A Stand Your Ground Case Taking Too Long To Go To Trial

Curtis Reeves, Jr. will probably never again be a free man. He will likely die behind bars – or perhaps while out of prison on house arrest – in a stand your ground case that’s taking a noticeably long time to go to trial.

On Jan. 13, 2014, Reeves, now 73-year-old, fatally shot 43-year-old Chad Oulson in a Pasco County, Florida movie theater, wounding Oulson’s wife in the process.

Reeves – a retired Tampa, Florida police captain and former SWAT leader – was charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault. But he asserts that he fired in self-defense and is claiming immunity under Florida’s notorious stand your ground law.

SEE: A Theater Shooting You May Have Forgotten About

After six months in jail, Reeves posted $150,000 bail and was released in July 2014, with a requirement to wear an ankle bracelet monitor and remain under house arrest. He can only leave home for doctor visits, grocery shopping, or church.

If convicted, he faces a life sentence. But at his age, even pleading guilty to a lesser charge could mean that he will die behind bars, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

Defense Attorney Richard Escobar speaks with reporters after his client Curtis Reeves, Jr. (center) was released on bail in July, 2014 [photo credit: OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Now, almost three years, dozens of court sessions, and multiple depositions after the fatal shooting, it may seem as if Reeves’ defense team is trying to keep him out of prison as long as they can.

“(This case) should have gone a long time ago,” Pinellas-Pasco Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett told the Tampa Bay Times. “Factually, it’s just not that complicated. It happened in a movie theater, in a matter of minutes, and it’s over and done with.” Bartlett said the stand your ground phase of a case like this is typically decided within 18 months or two years at most.

A stand your ground hearing was originally set by Circuit Court Judge Susan L. Barthle for January 25, 2016, and postponed to May 26,  then postponed again to June 29, 2016. Now, Judge Barthle has set a date of February 20, 2017.

RELATED: Stand Your Ground Hearing For Cop In Theater Shooting Postponed – Again

Reeves’ defense attorney Richard Escobar denies any deliberate stall tactics and attributes the delays to the complexity of the case and a multitude of some 170 witnesses.

Escobar is hopelessly optimistic about what seems to be a clear case of murder, and once said he thinks Reeves has a “pretty solid stand your ground case.” He told the Tampa Bay Times, “We believe that when we go to trial, Mr. Reeves will be acquitted of all charges.” Read the Tampa Bay Times story.

NOTE: This article was edited after it was originally posted to include the third paragraph.

 

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Stand Your Ground Hearing For Cop In Theater Shooting Postponed – Again

Prosecutors and attorneys for a retired Florida cop who killed a man during an argument over the man texting on a cell phone in a movie theater have agreed to postpone a stand your ground hearing – again, and again, and now again – until next year.

A hearing on an immunity claim of self-defense under stand your ground law was originally set by Circuit Court Judge Susan L. Barthle for January 25, 2016, and postponed to May 26,  then postponed again to June 29, 2016. This time, Judge Barthle has set a date of February 20, 2017.

SEE: A Theater Shooting You May Have Forgotten About

RELATED: A Stand Your Ground Case Taking Too Long To Go To Trial

Curtis Reeves photo credit: Pasco County Sheriffs Office)
Curtis Reeves (photo credit: Pasco County Sheriff’s Office)

Retired Tampa Police Captain Curtis Judson Reeves, 73-years-old, of Brooksville, is charged with second-degree battery and second degree murder in the shooting death of 43-year-old Chad Oulson and wounding Oulson’s wife, Nicole. The incident, which some people call the “popcorn shooting”, occurred inside a movie theater in Pasco County on January 13, 2014.

Theater surveillance cameras captured multiple images from different angles of the venue seating areas and lobby, with one scene that appears to show popcorn, then what appears to be a cellphone being thrown by Oulson just before Reeves fires the fatal shot.

A stand your ground hearing would determine whether or not Reeves is immune from prosecution. If he loses at the hearing the case would then go to trial. If his plea is successful, he will not have to stand trial.

Defense attorneys earlier this year filed a successful request to have public access to possibly dozens of court depositions restricted amid repeated delays in proceedings during an era of calls for an end to gun violence and public scrutiny on law enforcement killings.

RELATED: Attorneys In Stand Your Ground “Popcorn Shooting” Want To Stop Access To Court Records (Updated)

 

Defense Motion Granted In Theater Popcorn Shooting

(Correction: This article as originally published incorrectly named Judge Susan Barthle as having granted the defense motion to not file depositions. This has been changed as of June 8, 2016 to correctly name Judge Anthony Rondolino. Apologies for this oversight)

Florida Sixth Circuit Court Judge Anthony Rondolino 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 Rondolino’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.

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

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.

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.

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

 

Hearing Postponed For Cop Claiming Stand Your Ground In Theater Shooting

UPDATED  June 29, 2016: Stand Your Ground Hearing For Cop In Theater Shooting Postponed – Again

A “stand your ground” hearing has been postponed for a retired Florida cop who killed a man in what’s called the “popcorn shooting” during an argument over the man texting on a cell phone in a movie theater.

SEE: A Theater Shooting You May Have Forgotten About

(UPDATE: A hearing which was originally set by Circuit Court Judge Susan L. Barthle for January 25 and postponed to May 26, 2016, then to June 29, 2016 has been postponed again. Arguments regarding the issue of public access to depositions took place on May 19, and several depositions took place on June 8.)

