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Self-Defense Immunity Motion In Florida Movie Theater Shooting

Self-Defense Immunity Motion In Florida Movie Theater Shooting

Motion a good model for arguing & understanding self-defense immunity

I’ve previously written here about the Florida movie theater shooting, in which retired police officer Curtis Reeves shot and killed Chad Oulson in claimed self-defense after the two men argued about Oulson’s use of his cell phone in a movie theater:

Florida Theater Shooting Induces Another Round of “Stand Your Ground” Mania (1/14/14)

“Popcorn” Shooting Trial Set For March (9/17/14)

Despite that second headline, the trial proper has not yet begun.  Last week, however, defense counsel for Reeves filed a motion seeking self-defense immunity under Florida statute §776.032, “Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.”  That motion is embedded as a PDF at the bottom of this post.

Naturally there remain factual disputes between the prosecution and the defense, and the resolution of those factual disputes will likely be dispositive on the self-defense immunity motion.

Setting those factual disputes aside for the moment, however, the motion does a very nice job of laying out the relevant law of self-defense immunity.  It also provides a very clear and intuitive model for how such a motion should be structured and argued. (Nice work by defense counselors Escobar, Michaels, and Shah.)

Particularly informative is much of the discussion on what constitutes a deadly force threat (pro-tip, it’s not just force capable of causing death), particularly in the context of Oulson’s allegedly thrown cell phone and the danger presented by Oulson’s fists to the 71-year-old Reeves (see, roughly, pages 43 through 46).  Also, the motion notes that once again we are not here dealing with a genuine “Stand-Your-Ground” case (see page 47).

Here’s the motion, for your reading pleasure:

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Attorney Andrew Branca and his firm Law of Self Defense have been providing internationally-recognized expertise in American self-defense law for almost 20 years in the form of blogging, books, live seminars & online training (both accredited for CLE), public speaking engagements, and individualized legal consultation.
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I see the defense is supplying multiple pages of contextual information: Reeve’s character backdrop and his professional background. Yet, I fail to see why a gun, from their explanation, would resolve the matter before Reeves.

As I see it, Reeve’s many years of experience (as indicated by his work history and age) under his belt would work against him. He must have known how to defuse a tense situation from his detective and security days.

Maybe I missed this, but it does not appear that Reeves wanted to resolve the situation.

    A gun *did* promptly “resolve the matter before Reeves”, so I don’t understand what you’re saying you’re failing to see in your first paragraph.

    As for his experience, the document explains the relevance and how that works in his favor. “He must have known how to defuse a tense situation”, yes, which is why he did not escalate the situation, he simply quietly went to the lobby and passed off the issue to a theater employee, then resumed his seat and did not further engage Oulson. Once Oulson chose to re-initiate on his own, there’s no indication that Reeves did anything to further provoke Oulson. Drawing on his training Reeves may well have concluded that the best chance to defuse the situation was to let Oulson rant unopposed, or perhaps he said whatever placating things his training indicated was the best way to calm the angry person in front of him, but in any case nothing works every time and some individuals will just work themselves up into a spiraling violent rage all on their own regardless of what one does to deter that.

    Reeves’ experience is most relevant in the way that it gave him long experience in how to a) correctly assess that an individual is escalating a violent assault rather than about to back off, and b) correctly recognize physical actions that have a serious risk of causing death or serious bodily harm, as well as c) knowing when there are no viable options to avoid that danger aside from the employment of deadly force.

    Finally, Reeves clearly “wanted to resolve the situation” in a peaceful manner by passing it off to a theater employee, and by not re-engaging Oulson after he returned to his seat.

      “Reeves clearly “wanted to resolve the situation” in a peaceful manner”…so he shot Oulson.

      All the fluff doesn’t end well.

        It think it is more correct to say that Mr. Reeves “tried” to end the dispute in a peaceful manner.

        Also, there is a difference between what you want and what you are forced to do sometimes.

        Also, please remember that you are looking at the situation in hindsight, in safety, and while not under great stress. Mr. Reeves didn’t have these advantages.

