Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Could Stand Your Ground be used as defense in movie theater shooting?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Dwight Bullard
  • Dwight Bullard
It's unknown at this time whether Curtis Reeves Jr., the former Tampa Police officer accused of fatally shooting a man over a texting dispute in a Wesley Chapel movie theater, will mount a defense employing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. But it certainly wouldn't be surprising if Reeves goes that route, which troubles some Florida Democrats critical of the law.

Last November the House Criminal Justice subcommittee voted down a proposal from Representative Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) that would have repealed the law in its entirety. Even some Democrats on the committee voted against repeal, because they contended that it would have removed a separate provision from the 2005 law that codified court rulings stating a person has a right to use deadly force against an intruder in one's own home.

"I can’t for the life of me figure out why those who have been proponents of Stand Your Ground can’t see the flaw in the law," says state Senator Dwight Bullard (D-Cutler Bay). He supports a full repeal of the law but believes that's not possible in the current political environment in Tallahassee.

Tampa-based Representative Janet Cruz said the idea that Reeves might propose a SYG defense occurred immediately after she learned of the Pasco County incident. "I think it will be a very sad day when somebody can claim that they feel threatened because someone threw a bag of popcorn at them," she told CL.

Reeves' attorney, Richard Escobar, called Chad Oulson, the man Reeves killed during the dispute at the Cobb Grove 16 movie theater, the aggressor in his client's first court appearance on Tuesday.

State Senator Bullard believes that the courts should be able to determine whether a man or woman was properly utilizing self-defense when feeling threatened, but believes a law like Stand Your Ground "hinders any sort of reasonable, rational thought on the part of the gun owner."

"There should be a reason why you pull down the weapon and that’s what I've been trying to promote," Bullard says. "I’m just hoping that incidents like [the one in Wesley Chapel], if the former police officer is using the Stand Your Ground defense, I hope it brings to light the folly of the law."

Plant City defense attorney Ronald Tulin wrote on his Facebook page on Monday that Florida law allows self-defense in order to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony, adding that "attacking a senior citizen is a forcible felony in Florida." (That original posting has now been removed from his page.) Reeves is 71 years old.

Representative Cruz says simply, "I worry about where we’re headed with this Stand Your Ground. I really do."

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