Florida Stand Your Ground Law Put to the Test in Theater Shooting

Ever since the Trayvon Martin shooting demanded the country’s full attention a little over five years ago, Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has had its time in the national spotlight. The high-profile law permits Florida citizens to commit violence in self-defense is under renewed scrutiny, thanks to recent news and a potential expansion of “stand your ground” immunity.

Theater Shooting Puts Stand Your Ground Law in the Spotlight Once Again

In January of 2014, retired police captain Curtis Reeves was accused of shooting and killing 43-year-old Chad Oulson during a confrontation over text messages. Prosecutors have argued that Reeves provoked the confrontation. If Reeves did indeed provoke the confrontation, he would not be able to receive protection from Florida’s most prominent self-defense law.

In late February of 2017, Reeves’ wife, Vivian, testified in court on her husband’s behalf. Mrs. Reeves attended the theater with her husband on the fateful day in question, and the couple entered the theater where Mr. Oulson was already sitting with his phone out in the theater.

After the customary message on screen appeared, which requests theater viewers to turn off their phones and electronic devices, Mrs. Reeves reports that her husband leaned over to say something to Mr. Oulson. Mrs. Reeves describes Oulson as speaking very loudly to her husband, hearing him use the “f” word as he said something about texting his daughter.

Mrs. Oulson reports she was scared, and her husband left to get the manager after the initial confrontation. The argument resumed once Mr. Reeves returned, and the argument intensified, which led to Mr. Oulson being shot. Reeves’ wife alleges that it appeared Mr. Oulson was going to go over the seat toward the two of them. Her husband also alleged that he was hit in the face as the shots were fired.

Nicole Oulson, Mr. Oulson’s widow, was also at the theater, and she says that only a couple of words were said. She disputes that any threats or harm was directed at Mr. Reeves whatsoever.

As the drama of this legal case continues, Florida is looking to expand stand your ground immunity. Florida lawmakers hope to now make the state prove that a shooter did not commit violence in self-defense before they can be taken to trial.

Florida has long been a state that is viewed as a leader in providing citizens with immunity in self-defense cases, and this expansion would broaden a defendant’s legal rights significantly. It remains to be seen whether this bill will gain traction, but for the time being, the law remains unchanged.

If you have been charged with murder and believe you acted in self-defense, contact Destin criminal defense attorney John F. Greene.

From his Destin office, John represents Florida defendants who have been charged with committing a crime, including murder. John represents Destin defendants as well as defendants throughout Northwest Florida and the Emerald Coast, including Santa Rosa, Walton, Bay and Okaloosa Counties. John also represents defendants in the communities of Destin, Niceville, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City and Santa Rosa Beach.

If you need a Florida criminal defense lawyer, who provides defendants with the legal representation necessary to build a strong legal defense against any and all charges, contact Destin defense attorney John F. Greene or call 850-424-6833.


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