        Also when looking at things in hindsight it is easy to forget that these incidents happen in seconds, not the minutes that it takes to read about them. Which is why “detached reflection can not be expected in the face of an upraised knife”. (That may be a bit of paraphrasing, but it works.) That is essentially the standard to which you seem to be holding Mr. Reeves.

          “It think it is more correct to say that Mr. Reeves “tried” to end the dispute in a peaceful manner.”

          You are saying the same thing as Ichneumon only couched in accommodating terms for Reeves. The result is the same – now and then.

          Gremlin1974 in reply to Gremlin1974. | November 19, 2015 at 2:20 am

          @ Jennifer a Johnson

          No what I am saying is that you are looking with the benefit of hindsight and deciding reactions. Not in the 3 – 5 seconds that Mr. Reeves had to react.

          Don’t get me wrong I am very on the fence in this shooting and am not defending it as justified.

          Milhouse in reply to Gremlin1974. | November 19, 2015 at 3:30 am

          I don’t see how Ms Johnson is using the benefit of hindsight. She has not suggested any way in which Mr Reeves could have prevented his assailant from committing a forcible felony on him without shooting him. If she had identified such a way, we could discuss whether it was reasonable to expect Mr Reeves to think of it at that time and under those circumstances; but she hasn’t, so the question doesn’t come up. He had no other reasonable option, whether in foresight or in hindsight.

          Char Char Binks in reply to Gremlin1974. | November 19, 2015 at 10:10 am

          I think it’s more correct to say that Reeves was the aggressor throughout, and he won. Guns beat popcorn.

          Milhouse in reply to Gremlin1974. | November 19, 2015 at 4:03 pm

          By his account he was not the aggressor. If there is evidence to the contrary, let’s hear it.

        If you can, and I think situation warrants this, walk away from any forcible felony agressive situation.

        I am a handgun owner and a member of the NRA and a Christian.

        So, in this situation, after the theater announcement, I would have asked Oulson to put his device away. Having no reaction from Oulson I would have spoken to the manager (and not a kid usher) and request action based on the theater’s own ‘rules.’ The manager, having no desire to confront an obstinate Oulson after an initial request, would likely offer a refund to Reeves. Reeves would then return home safe and sound, able to watch a movie another day. This is the end…of a better day.

          That may be good practical advice, but it is not a legal or moral obligation.

          Liberty requires a moral obligation, a moral duty towards the ‘other’ or it becomes ‘survival of the fittest’ inhumanity. You can’t use a gun to end a civil dispute. This isn’t the Wild West.

          A handgun versus a cell phone? You don’t think that there is a moral weight that is pressing, a “life or death” consideration?

          Good practical sense, past and present legal knowledge and being moral obliged are all things a 71 year old professional should have had in place. These things would have protected Reeves from losing his liberty.

          It certainly is a persons’ moral duty to walk away from a civil dispute before it escalates beyond verbal to violence. And doing so is not passivity. Doing so is wisdom that a 71 year old experienced professional should have used. He could have used his liberty to walk away.

          There was no moral duty to confront Oulson again.

          It certainly is a persons’ moral duty to walk away from a civil dispute before it escalates beyond verbal to violence.

          No, it is not. I don’t know where you get your moral system from, but if it has such a duty in it then it’s wrong.

          There was no moral duty to confront Oulson again.

          Nor was there any moral duty not to. I can even make a case that there is a moral duty not to let a bully have his way. If the bully chooses to escalate matters, then the consequences are entirely his fault.

          “Liberty requires a moral obligation, a moral duty towards the ‘other’ or it becomes ‘survival of the fittest’ inhumanity.”

          Yes it does but it that moral obligation does not require pacifism in the face of an attacker.

          “You can’t use a gun to end a civil dispute. This isn’t the Wild West.”

          Which isn’t what happened here. Unless you want to argue that throwing an object that weighs more than a cue ball at someone’s face is a “civil” action.

          “A handgun versus a cell phone?”

          I don’t know if you are ignorant or just extremely misguided. The issue isn’t handgun vs cellphone the throwing of the cellphone indicates that the other person is willing to take violent and possibly harmful action against the other person. Regardless of the outcome, I have seen nothing to indicate that anyone other than Oulson resorted to physical violence.

          “You don’t think that there is a moral weight that is pressing, a “life or death” consideration?”

          Nope, if a person chooses to attack me or my loved ones then he/she has relived me of any moral obligation to preserve their health or well being.

          “Good practical sense, past and present legal knowledge and being moral obliged are all things a 71 year old professional should have had in place. These things would have protected Reeves from losing his liberty.”

          Please explain, and then tell us oh, oracle of moral certitude, what action Reeves should have taken when trapped in a theater seat with people on either side?

          “It certainly is a persons’ moral duty to walk away from a civil dispute before it escalates beyond verbal to violence. And doing so is not passivity. Doing so is wisdom that a 71 year old experienced professional should have used. He could have used his liberty to walk away.”

          Really, so now you expect Reeves to be psychic enough to know that a rude loudmouth would become physically violent? Passivity has nothing to do with it. I would have complained and returned to my seat expecting management to intervene.

          “There was no moral duty to confront Oulson again.”

          So far there is no evidence that I have seen that Reeves did “confront Oulson again”. Him returning to his seat isn’t confrontation. So far everything points to Oulson confronting Reeves again.

          “I don’t know where you get your moral system from,…”

          Tell me where yours is from and I will tell you mine.
          So Reeves never confronted Oulson? How was he able to shoot Oulson? Are you reading the same post I am?

          Good luck with both of your opinions in court. You will both need luck.

          “So Reeves never confronted Oulson? How was he able to shoot Oulson? Are you reading the same post I am?”

          Reeves shooting Oulson isn’t the same as confronting Oulson. If a guy comes at me with a knife from an alley and I shoot him did I “confront” the man with the knife?

          Reeves and Oulson had words, Reeves went to complain to management and returned to his seat. None of that is in dispute, correct?

          So after Reeves returns to his seat what we know so far is that at some point Oulson stood up turned around and leaned over his seat while yelling and cursing, and possibly threatening, Reeves. Oulson also threw his fairly heavy cell phone that struck Reeves in the face and reached across the seats to take Reeves popcorn and throw/shove it back at him, at which point Reeves drew his pistol and fired. Most of that is on video.

          Right now it looks like Oulson is the one that confronted Reeves after he returned to his seat, now that is without pretty much any evidence from the state.

          No, I don’t believe that I would have shot Oulson in the given situation, I probably would have helped him the rest of the way over the seat so that he flipped arse over tea kettle into the floor in front of my chair and then gently used the sole of my boot to persuade him to stay there until the cops came to arrest him, but then again I am not 71 years old.

          I don’t expect that the self defense motion will fly, especially not in today’s political climate, and frankly I am not sure that it should be granted.

          What I do expect to happen in the end is for this to go to trial and for enough of the jury to have pity on the “poor old man” and save him from conviction or for him to be convicted of a lesser included offense. I don’t think that 2nd degree murder is going to fly.

          As far as my “morality” it has served me well through the years and hasn’t seen a significant change from late teens until now in my early 40’s and I am entirely comfortable with it since it comports very will with my Christian values.

          You are a pacifist, I am not, and that is just something you are going to have to live with.

          What I do expect to happen in the end is for this to go to trial and for enough of the jury to have pity on the “poor old man” and save him from conviction

          Maybe instead of having pity on the “poor old man” who instigated an argument in a movie theater over texting and ended up shooting a man, and then bullied and swore at his own wife in front of witnesses including an off-duty Corporal, they’ll have pity on the poor widow and now-fatherless 3-year-old of the well-liked family man who was so senselessly shot and killed in a movie theater by a cranky old bullying thug of an ex-cop.

          You never know. Florida is a very pro-self defense state, but as a corollary, a lot of lawful gun-owners don’t like hot-head maniacs who go around shooting people for stupid reasons and making all gun owners look bad. Because truly, with over a million concealed carriers in this state, the vast majority of us would never let an incident over texting during movie previews escalate into shooting someone in the face — if we did, there’d be killings like this every second week.

          If he gets off, it will be out of respect for his past service to law enforcement, and nothing else. Kind of like the off-duty New Jersey cop who shot some dude in a road rage incident and got off, whereas if he had been an ordinary private citizen he’d be in jail right now.

          @ Amy in FL

          You would know more about Florida than I would. But I think our diverging points say something.

          This one is gonna come down to the Jury. Who is on that Jury and who the lawyers manage to stack the jury.

          However, it is obvious that Reeves has a very talented legal team which may give him and advantage.

          I tend to let his age influence me. There was a clear physical disparity and from what we know so far it was Oulson that got physical and threatening. It will be interesting to see how the prosecution responds.

Is a Defendant who is acquitted by a jury on the basis of the of self-defense; but whose pre-trial Statutory Immunity motion was denied; entitled to immunity from civil lawsuits in Florida?

    No. One can be acquitted at trial on the basis of self-defense even if the jury believes it is far more likely than not that you did NOT act in self-defense. The jury is instructed to acquit unless the prosecution has disproven self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Alternatively, one could be acquitted at trial simply because the prosecution has failed to prove the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, in which case the jury need not have considered self-defense at all. Generally speaking the jury doesn’t explain why or how they came to a verdict. (There is at least one state, WA I believe, that has a provision for explicitly polling a jury on the issue of self-defense, following an acquittal, so forcing them to make an explicit finding on the self-defense issue.)

    Neither of those two outcomes establishes self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence, which is what’s required to attach immunity.

    George Zimmerman, for example, has never obtained self-defense immunity, despite his acquittal. In his case, that’s simply because he hasn’t sought it. Should he ever be sued over the Trayvon Martin shooting, I’m sure he would seek, and obtain, self-defense immunity. All he needs to do is file an appropriate motion with the court, and ask them for a finding on the matter.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Not sure I buy the iPhone as a “deadly weapon”, but the rest sounds reasonable. (Though obviously, it’s just one side — I’d imagine Mrs. Oulson tells a different story.)

Has the video been made public?

Have disinterested witnesses made public statements?

Is there a medical report on any wounds Mr. Reeves may have suffered from the cell phone?

And the Big Question: Is Reeves really still in jail waiting for a hearing nearly two years after the incident?

    There was a witness (actually the man who called 911) quoted in this piece.

    A couple more witnesses quoted here.

    And this news report has some of the video. As it says in the notes, “The defense contended the footage shows Oulson, 43, tossing his cellphone at Reeves, then grabbing and throwing his popcorn at him, but the prosecution disputes that. The tape also captures the moment when Reeves fired the single shot into Oulson’s chest. although from a distance in poor lighting.”

    Gremlin1974 in reply to clintack. | November 18, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    As far as I know no one has ever implied that the iphone was a deadly weapon. That is not what is being said.

    Basically, the defense is weighing heavily on the disparity of force argument. The iphone is just being used as proof that the younger stronger man was willing to attack the more frail 71 year old.

      mekender in reply to Gremlin1974. | November 19, 2015 at 1:39 am

      My brother, as a juvenile was charged (later diverted) with launching a deadly missile at a vehicle for throwing fruit at a school bus so yea, an iPhone could easily qualify.

      Milhouse in reply to Gremlin1974. | November 19, 2015 at 3:37 am

      Did you read the thing? The defense is definitely asserting that the phone, in its case, was a deadly weapon. And the assertion seems objectively correct.

    Milhouse in reply to clintack. | November 19, 2015 at 3:35 am

    The whole “deadly weapon” thing isn’t necessary. Even if it were clearly established that Mr Reeves had no fear of death or GBH, he was entitled to shoot Mr Oulson to prevent him from committing a forcible felony. If the facts are as stated, he’d already committed several, and there seems little doubt that he was about to commit another, and that’s all the justification Mr Reeves needed. All the rest is lagniappe.

My goodness. After reading that, I’m ready to give Reeves a medal for restraint.

    After reading that, I can say that if I were on the jury and the video and witnesses corroborated the account in the document, I’d vote to acquit. It legally seems a clear-cut case of self defense, and from a “reasonable person” perspective if I had been in Reeve’s shoes (and age and frailty) I might have responded likewise at that point.

Although neither here nor there to Reeves’ self-defense claim, I did find it interesting that Reeves was upset that Oulson was texting in the theater despite the fact that he himself had also texted while in the theater.

    The difference, CalFed, is that Reeves was texting before the previews began, (and before the video notices not to use cellphones while movie was playing) and the dead guy was using his phone while the previews were playing. (See: pp 23-24 of Motion)

      Your assertions are either not clear or not supported by the motion…

      “Reeves was texting before the previews began”…actually, the motion states that the preview-advertising was playing as Reeves sat down and that after he sat down, he texted his son.

      “…(and before the video notices not to use cellphones while movie was playing)”… that is unclear. The motion states that after Reeves sat down the lights were dimmed and the admonition against patrons using cell phones was being displayed, however it does not indicate whether that had occurred before or after Reeves texted his son.

      The motion does indicate that there were signs in the lobby asking patrons not to use their cell phones “during the show”, which Oulson apparently was not doing, as the show had not yet started.

        Milhouse in reply to CalFed. | November 19, 2015 at 3:47 am

        The previews are part of the show; the advertising is not. When the Reeveses sat down the show had not yet begun. The pre-preview advertising was playing, and the lights were up. That is when he texted his son. Then the lights came down, the notice to stop using phones was shown, and the previews started. Oulson was using his phone after that point; if he’d done so earlier Reeves would never have noticed, let alone objected, because the screen’s light would not have been visible.

          CalFed in reply to Milhouse. | November 19, 2015 at 3:15 pm

          “The previews are part of the show; the advertising is not.”

          Eh…The previews are also advertising…just a different product.

          Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | November 19, 2015 at 4:12 pm

          The show itself is often also advertising products; hence “product placement”. But it is undoubtedly the show. It’s entertainment, and people come to watch it. The same is true of the previews; they are entertainment, and people come to watch them. The main indicator, though, that they are part of the show, is that the lights are up for the adverts and down for the previews. Thus it’s obvious that the requirement not to use phones also applies to the previews but not to the adverts.

      Char Char Binks in reply to Redneck Law. | November 18, 2015 at 6:59 pm

      It’s one thing to shoot someone during the movie, but during previews? Come on!

        Not saying that the shooting was or was not justified…just that there seems to be a healthy dollop of “Do as I say, not as I do” in Reeves dealings with Oulson

The first link in this post is formatted incorrectly and therefore does not work. I would like to read (or re-read) previous posts on this case.

Florida Theater Shooting Induces Another Round of “Stand Your Ground” Mania (1/14/14)

This is all well and good, but it’s only the shooter’s version of events, so of course it supports his defense. I think a lot will depend on what the witnesses, including the victim’s widow (who was also wounded) have to say.

    Char Char Binks in reply to Amy in FL. | November 19, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Mrs. Reeves was also a witness, and she didn’t think the shooting was justified. Reeves is, by many accounts, a bitter, angry old man with a compulsion to control others and a hair-trigger temper, possibly suffering from age-related loss of judgment, and the shooting seems to have been disproportionate retribution, not self defense.

      Her opinion on whether it was justified is irrelevant; all that matters is what she saw, not what she thought about it.

      Char Char Binks in reply to Char Char Binks. | November 19, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      After watching the video again, including the enhanced version, I’m inclined to change my mind. I originally thought Oulson simply tossed some of his own popcorn at Reeves. I didn’t know he ripped the bag from Reeves’ hand and threw it hard at him from just a few inches away. I also didn’t know about the allegedly thrown cell phone. You’re also right about Mrs. Reeves. Maybe she didn’t know about the thrown cell phone. I may have to revise my opinion.

If anyone’s interested in following the whole case, everything is on this website:

State of Florida vs Curtis Reeves

In the interest of public access to court records and with the approval of Chief Judge J. Thomas McGrady and Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa, Paula S. O’Neil, Ph.D, Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller, this website was developed and will be maintained to provide electronic access to court records in State of Florida vs. Curtis J. Reeves. This site will be updated by 3:00 p.m. daily. In some cases, images may be delayed due to processing for confidential information, which will be noted on the list below.

His stand your ground motion appears to be set to start on January 25th of next year.

