time, only about three or four serious bidders and a couple of fake ones participated. In the end, it appeared the gun had sold to someone named David Thorne for $138,800 – although a hacker named John Smith (with a widely reported fake last-minute bid of $138,900) made several attempts to derail the sale with fake bids.

The auction was immediately deleted from the site after it ended. If all auction attempts failed, GZ reportedly claimed he still had several private offers.

The freedom to sell anything he owns would also apply to the vehicle he drove on the night he fired the fatal shot on Trayvon Martin, or the clothes he wore that night.  Yet, for anyone to attempt to profit from a tragedy that shook the nation is as callous and unpatriotic as trying to sell hurricane memorabilia to storm survivors.

How sad. How utterly insulting, disgraceful, disrespectful, distasteful, atrocious, ignorant, shameless, selfish, and blatantly obnoxious. We could go on and on with adjectives that deliberately cut open wounds that haven’t healed, to describe how this feels, and what it means.

One thing that should never happen is that a murder weapon in a case like this can be used against the emotions of America. It’s an ultimate insult to the victim’s family – and all those who protested the outcome of one of the most famous trials in our history.

The reality of what the auction means is all too painful. It’s the ultimate slap in the face to everyone who thought it was a disgraceful injustice when a man who fatally shot an unarmed teenager walked free.

UPDATE: This article has been edited as originally published to include facts established by auction observation such as a widely reported last-minute bid of $138,900, which was established to be a fake bid.

Stand Your Ground Top Tweet

 

This GIF image, used in Roy Clymer’s post entitled “A Manifesto of Second Amendment Responsibilities“, powerfully portrays a simple message so effectively that it gained lots of attention on twitter within the last month and became our Top Tweet.

With ownership of a car comes the responsibility to drive it safely and properly. Why is it easier in some places to get a license to own a gun than a license to drive a car? For a gun owner, there should also be a responsibility to use a gun safely and effectively. Do you think everyone should own a gun?

Missouri Becomes A Stand Your Ground State

 

Democrats filibustered and put up a bold, powerful fight against SB656, a bill that will make Missouri the first since the Trayvon Martin case to become a stand your ground state. In the end, after a Senate vote of 28-8, the bill passed through the House with a vote of 114-36, disappointing many opponents. With the Senate majority vote, the bill cannot be vetoed by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon.

RELATED: Kurt Schaefer Pushes For Stand Your Ground In Missouri

SB656 changes several things in Missouri’s laws on self-defense, use of weapons, and concealed carry. The laws already included a castle doctrine, which covers protection of home & property.

Stand your ground was added under the unlawful use of weapons portion of the bill, when words were changed to state that now a person does not have a duty to retreat from a dwelling, residence, vehicle, private property that is owned or leased, or anywhere else a person has a right to be, as long as that person is not engaged in an unlawful activity, and not unlawfully entering or unlawfully remaining.

 

Missouri Capitol

Missouri Capitol (Image: Missouri Senate website)

 

Here are some other key points in the legislation:

SELF DEFENSE

The act provides that any unexpended funds in a Sheriff’s Revolving Fund, which usually accumulate from year to year, will no longer be required to remain in the fund, and now may be used for other purposes or transferred to discretionary funds for the sheriffs.

The law will now allow deadly force to be used by anyone who has permission to occupy private property, such as a house guest. Previously it applied only to the property owner or someone leasing it.

UNLAWFUL USE OF WEAPONS

It’s will now be only a misdemeanor, and no longer a felony, to carry a concealed weapon into a place that has restrictions on concealed carry.

CONCEALED CARRY PERMIT FEES

Caps the CC permit fee at $100. Also provides options of a $500. lifetime fee rather than every five years; $200 to receive a Missouri extended concealed carry permit that is valid for 10 years or $250 for an extended permit that is valid for 25 years. To renew an extended permit, the permit holder must pay $50.

 

Poll Shows People Uneasy In Theaters That Allow Open Carry

 

Most movie theaters have a policy that forbids firearms, and you may think anyone would be a little uneasy in a dark theater where open carry is allowed, but results of an unscientific recent twitter sample poll indicate that some people would feel comfortable in a theater which allows open carry.

Surprisingly, some respondents (11%) appear to indicate they’d be fine with open carry and voted “Yes”, while a few (3%) indicated they don’t know how they would feel. Nonetheless, a majority of participating respondents -86% – voted “No” to the question “Would you be comfortable in a movie theater that allows open carry of guns?.” The twitter poll, conducted May 6-13, 2016, was offered to approximately 590 followers by the movement to change or repeal stand your ground laws.

