STAND YOUR GROUND – NEWS UPDATE

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law – No DNA Found on Cell Phone in Theater Shooting Case

Curtis Reeves is accused of the murder of Chad Oulson following a fight in a Tampa move theater. Reeves has asserted the “Stand Your Ground” defense, claiming that Oulson threatened him and threw a cell phone at his head, justifying the shooting. It has recently come out that the cell phone was tested for Reeves’ DNA, but the lab couldn’t find any of his DNA on the cell phone.

Does that matter?

Maybe, maybe not. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law says:

A person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if [h]e or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.

So the real question should be whether there has to be DNA evidence on the cell phone to make Curtis Reeves’ belief that he was in imminent danger of great bodily harm reasonable. While the lack of DNA evidence isn’t necessarily helpful to the defense, it certainly won’t negate it. Expect Reeves’ attorneys to continue to pursue this defense. In cases where the defendant acknowledges the shooting (i.e. there’s no defense of “I didn’t do it”) the next defense is to show why the shooting was justified.

Another angle that Reeves’ defense attorney can pursue is to argue that Reeves was justified in shooting Oulson because he believed Oulson was about to commit a forcible felony – namely battery on a person over 65 years of age. It is more likely that the defense will just concentrate on Reeves’ claim that he was in fear of great bodily harm. This portion of the Stand Your Ground defense is geared more toward those protecting property from robbery or a forcible burglary.

This case will certainly raise more legal issues about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” defense and how it should be applied.