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.
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.
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.
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.