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.
(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.)
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.
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.
This site is non-partisan but occasionally I’m compelled to throw a little virtual paper hat into the ring. Especially when no one else is shouting for an end to “stand your ground” laws.
While watching the Republican presidential debates on ABC in December, many of us may have had a feeling something was missing. Moms Demand Action made me realize what it was, and a tweet done in haste made quite an impression that night, earning it the spot as the final “tweet of the month” for 2015:
There are quite a few more opportunities to catch the candidates from both parties expound on their platforms, and we must remind them that domestic gun violence among Americans is just as much a threat as domestic or international terrorism. Here’s a schedule of debates coming up in 2016:
A road rage incident involving an Indiana family on the way to DisneyWorld in 2011 has led to a major court ruling that is a severe setback for stand your ground laws and gun rights, leaving the NRA steaming mad. On July 9, 2015, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that defendants, not the prosecutors, has the burden of proof in a self-defense situation.
A ruling for the defense could have led to more pretrial acquittals, and made it easier to get immunity under the stand your ground law. Stand your ground gives a defendant two chances to go free. Pre-trial hearings are held in “stand your ground” cases, to determine whether defendants are immune from prosecution.
The court decision came in the case of defendant Jared Bretherick, who was 22 years-old when he was riding with his 13 year-old sister on the back seat of a Chevy Silverado truck as his parents Ron and Debbie Bretherick – both disabled veterans – were in the front. Ron was driving, as the vacationing Hossiers headed to Orlando for a stop at DisneyWorld on the way home to Avon, Indiana from a Christmas vacation.
On December 29, 2011 a Florida man, Derrick Dunning, driving a blue Cadillac Escalade, was reportedly driving recklessly through traffic in Osceola County at a high rate of speed. After Dunning almost collided with the Brethericks while swerving toward their truck, Ron instinctively responded with his horn, and continued driving. Dunning apparently didn’t like it.
According to a police report, Dunning at some point stopped the Escalade in the middle of a multi-lane highway – right in front of the Bretherick’s pickup. He got out of his vehicle, walking back toward the Indiana family – who later said they felt threatened. Jared got Ron’s gun from the glove compartment while Debbie called 911.
As Dunning approached, Ron held up his gun. Dunning backed up, returning to his vehicle saying “I got a gun, too”, while Jared grabbed the family gun and got out of the pickup. There ensued a brief standoff between Jared and Dunning, since no one knew Dunning’s intentions after he returned to his Escalade and sat there. The two females exited the pickup and ducked in a ditch on the side of the highway. Ron, the driver, was immobile due to the nature of his disability. The cops arrived just in time -10 minutes after the 911 call, according to reports.
Despite family and witness statements about the circumstances, Jared Bretherick was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Police found no weapon in Dunning’s vehicle. At a stand your ground hearing, Bretherick was denied immunity, yet the defense and his case centered more on Florida’s self-defense immunity statutes than on stand your ground law.
The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association had backed the state during the litigation, and Jared’s mother, Debbie Bretherick, started an organization, Mothers Against Wrongful Prosecution (MAWP), to “address the growing concerns of the policies and powers of the prosecutor’s office within the criminal justice system.”
The NRA, which had filed motions supporting Jared Bretherick, calls the court decision an attack on Second Amendment rights. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), an organization fighting against Florida’s 10-20-life sentencing, says that due to this ruling, “law-abiding gun owners in Florida are now more vulnerable to prosecution and conviction for acting in self-defense.”
In the final Florida Supreme Court ruling, Justice Barbara Pariente said immunity in stand your ground law is not blanket immunity, but requires establishing that use of force was legally justified.
She was joined in the majority opinion by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices Peggy Quince and James E.C. Perry in stating, “We conclude that placing the burden of proof on the defendant to establish entitlement to stand your ground immunity by a preponderance of the evidence at the pretrial evidentiary hearing, rather than on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s use of force was not justified, is consistent with this court’s precedent and gives effect to the legislative intent.” Justice R. Fred Lewis concurred.
In his dissenting opinion, Justice J. Canady said, “By imposing the burden of proof on the defendant at the pretrial evidentiary hearing, the majority substantially curtails the benefit of the immunity from trial conferred by the legislature under the stand your ground law.”
