A trial date has finally been set for Curtis Reeves, the Florida retired police officer charged with murder in the shooting death last January of Chad Oulson over a dispute in a movie theater in which Oulson threw popcorn at Reeves.

Trial Judge Pat Siracusa, overseeing the case, set a three week window for the trial, running from March 2 through March 30.

We previously covered this case here at Legal Insurrection,  Florida Theater Shooting Induces Another Round of “Stand Your Ground” Mania; and over at the Law of Self Defense blog here, Legally-Sound Self-Defense Strategy Rule #1: KEEP OUT OF TROUBLE IN 1st PLACE.

Defense Informs Court it Intends to Depose ~100 Witnesses

Why such a long delay–14 months from the date of the shooting!–for the start of the trial? The answer seems to be the sheer volume of discovery and pre-trial preparation undertaken, which in turn is a function of how crowded the theater was with movie goers (now, of course, witnesses.)

A court document (embedded at the bottom of this post) filed last week by defense attorneys Richard Escobar and Dino Michaels indicates that they intend to depose as many as 100 witnesses. In the nine months since the shooting they have deposed only 19 of these, leaving 81 to be completed in the less than six months remaining before the trial.

The defense also complains that several State witnesses, including Deputies and Crime Scene Technicians, have shown up to their scheduled depositions presenting new supplementary evidence not previously shared with the defense.

Obviously, much preparation goes into a deposition, and that preparation is dependent upon having the opportunity to review all relevant evidence prior to the deposition itself. At least some of these depositions had to be rescheduled and others were only partially completed.

Defense Waiting on State Forensics Reports & Begins Choosing Own Experts

The defense also indicates in their filing that they are still waiting on various forensics reports form the State.

These include an anticipated FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) report on gunshot residue on Oulson’s clothing and an analysis of firearm stippling distance. This would provide forensic insight on the distance separating Oulson from the muzzle of Reeve’s pistol when the fatal shot was filed.

The defense has, of course, selected its own ballistic/firearms expert on gunshot residue, to conduct an independent analysis. They also anticipate retaining an independent pathologist, as well as an independent ‘Audio/Visual/Image Specialist,” presumably for examination of the surveillance video captured form inside the theater at the time of the shooting.

In addition, the defense indicates that they have retained a “use of force expert,” whose testimony will naturally be critical to Reeve’s expected narrative of reasonable fear of imminent death or grave bodily harm at Oulson’s hands, such narrative being essential to Reeve’s claim of self-defense. They give no indication of who this may be, however.

The defense is also waiting for a report of the cell phone text messages found on Oulson’s phone, potentially relevant because it was Oulson’s texting that purportedly triggered the interaction between the two men.

Witness Claims Reeves Shouted at Him in Theater Eight Years Prior

In other news, a man has emerged who claims that Reeves shouted at him to “SHUT UP!” in a movie theater 8 years prior to the confrontation and shooting of Oulson, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

The man, Edward James Thompson, told law enforcement that he and a companion were talking quietly in a movie theater in 2006 when Reeves turned and growled “Why don’t you just shut up?”

(Note: The above is a 12 second segment of the 1:45 video interview of Thompson by ABC News. The entire video can be viewed here: http://is.gd/Mv0VXx)

Thompson says he did not originally come forward with this information because he was aware t what Reeves was being held without bail.  When Reeves was granted bail in July, however, Thompson says he contacted law enforcement to share his experience.

Escobar, Reeves’ defense attorney, discounted Thompson’s account, noting that an earlier such claim made by another person was proven to be “an absolute lie.”

Defendant’s Response to Court’s Pre-Trial Conference Order

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.