Indeed, it has become a very real fear that someone can, in fact, actually walk into a theater and open fire, whether or not they open carry. A civil trial began this week in the Aurora, Colorado shooting that left 12 people dead and 70 injured. And a stand your ground hearing is set this month in the murder of a movie patron fatally shot by a retired cop in Florida.

Century 16 theater in Aurora CO

Century 16 theater in Aurora CO

Open carry in a theater could possibly increase that fear. because we’re all too aware of the dangers posed in any public gathering place. A place of darkness may appear to be even more threatening. In one incident last year police received several calls after an open-carry advocate entered a theater in Arkansas, and in Kansas, it caused quite a ruckus when a gun-toter was kicked out of a Topeka, Kansas theater.

Other questions asked in recent quick twitter polls by the movement include, “Should a blind person be allowed to own and use guns?” (the result was undoubtedly 100% ‘no’), a 3-day poll, and “Would guns on campus make colleges drop sensitive topics or be cautious discussing them?” (the result was 67% yes and 33%no), in a 5-day poll.

Check out final results of the movie theater poll below, and post what you think in the comments. You just might be a Floridian or Texan – if you are comfortable watching a movie in a theater that allows open carry.

 

 

Kurt Schaefer Pushes For Stand Your Ground In Missouri

 

UPDATED: May 15, 2016

As a rule, prosecutors don’t like so-called “stand your ground” gun laws — those that allow citizens to use lethal force in the face of a perceived threat without first attempting to retreat.

Kurt Schaefer, a Missouri senator vying to become the state’s top prosecutor, must have missed that memo…see full article

RELATED: Missouri Becomes A Stand Your Ground State

This is an excellent on-point article about a shameless, out-of-touch politician. As an example, he actually retweeted this:

KurtSchaeferTwitter

UPDATE: On the weekend after the Legislative Session closed, Schaefer also retweeted a tweet onto his twitter profile which advised voters to say “No to Kurt Schaefer.” How much more out of touch can a politician get?:

 

Two New Movies Shoot Back At Gun Violence

 

In the gun-toting society that we live in, doesn’t it sometimes feel as though we’re all under the gun and we need to wear armor? The goal of two new gun-themed documentary movies, which debut on television this week, appears to be an attempt to shed light on America’s culture of guns and help us explore ways to reduce gun violence. I haven’t seen either one yet, but “Armor of Light” focuses on religion vs. guns and “Under the Gun” asymmetrically explores the gun debate.

under the gununder the gun

Armor of Light premieres on the PBS “Independent Lens” series at 8:00 p.m. ET, Tuesday, May 10. It whisks us into the pulpit of evangelical minister Rob Schenck, an anti-abortion activist, and on a part of Lucia McBath’s journey, fighting for the legacy of her son, Jordan Davis, murdered by a misguided gun owner over loud music as he sat in the back seat of a friend’s SUV.

The film explores the balance of religion vs. guns. Schenck breaks with religious tradition— and risks alienating his longtime friends— when he questions if being pro-gun is consistent with being pro-life.

Armor of Light

Under the Gun, produced and narrated by Katie Couric, premieres at 8:00 p.m. ET, Sunday, May 15 on EPIX, and dives head-first into the gun debate, examining events and people who have kept the gun debate fierce and the progress slow, even as gun deaths and mass shootings continue to increase.

The documentary looks at why politicians find it difficult to act and what’s being done on the state and local levels. It features families impacted by mass shootings in Newtown, Aurora, Isla Vista and Tucson, as well as people in other cities who experience gun violence on a daily basis.

Be sure to tune in and watch each one of these ambitious projects, then please come back and leave your thoughts below.

 

Attorneys In Stand Your Ground “Popcorn Shooting” Want To Stop Access To Court Records

Attorneys for the former cop charged with killing a man & shooting the man’s wife in what is called the “popcorn shooting” have filed a motion to stop public access to court records as a stand your ground hearing approaches. They claim that media coverage leading up to a trial may prejudice prospective jurors.

Retired Tampa Police Department Captain Curtis Judson Reeves, 73 years-old, is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree battery in the shooting death of 43-year-old Chad Oulson and wounding of Oulson’s wife, Nicole. The incident happened inside a movie theater in Pasco County on January 13, 2014 during an argument.

SEE: A Theater Shooting You May Have Forgotten About

Reeves is claiming self-defense under Florida’s stand your ground law, saying he fired on Oulson after the younger man threw an “unknown object” at him, which turned out to be a box of popcorn, and presumably a cell phone. Circuit Court Judge Susan L. Barthle has set the stand your ground hearing in the case for May 26.

