A Florida judge has denied the request of a retired police officer who fatally shot a man in a movie theater to have the charges against him dismissed under the state’s “Stand your ground” law.
NPR reports that 74-year-old Curtis Reeves Jr. was with his wife at a showing of Lone Survivor in Tampa in 2014 when he got into an argument with Chad Oulson, 43, because Oulson was texting during the movie’s previews.
Reeves was charged with second-degree murder and aggravated battery. According to NPR, in order to have the charges dismissed under the “Stand your ground” law, his attorneys would have to show that Reeves reasonably believed that using deadly force was necessary “to prevent death or great bodily harm.”
Reeves claimed Oulson had hit him in the face with a cellphone, leaving him dazed. But Circuit Judge Susan Barthle said surveillance video of the episode contradicted Reeves’ account. “The video evidence contradicts this assertion, clearly showing that there was no hit from a fist, and the item argued by the defense to be a cell phone was simply a reflection from the defendant’s shoes,” Barthle writes in her order.
Barthle was also not persuaded by the defendant’s claims that Oulson “was virtually on top of him” or that Reeves was afraid of Oulson. As Barthle writes, “the defendant initiated contact with the alleged victim on at least three occasions and was not concerned about leaving his wife there alone when he went to talk to the manager.”
As NPR notes, Florida’s “Stand your ground” law was passed in 2005 with the support of the National Rifle Association and defense attorneys, and although it was not used as part of George Zimmerman’s defense in his 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, it was part of the instructions given to the jury that eventually acquitted Zimmerman of that crime.
There is evidence suggesting that state “Stand your ground” laws have led to a rise in homicides, according to NPR.
NPR’s Greg Allen reports that Florida lawmakers want to require prosecutors to prove that a defendant wasn’t acting in self-defense, and if that expansion of the “Stand your ground” law passes, it could make it easier for defendants such as Reeves to be granted immunity from prosecution.
Read more at NPR.