#84 of My Stupid State
Curtis Reeves claimed that he was attacked first -- by a bag of popcorn. So when popcorn was thrown at him he responded the way you would expect any elderly Floridian would: gunning the guy down with a .380 semi-automatic. Chad Oulson, a husband and father, paid for that lack of phone etiquette with his life. (Serves him right, say the comment boards.)
Mr. Reeves claimed he was "in fear" for his life. Saying you were "in fear" is the foundation you need to invoke "Stand Your Ground" (SYG), or the "Shoot First" law as it is known here in Florida.
The Pasco Sheriff's Office, to their credit, shot that down and went ahead and charged him with second-degree murder. Thankfully, they didn't say he was justified and let him walk: unlike a certain other Sheriff's department last year that you might have heard about.
(And for law enforcement officials in Florida, that actually takes a lot of guts. Thanks to SYG, arresting someone who later gets off for using the SYG law exposes police to criminal and civil penalties.)
Yet even though his request for SYG protection has so far only failed at the arrest stage, as the CSMonitor correctly pointed out, probable cause to arrest is a very low standard.
Despite a quickly-filed charge, Mr. Reeves' can certainly try it again at trial, which his statements to law enforcement make clear that is exactly what he will do.
By charging him with second-degree murder, the Pasco Co. Sheriff has said that he wanted "to make sure" SYG was taken off the table. To put it bluntly, he can't.
Not only can Mr. Reeves try to get off with SYG at trial, FL law experts say he has at least a fair chance if he can convince a judge that he reasonably feared for his life before shooting:
Florida theater shooting: Will suspect's age open door to stand your ground?As I mentioned in a previous post, perpetrators in Florida have more authority to shoot and kill than U.S. troops have in war.
“Elderly people are a little bit more vulnerable than regular adults, so what may give a younger person a black eye could mean a cracked skull for a septuagenarian – that’s certainly a factor that may be figured in,” says Bob Dekle, a former Florida prosecutor.
"Don't be quick to condemn" Reeves’ response to the popcorn attack, wrote Plant City defense attorney Ronald Tulin on his Facebook page. He noted that Florida law allows deadly self-defense in order to “prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. Attacking a senior citizen is a forcible felony in Florida.”
Worse, it says that anyone can shoot anyone if they "reasonably believe" that they or someone else is in imminent danger. So the burden of proof is highly subjective. We know that throwing popcorn at someone isn't going to kill them; but what is important is if Mr. Reeves can convince a judge that HE reasonably believed he was in danger.
Worse still, people a lot more horrible than Mr. Reeves have gotten off using SYG. The majority of people in Florida who claim SYG have a criminal record. And they have been successful in exploiting the SYG law: 70% of people who claim SYG go free! Mr. Reeves, as far as I can tell, had no criminal record.
If you don't think he could get off here in Florida, think again. People have gotten off using Stand Your Ground after shooting someone laying on the ground, performing gang retaliation with AK-47s which led to a 15-year old's death, threatening unarmed utility workers who walked on a yard, and killing a wife's lover in a jealous rage.
Just google "crazy stand your ground cases" and you'll see what I mean. The Tampa Bay Times keeps a record of Stand Your Ground cases. Floridians shooting people in the back, shooting at people delivering papers, shooting at misinterpreted deaf people, drug dealer shoot-outs, etc. etc. etc.
This ALEC/NRA-written law was inflicted upon us by Jeb Bush, (proving to everyone that a more intellectual W. would have been much worse). Although Rick Scott bears plenty of responsibility. After Trayvon's murder, Rick Scott responded to the outcry by appointing a "task force"--which consisted of 3 ALEC members, 2 drafters of the original bill, and this idiot. Surprisingly, they recommended no changes. Not even a tweak so that people who initiate the confrontation can't later claim they felt threatened. So, you know, if a rapist chases a woman and she knees him he won't be able to shoot her and request SYG protection because he felt "threatened". (I know only a complete idiot would accept that defense... but look where I live folks!)
Even the former GOP sponsor of SYG said the law was never intended for people who put themselves in harm's way before they started firing. Yet Rick Scott wouldn't even support that one simple change.
The Gunshine State: Florida is the NRA's Paradise
The clear racial bias, the unequal application, the fact that homicides have increased while empirical studies have found it simultaneously does not deter crime has not and will not stop Stand Your Ground.
Only changing the regime in Tallahassee will.
I only thank God that this guy didn't have a gun or we'd have another victim to mourn today.
Got a Tip?
Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 10:45 PM PT: If you read this entire post and think that the solution here is more guns, then you are either a lunatic... or a Florida legislator. Regardless, I have some good news for you:
As of yesterday, Florida Universities must now allow guns on campus.
So think about my grade very carefully Professor.
The link to this breaking story accompanies a video: 1 in every 14 Floridians now carries a gun, the highest in the nation. Go us.
When Florida approached 1 million concealed weapons permits in December of last year, Rick Scott was ecstatic. It was deemed worthy of a press conference so his Agriculture Commissioner could give a formal announcement. (Yes, you read that right. The Agriculture Commissioner because in my stupid state, our Department of Agriculture issues the concealed weapons permits. Since it is most certainly NOT a law enforcement agency, it cannot screen applicants against the FBI's criminal database. Because who would want that.)
The celebration was short-lived. The morning after the press conference was the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Rick Scott took to the airwaves to say... nothing. He refused to do anything, even refused to say he wouldn't sell guns to the mentally ill to an exasperated Soledad O'Brien.
I thought that day the same thing I do today.. just another glorious day in the gunshine state. May the odds be in your favor.