Curtis Reeves

Curtis Reeves

As part of preparation for any trial, attorneys for both sides must usually take depositions from witnesses and any other parties involved. Florida’s courts require the attorneys to file transcripts of such depositions.

Reeves’ defense attorney, Richard Escobar, has requested authorization to not file depositions with the court, asserting that the case has “become a matter of public interest.” The attorney’s motion states that news reports of the case “containing incorrect, mischaracterized and/or otherwise inadmissible information have already been published.” The request contends that media coverage leading up to this “high-profile” trial may prejudice any prospective jury, and cause “actual and irreparable harm” to Reeves, therefore he would not get a fair trial.

Escobar maintains that the forced filing of depositions from witnesses, law enforcement, & others will “cause a wholly unpredictable and potentially devastating chain reaction of media coverage, and that the deposition transcripts contain “prejudicial, inadmissible, inflammatory, irrelevant, inaccurate, unreliable, and demonstrably incorrect and false statements,” and that there is “no realistic possibility that news media will refrain from publicizing this,” prejudicing potential jurors.

The attorney claims that public access to court records, which contain numerous depositions, would also violate the privacy rights of those who are deposed.

State prosecutors have responded by filing motions requesting that the court not grant Reeves’ attorneys the request to not file depositions with the court. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 19, one week before the scheduled stand your ground hearing.

 

Alarming Facts About Stand Your Ground Laws

One reason stand your ground law is so controversial may be because it’s sometimes misunderstood. Many gun-rights advocates, led by NRA rhetoric, likely support it because they believe that changing or repealing stand your ground would somehow take away their 2nd Amendment rights. As a matter of fact, we were fine before stand your ground laws. Americans have always had a right to self-defense.

Here are a few alarming facts about stand your ground:

In most stand your ground cases, the weapon is a gun, the victim unarmed, and the killer goes free.

Tampa Bay Times Graphic of stand your ground cases

Tampa Bay Times Graphic

This was revealed in an excellent comprehensive 2012 Tampa Bay Times study. The research, which claimed that many cases seem to make a mockery of the legal system, also found almost 70 percent of defendants claiming stand your ground were successful, and that defendants were more likely to prevail when victims were black – 73 percent of defendants who killed a black person went free, compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white.

 

A successful stand your ground plea may allow immunity from prosecution for killing innocent bystanders.

Darrell Niles

Darrell Niles

Stand your ground laws in some states incorporate immunity from prosecution if an innocent bystander is killed. An example occurred in South Carolina in 2013, which set a dangerous precedent when a shooter was freed of all charges after killing 17 year-old Darrell Niles.

 

Florida lawmakers want to pay up to $200000 for legal fees in self-defense cases.

 Florida could pay up to $200000 for legal fees in a self-defense case.

The man who introduced stand your ground to Florida, state Representative Dennis Baxley, introduced a 2016 bill that would pay legal fees. SB 0344 proposed that if a defendant is brought to trial, then claims and proves self-defense immunity, Florida would reimburse up to $200,000 for all their expenses, including attorney fees, court costs, and compensation for loss of income.

 

Stand your ground law violates an international human rights treaty the U.S. signed in 1977, and helps get the U.S. a failing grade on human rights.

United States Human Rights Scorecard

United States Human Rights Scorecard (credit: CCPR)

In 2013, after the United Nations Commission on Human Rights urged the United States to examine stand your ground laws, one U.S. Senate hearing was held. Since then, no action has been taken to address stand your ground on a federal level. In 2015, the commission gave the U.S. a low score of C1 on reviewing stand your ground laws (one of several factors needed to conform to international human rights standards).

 

Using stand your ground defense allows a defendant two chances to avoid prison.

Jail card

When a defendant invokes stand your ground law, they petition the court for a hearing before a judge who determines, among other things, if the defendant had a right to be where the incident occurred, who was at fault, whether the defendant had intent, and felt threatened while in fear for their life. A judge decides the case, and whether it goes to trial. If a defendant loses at this stand your ground hearing, a case goes to trial. If the defendant wins, charges may be dropped.

 

Stand Your Ground Top Tweet

It’s about time to highlight a top-performing tweet from @endyourstand on twitter. This segment will no longer be called a “tweet of the month” but an engaging, deserving tweet from the movement will continue to be regularly featured.

An environment of stand your ground laws creates a community of (legal & illegal) empowered, emboldened gun owners, who sometimes may push the limits of what stand your ground law is intended to do, contributing to gun violence.

Although it’s been a while since it was posted on twitter, this tweet was quickly retweeted and is worthy of being featured here because it concisely speaks volumes about the impact stand your ground laws have on America’s consciousness. If you agree, help keep it going and retweet it, then tell us what you think in the comments below: