UPDATED: June 8, 2016
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.
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.
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.
UPDATE: Defense Motion Granted In Theater Popcorn Shooting On May 24, 2016 Sixth Circuit Court Judge Anthony Rondolino granted the defendant’s motion to not file depositions with the court