Whoever wrote this particular motion is a Litigious Poet. While of course slanted in the defendants behalf, I would still hate to be the person who has to respond to this motion.

A weak point of Reeves’s case would seem to be that after he had correctly identified Oulson as an erratic and potentially dangerous person, he left, complained to theater management, but then returned to the vicinity of this person. Reeves’s skills at avoiding potentially deadly encounters seem to be poor. The physical attack—the thrown cell phone followed his return, and perhaps could not reasonably be anticipated, but the fact that Oulson was nuttier than a fruitcake seems to have been well established after the initial encounter. A wiser man might have found it worthwhile to choose a different seat. Reeves certainly wouldn’t be the first theater patron to change seats when the immediate neighborhood goes to hell. Reeves’s wife, who is not described here as particularly immobile, could have accompanied him in this move, so there’s no difficulty there.

In short, Reeves had already demonstrated that escape from this potentially ugly situation was not only practical, but easily done. Obviously, this doesn’t establish an obligation to so escape, but it spoils any narrative that Reeves was from the start a helpless and passive victim of his assailant.

    Boom. 🙂

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    AmyinFL noted above a link to a post in which I made essentially the same argument, although I did so in a much wordier fashion. Because lawyer. 🙂

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    amatuerwrangler in reply to tom swift. | November 19, 2015 at 1:23 am

    Two points here: 1) the document earlier describes the lack of ease Reeves experienced in leaving his seat to contact the theater management. Also earlier described was the general difficulty Reeves faced when arising from a seated position. The idea that he could have easily left the vicinity in the face of an ongoing physical threat is wrong.
    2) Recall that Mr. Reeves left his wife in the theater when he went to the lobby. Do you really expect him to just abandon her there and find seating for himself elsewhere. And recall that the actual assault did not begin until he had returned. Do you think he would have been wise to use what you called “ease of leaving” (a paraphrase on my part probably) once the assault got going, leaving his wife there alone? You might clear your answer to that one with your wife before posting.

      Also, he had already texted his son with their location; this would provide another reason not to change seats, albeit not a very strong one. But he didn’t need a strong reason, or even any reason at all. He was under no obligation whatsoever to avoid the crazy man. In that sense he was standing his ground, well before it turned ugly, and he had every right to.

        Char Char Binks in reply to Milhouse. | November 19, 2015 at 10:14 am

        Reeves couldn’t possibly avoid the crazy man, because HE was the crazy man. Maybe he should plead insanity.

          How mentally sound is someone who feels the need to pelt an elderly man in the face with his iPhone?

          I don’t know Reeves, and I don’t know if he acted right, but this Oulson guy had to have been a real nutter. From all indications he was 100% jock-bro with self-control issues.

          Char Char Binks in reply to Char Char Binks. | November 19, 2015 at 11:57 am

          The motion to dismiss is not “all indications”. Jock-bro with self-control issues? Because he was texting his three-year-old daughter’s babysitter during the previews and threw popcorn at grumpy old man. Please!

          He didn’t “throw popcorn”. He grabbed Reeves’s popcorn bag and shoved it into his chest. After having yelled at him, sworn at him, threatened him, stood over and menaced him, and thrown his phone at him. All of which was already several forcible felonies. If that doesn’t make him a crazy man, what does? And how do you suggest Reeves could have prevented him from committing further forcible felonies against him without shooting him? That Reeves also feared Oulson would seriously injure him helps, but isn’t necessary. Even if he didn’t fear that, he’d have been legally justified in shooting just to prevent the felony.

          Gremlin1974 in reply to Char Char Binks. | November 19, 2015 at 5:01 pm

          @ Milhouse

          I am also wondering if we aren’t actually discussing 2 separate confrontations. While the first confrontation was comparatively mild and ended when Reeves left the theater to speak with the manager/usher. The second confrontation started when Reeves returned. So it would really depend on who started the second confrontation. Also, remember all the physical stuff happened after Reeves returned to the theater.

          Gremlin1974 in reply to Char Char Binks. | November 19, 2015 at 5:29 pm

          Let me think, who is the out of control person here. The person who asks someone to stop doing something that has been clearly displayed on the screen and then goes to tell management when that person refuses to do so?