News4Jax.com reported that State Representative Alan Williams calls the ruling a chance for Florida lawmakers to scrap “stand your ground” and start over. “There are provisions of the law that allow aggressors to get away with murder, so I want us to repeal it and start over, so hopefully this is our opportunity,” Williams said.
[CORRECTION: This article has been modified from it’s original version. The sentence “Police found a weapon in Dunning’s vehicle” should have read “Police found no weapon in Dunning’s vehicle.”]
66-year-old Omar Rodriguez had a verbal altercation with Jose “Pepe” Rey, and Rodriguez claimed Rey had said he would return. Later, it’s reported that, as Rey was talking with other neighbors at a gathering, Rodriguez appeared. Rodriguez told police he saw Rey move toward him, with some type of “shiny object” in his hand, so he went to his car, got his gun, then opened fire, shooting Rey multiple times. He also threatened to shoot Rey’s wife, Lissy, when she ran to help her husband.
Rey is last reported to be in critical condition, with severe abdominal and spinal injuries. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the Rey family with medical expenses.
Rodriguez was arrested and faces charges of second-degree attempted murder and aggravated assault. At his arraignment on June 23, a judge denied bond, citing police reports that state Rey had his hands out and was backing up when he was shot.
Neighbors of Rodriguez’ son and his own neighbors – miles away – all reportedly described Rodriguez as unstable, saying he has allegedly threatened people in his son’s neighborhood as well as his own. Several frightened people in his son’s neighborhood have reportedly filed restraining orders to keep him away, and police have released surveillance camera footage that shows Rodriguez engaged in some mischief and altercations involving neighbors.
ProPublica decided to take a look at what’s happened legislatively in states where some of the worst shootings in recent U.S. history have occurred to see what effect, if any, those events had on gun laws. While legislators in Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, New York, Texas and Colorado sometimes contemplated tightening rules after rampage shootings, few measures gained passage. In fact, several states have made it easier to buy more guns and take them to more places.
Here’s a rundown of what’s happened in each of those states:
Virginia: After 23-year-old Virginia Tech student Seung Hui Cho killed 32 students and faculty members at the university in April 2007, then-Gov. Tim Kaine assigned a blue-ribbon task force to examine gun policies in the state. The task force made dozens of recommendations that, among other things, suggested that the state intensify background checks for gun purchasers, and ban firearm possession on college campuses. None of the recommendations became law.
The most significant change in Virginia came two weeks after the shooting when Kaine signed an executive order requiring the names of all people involuntarily committed to mental health facilities to be provided to a federal database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Licensed gun dealers are supposed to check the database before they sell anyone a gun.
President George W. Bush subsequently signed federal legislation requiring all states to submit their mental health records to NICS, but to gain the support of the NRA, Congress agreed to two concessions. It made changes to the way the government defined who was “mentally defective,” excluding people, for example, who had been “fully released or discharged” from mandatory treatment. The law also gave mentally ill people an avenue for restoring their gun rights if they could prove to a court that they had been rehabilitated. After the law passed, the NRA pushed state lawmakers to limit roadblocks for people applying to regain their rights.
Virginia is particularly open to restoring peoples’ gun rights. A 2011 New York Times investigation found that the restoration process in the state allowed some people to regain access to guns simply by writing a letter to the state. Others were permitted to carry guns just weeks or months after being hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.
In 2012, the Virginia state legislature repealed a law that had barred people from buying more than one handgun per month , a law put in place because so many guns purchased in Virginia were later used in crimes committed in states with more restrictions.
The legislature also has made several changes to its gun permitting process. In March, 2012 the state eliminated municipalities’ ability to require fingerprints as part of a concealed weapon permit application. The state used to require gun owners to undergo training with a certified instructor in order to get permits, but in 2009 it adopted a law allowing people to take an hour-long online test instead. Since Virginia adopted the law, the number of concealed handgun permits the state has issued increased dramatically and many of the permits were issued to people who live in other states where Virginia permits are accepted.
In 2010, Virginia became one of five states to allow permit holders to carry concealed and loaded weapons into bars and restaurants.
Alabama: In Alabama, gun control advocates have won two small legislative victories since March 2009, when 28-year-old sausage plant worker Michael McLendon went on a three-town shooting spree, killing 10 people.