RELATED: Attorneys In Stand Your Ground “Popcorn Shooting” Want To Stop Access To Court Records (Updated)

RELATED:Defense Motion Granted In Theater Popcorn Shooting 

Retired Tampa Police Department Captain Curtis Judson Reeves, 73, of Brooksville, is charged with second-degree battery and second degree murder in the shooting death of 43-year-old Chad Oulson and wounding of Oulson’s wife, Nicole. Reeves shot and killed Oulson inside a movie theater in Pasco County on January 13, 2014 during an argument that started because Oulson was using a cell phone to text his child’s babysitter.

Curtis Reeves
Curtis Reeves

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 the cell phone.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that both defense and prosecutors agreed to postpone the hearing, originally scheduled for January 25.

A Theater Shooting You May Have Forgotten About

An all but forgotten shooting in a Florida movie theater made national news, but may not have had a mass effect. That ability seems to come from mass shootings. The murder of 43 year-old Chad Oulson by 71 year-old Curtis Reeves – which is being called the “popcorn shooting” – is a theater shooting you may have forgotten about, but is nonetheless chilling.

Oulson, a Navy veteran (1990 to 1997) and avid motocross racer, was on a matinée movie date with his wife Nicole, on January 13, 2014, to see “Lone Survivor” (a movie about Navy SEALs). They sat one row in front of Reeves and his wife Vivian. Oulson was shot and killed by Reeves during an argument sparked by Oulson texting his child’s babysitter during movie previews. Reeves, a retired Tampa, Florida police captain and former SWAT leader, is claiming stand your ground immunity.

UPDATE: Stand Your Ground Hearing For Cop In Theater Shooting Postponed – Again

RELATED: A Stand Your Ground Case Taking Too Long To Go To Trial

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

The third anniversary of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater mass shooting on July 20th and trial of the perpetrator that had ended July 16th, 2015 may have reminded Americans of just how vulnerable we are in public.

Century 16 theater in Aurora CO
Century 16 Theater Aurora CO

On July 23rd, 2015, exactly one week after the Aurora shooting trial had ended, news came of yet another theater shooting – this time at the MGM Grand Theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.

MGM Grand Theater Lafayette LA
MGM Grand Theater Lafayette LA

Chaos in a peaceful place of darkness where one may swap the horrors of the real world outside and feel safe with horrors on a screen also occurred during the interim between those two events. And from the moment news first came about a Florida movie theater shooting many of us just knew that “stand your ground” law would come into play. After all – it was in the “Gunshine State”, in a dark place, and reports were that it was a one-on-one confrontation.

Though police have reportedly said it was clearly not a case of self-defense, and a “stand your ground” defense was “off the table”, the man who opened fire in a Florida movie theater is quoted as saying he was “in fear” for his life – which is a required state of mind for a stand your ground defense – and has filed a claim for stand your ground immunity.

Florida Wesley Chapel Theater

The Wesley Chapel Cobb Grove 16 movie theater in Pasco County had signs posted that banned weapons. And Reeves reportedly had also berated another moviegoer a week earlier. Yet Reeves could claim that he had as much right to be in the movie theater as the victim did. He could add that he had no duty to retreat, and was in fear “of being attacked” when this healthier, younger man – Oulson (who had the nerve to be texting a babysitter) – jocked him about trying to report the infraction to the theater management.

Since Reeves (also considered a firearms expert) was armed, it probably didn’t matter to him whether or not the younger man was armed. Reeves may claim he felt an “imminent threat” for his or his wife’s safety. At that moment of sheer testosterone/PTSD-fueled fear Reeves felt what he claimed was an “unknown object” yet what may well have been hot butter, popcorn and impact of a popcorn box hitting his body, but theater surveillance video [see below] does show what appears to be a cellphone being thrown by Oulson.

Chad Oulson
Chad Oulson

Nevertheless, Reeves apparently felt a need to “stand his ground”, using his handgun, to presumably protect his life. He had been assaulted. He felt empowered. He fired a .380 caliber bullet at close range that ripped through Oulson’s chest before it struck the hand of Oulson’s wife, Nicole.

The sheriff said that Reeves’ son – a Tampa officer who was off duty – was walking into the theater when the shooting occurred. Reeves, who suffers from high cholesterol, arthritis in his hands and requires an assisted breathing machine, reportedly briefly struggled with another off-duty deputy but released the weapon. The gun jammed and Reeves was unable to fire again.

Reeves  was arrested for second-degree murder and aggravated assault. He has consistently maintained he fired in self defense. However, in a deposition on the day of the shooting. his wife, Vivian, said she did not see anything thrown at him. Reeves was initially denied bail, and jailed following the incident, but was released on bail in July 2014.

Curtis Reeves
Curtis Reeves

Reeves’ attorney, Richard Escobar, has said he thinks they have a “pretty solid stand your ground case” and have filed a stand your ground claim. The defense team bears the burden of proof (as per a recent Florida Supreme Court ruling) to show facts surrounding his innocence, his legal reasoning behind the crime, and why he should not be held accountable.

This will take place during a “stand your ground” hearing to determine whether or not Reeves is immune from prosecution. If he loses at this hearing the case would then be allotted for a judge or jury trial. If his plea is successful, he will walk free, and not have to stand trial.

RELATED: Defense Motion Granted In Theater Popcorn Shooting

You may have forgotten about that day when Chad Oulson was killed in a movie theater, but it doesn’t have to be a mass shooting in a peaceful place of darkness to have a powerfully chilling mass effect.