          The person who decides that instead of being reasonable when someone asks them to please stop doing something that is clearly rude, refuses, and then fumes over it for several minutes while the person is gone and then re-instigates the confrontation after the other person returns because he is afraid that the other party has gone to management to complain?

          Frankly, I don’t car if he was texting his baby sitter or whatever, he was being rude and inconsiderate of others. You want to place all the onus on Reeves but he fact of the matter seems to be that Oulson decided to be an ass and get pissed that someone called him on it.

    Ah, now you are arguing this case, not as justifiable use of force in self defense, but as a stand your ground case.

    In the former, if the court buys the argument that battery on a person 65 years of age or older occurred or was imminent, then it would appear that Reeves’ use of deadly force was lawful, under the provisions of 776.012.

    The reason why this was not viewed as a SYG case, is that Reeves had a legal right to be sitting in his location in the theater and was committing no criminal offense, so he had no legal requirement to retreat from that location. There is no evidence that he was the physical aggressor at any point in the incident, so he inherits no legal requirement to retreat. SYG, is a non-issue here, as far as the prosecution of Mr. Reeves is concerned.

    The legal crux of this matter is rather simple. It is whether Oulson’s actions would lead a reasonable man to reasonably conclude that he [Reeves] was in imminent danger of an attack which would reasonably result in great bodily harm or death or which would constitute a forcible felony, under Florida law and that the use of deadly force was necessary for Reeves to defend himself from the unlawful use of force.

Just out of curiosity, what role did Zimmerman’s HOA pay out to the Martin family before the trial have in the lack of a wrongful death suit being filed against him by now?

    Gremlin1974 in reply to Florida Legal. | November 19, 2015 at 2:27 am

    Not a lawyer, but I would have to say that most likely the Martin Family fully intended to sue regardless of the HOA pay out. However, once Zimmerman was acquitted their lawyers, if they had any sense at all, probably informed them that it was a useless attempt since Zimmerman would more than likely be granted immunity with almost no work what so ever.

    So I think the acquittal probably had more to do with it than the HOA pay out. Also, don’t think that the HOA payout was the only money that they got out of this, I would love someone to investigate how much they received in donations throughout the whole St. Trayvon of the Sacred Hoodie mess.

It seems that Captain Reeves retreated from the encounter when he notified theater management. He then chose to return to the trouble spot

QUESTION In Florida will prosecutors be able to portray Reeves as re-engaging or is such an accusation prohibited by “Stand Your Ground Provisions”? Are there other states where is act of returning would all but eliminate a Self-Defense claim?

    Well, I guess to start with, did Reeves have reason to believe he would be accosted again if he returned to his seat?

    If yes, did he have any obligation not to do so? It is after all a public space where he had every right to be. It’s not as if he, so far as we know, returned for the purpose of re-initiating conflict.

    SYG may actually come into play here, being as how he was just returning to his seat. SYG would imply that he has no obligation to relocate just because the person in front of him is being belligerent. Also his wife was still seated there, so he would have had to return to extract her anyway.

    This is one case where I can’t predict where it will go, but I’m putting odds on acquittal.

      mekender in reply to Sian. | November 19, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      At that point, he was only the victim of having someone yell obscenities at him… I have seen nothing that says any threats or physical attacks were made before he returned from the lobby. So it would be a bit difficult to argue that he retreated in my opinion. Till that point he had no indication that the guy was being anything other than a jerk with a loud mouth.

        Gremlin1974 in reply to mekender. | November 19, 2015 at 2:53 pm

        This has been something that I have been thinking about as well. Would I have returned to my seat after complaining to the manager? I honestly have to answer; “Yes, I would have and have done so in the past, especially if I am with someone.” Because I wouldn’t expect someone to continue to continue such a minor confrontation, especially after I am gone for a few minutes. I don’t just don’t see it as unreasonable to for him to go back to his seat. I have had interactions like this in the past and none of them have lead to even the beginnings of a physical confrontation.