In 2011, the state made it illegal for people to buy weapons for someone else who doesn’t have permission to carry one or to provide false information about their identity to a licensed gun dealer. The law was intended to help crack down on gun trafficking. (According to data compiled by non-profit Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the state had the fifth highest rate of crime gun exports in 2009.)
After Florida teen Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in February 2012, the Alabama state legislature made a slight revision to its version of a law known as the “castle doctrine,” which is meant to allow property owners to protect their homes against intruders. Alabama changed its law so that a shooter would only be entitled to civil immunity for shooting a trespasser if the property owner reacted “reasonably.”
Arizona: After former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot in the head in a hail of bullets that killed six and wounded 13, a bill was introduced in the state legislature to limit gun magazines to 10 bullets, but the bill failed in the face of pressure from the gun lobby. A similar bill was proposed in Connecticut in 2012; it didn’t pass either.
In March 2012, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill with the opposite effect, forbidding the Arizona Game and Fish Commission from limiting magazine capacity for any gun approved for hunting.
According to rankings assembled by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Arizona is “49th out of 50 2014 having enacted some of the weakest gun violence prevention laws in the country.”
Arizona doesn’t require a license to carry a concealed firearm in public, nor does it limit the number of firearms that someone can buy at once.
New York: After a mass shooting at an immigration services center in Binghamton, N.Y., where 13 people were killed and four were wounded, the state assembly entertained several bills on gun control. None passed. One bill would have given police more control over records related to firearm sales. Another would have banned 50-caliber weapons and allowed people to turn them into the state in exchange for fair market value.
Perhaps the most controversial bill in the package would have required the use of a technology called microstamping on all bullets sold in the state.
Using this technology, a serial number could be stamped on bullet casings so they could be traced back to a particular gun. The gun industry argued that the technology would be too expensive and was still unproven. Some gun manufacturers were so upset by it that they threatened to leave the state. The bill passed the Assembly in June, but the Senate did not vote on it.
In January 2012, the legislature repealed a law that previously required handgun manufacturers and dealers to share information about bullet casings and ballistics with the state. Critics of the law said the database used to maintain the information cost too much and didn’t help police.
Texas: There’s been no effort to tighten gun control in Texas since Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, 39, killed 13 and wounded 32 at a military processing center at Fort Hood in 2009.
In 2011, legislators passed two bills that gave gun carriers greater freedom to take their weapons to more places. One bill restricted employers from prohibiting guns from vehicles in parking areas and another allowed foster parents to carry handguns while transporting their foster children, as long as they are licensed carriers.
Colorado: Aurora graduate student James Eagan Holmes, 24, killed 12 and wounded 58 in a movie theater in July, 2012.
At the time, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper suggested that families of victims needed time to grieve before a discussion on gun control could begin in the state.
After the Connecticut shooting, Hickenlooper said that “the time is right” for the state to consider stronger gun control legislation. He introduced a measure to strengthen background checks for gun buyers.
This article, by Joaquin Sapien, was originally published on ProPublica, Jan. 3, 2013. ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.
About 23 people protesting Georgia’s stand your ground law in a demonstration by the Moral Monday activism movement were arrested in the office of State Senator Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) at the Coverdell Legislative Office Building in Atlanta Monday.
Senator Stone is the chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. The group wanted to meet with the lawmaker about his handling of SB 280, a bill introduced by Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) to repeal the Georgia stand your ground law. Georgia’s self-defense laws contain a “no duty to retreat” statute enacted in 2006.
Stone’s staff told the protesters that the Senator would meet with only two representatives of the group – without cameras – but the protesters wanted the lawmaker to come out and speak with them all as a group, so the demonstration started, with members singing and holding signs.
Soon after, state troopers arrived. Some demonstrators left, but those who remained were handcuffed and arrested.
Later, Stone told reporters that the Moral Monday group was “disrespectful” because they didn’t schedule an appointment, then turned down his offer of meeting with only two members.
An organization started by the parents of Trayvon Martin hosts a “peace walk” and free community program in Miami this weekend that promises motivational speakers, music, and food.
The Trayvon Martin Foundation, founded by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, is sponsoring a Trayvon Martin Remembrance Peace Walk starting at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 8.