      Milhouse in reply to Sian. | November 19, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      SYG is irrelevant because even in a Duty to Retreat state he would have had no obligation to retreat at that point. The assault and danger had not yet begun. The difference between SYG and D2R only comes into play when the victim is at the point where he is considering killing his assailant. At that point, in a D2R state, he must consider escape as one of his options, and if he can escape safely then he may not shoot; in a SYG state he must consider all other options that may be available, but not that one. But in this case, when it got to that point safe escape was impossible, so the law would be the same in any state. What options he had earlier in the encounter are irrelevant.

@ Andrew

Question, wouldn’t this be considered 2 separate altercations? Since Reeves left the theater and returned wouldn’t have both of them “regained their innocence” or am I just being overly complicated?

    Reeves may have “regained his innocence” when he left the first confrontation. But then he came back. You don’t get to come back, and claim you’ve regained your innocence.

    And he came back to what he knew was a confrontational situation. I’d expect the prosecution to argue provocation and/or mutual combat.

    Tactically, of course, the entire thing is a disaster. He found himself in a position from which retreat or effective non-deadly means of defense were not possible, left that position, then came back to that position now knowing he was re-entering a confrontation. For God’s sake, at least take the wife with you and find another seat. When your son shows up and can’t find you, he’ll text you or something.

    At the least I would have moved, likely as not I’d have simply left the theater and gone had dinner with my lovely wife, instead.

    But then I hate movie theaters, anyway. 🙂

    Obviously this motion represents the position of the defense, and we still have to hear from the State. I think the defense did a great job–indeed, I may use the motion as the basis for one of the educational modules in our Law of Self Defense Instructors Course–but it IS just the one side. 🙂

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      Gremlin1974 in reply to Andrew Branca. | November 19, 2015 at 6:16 pm

      Ok, I guess I am just under the impression that the first interaction before Reeves left wasn’t that “heated” and basically he was just dealing with someone who is rude but not “dangerous” or necessarily aggressive and the real escalation happened when Reeves returned.

      Granted it would have been much easier to just move or leave since I could probably get the theater to give me a refund and couple of free passes for the same movie at a later date.

      I also wonder, since most retired officers that I know still carry a badge and in my state have limited powers of arrest, why reeves didn’t flash his badge and tell the guy to calm down. That will usually have a calming effect on most folks.

      Reeves never lost his innocence, so why would he need to regain it?

      And he came back to what he knew was a confrontational situation.

      Maybe, but if so, so what? He had every legal and moral right to do so. Whether it was a oood idea is completely irrelevant.

      I’d expect the prosecution to argue provocation and/or mutual combat.

      Not without any evidence of actual provocation or combat on Reeves’s part.

      Twanger: If he’d come back and immediately and actively instigated further conflict with Oulson that would be quite a different matter.

      I don’t see how. It would have been an incredibly stupid thing to do, but not at all illegal, so it shouldn’t affect the analysis. No matter what he may have said to Oulson, Oulson had no right to respond with violence or the threat of it. That is what instigated the incident, not whatever Reeves may have said before that. In the same way, even if George Zimmerman had kept following Trayvon Martin, Martin would still not have been entitled to attack him, and Zimmerman would still have had the right to defend himself.

It seems to me that Reeves regained his innocence when he sat down again with his wife and did not reengage with Oulson.

If he’d come back and immediately and actively instigated further conflict with Oulson that would be quite a different matter. But that’s not the way I understand it going down.

Well written motion, but of course, we haven’t heard from the government yet. I don’t see how Reeves could have been expected to anticipate the physical attack from the preliminaries, and he makes a convincing case for a reasonable fear for his safety. Since this happened, I have suspected there was some missing details (6’4″ and over 200 pounds?) and history in the victim’s past the media has been ignoring or not bothering to look for, since that might spoil the anti-gun and anti-SYG narrative.

I did note that the motion didn’t specify Reeves’ height or weight.

BTW, the defense seems to argue that Reeves would have retreated but was physically unable, as opposed to invoking SYG. It reads like a straight self-defense argument.

It doesn’t have to be a perfect shooting, or even a morally acceptable shooting, only one in which the shooter reasonably believed he was in serious danger.