The program begins with a one-mile walk from Miami’s Carol City Park, 3501 NW 185th Street to the Betty Ferguson Center, 3000 NW 199th Street. Registration is required, and can be done online at the Trayvon Foundation website. Participants are requested to arrive at 8 a.m. to check in and receive line placement.
The Million Hoodies Movement For Justice is calling for a Day of Action to turn the music up throughout America on February 16, the birthday of Jordan Davis, gunned down after an argument over loud music by Michael Dunn, whose trial began this week.
Jacksonville, Florida Mayor Alvin Brown has proclaimed February 16 as Jordan Russell Davis Day.
The National Day of Action includes turning radios all the way up, mobilizing across the country, and signing a petition calling for Justice for Jordan Davis.
Million Hoodies is an award-winning activism movement started in response to the Trayvon Martin shooting. The group reports over 50,000 members, and helped generate global support for the arrest of George Zimmerman after he was not immediately charged in the shooting.
The group is trying to recruit local chapter organizers across the country. For more information go to the Million Hoodies website.
Moral Monday Georgia is a grassroots social justice group modeled after protest groups in North Carolina. Moral Monday protests are characterized by engaging in civil disobedience by entering the state legislature building and then being peacefully arrested. The protests are generally partisan against Republican actions.
As the trial of Michael Dunn gets underway on February 3, Lucia Mcbath, the mother of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, is making the rounds of network interviews, preparing for Dunn’s trial and telling the story of her fight to change or end stand your ground laws to anyone who’ll listen.
Yet, Mcbath and Jordan’s father Ron Davis have been tirelessly and emotionally sharing their story across the country since the tragedy, to gain support and awareness in the struggle for gun control and against stand your ground laws.
[UPDATE: This hearing was postponed due to weather conditions in Atlanta, and will now be held at 3:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, February 5, 2014]
Georgia will hold a hearing before the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee on a bill to repeal the state’s stand your ground law on Wednesday, January 29, and advocates are calling on supporters to “pack the house”.
The bill, SB 280, introduced by Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), seeks to repeal the statute relating to “no duty to retreat” in Georgia’s self-defense laws. The hearing will take place at 3:00 p.m. (EST) in Room 307 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, located at 18 Capitol Square in Atlanta.
Senator Fort said in a statement that he is calling for “a full and fair hearing” on SB 280, something he claims was not done with a related bill last session. He said this bill, “seeks to end the morally wrong practice of allowing individuals to shoot first and ask questions later, a startling fact that is simply unacceptable for the citizens of this state.”
In November, Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition filed a lawsuit against Georgia challenging the state’s stand your ground law, as a result of two cases.
In one case, James Christopher Johnson III, a 25 year-old African-American, was killed at a nightclub in March of last year after an argument with a white man who was harassing his girlfriend. His killer later claimed stand your ground and was acquitted.
After coming from a George Jones Tribute concert on a Friday night in Nashville last year, ‘outlaw country’ music performer Wayne Mills headed over to the Pit & Barrel, a popular downtown Nashville music spot run by his friend Chris Ferrell, who shot him in the back of the head, and is claiming self-defense.
For over fifteen years, Mills, 44, had toured with his band and performed in the Nashville area as one of the hottest bands in the college circuit.
During Mills’ career, country music’s Entertainer of the Year Blake Shelton, 2006 American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, and country singer Jamey Johnson each opened for him as they were seeking stardom. Mills had just finished a tour with Johnson within his last couple of weeks.
At the Pit & Barrel in the early morning hours of November 23, Mills had posed with the bar owner Ferrell, also 44, and other folks for a photo. Less than an hour later, just before 5:00 a.m., Mills was shot in the back of the head by Ferrell, who is charged with second-degree murder. Mills died at a hospital over 12 hours later.
An autopsy report released at a discovery hearing last week confirmed the gunshot wound as well as scrapes, bruises, and broken ribs.
Ferrell, a sinister-looking character with a concealed-carry permit, claims he shot Mills in self-defense after an argument over Mills smoking in a no-smoking area of the club. His attorney claims he is not guilty. Ferrell is free on a $150,000 bond, and a status hearing is scheduled for February 6, but no trial date has been set.