Judge rejects 'stand your ground' law in manslaughter case
A Florida Circuit Court judge ruled Trevor Dooley cannot rely upon the controversial law when his manslaughter trial for the 2010 shooting death of David James begins.
After hearing testimony from witnesses in February and considering legal arguments, Judge Ashley Moody issued her written ruling yesterday. The judge concluded that Dooley's justification for shooting James did not meet the criteria the Florida legislature set when the legislation was enacted in 2005.
As reported by ABC News
, on Sept. 26, 2010, James, 41, was playing basketball with his 8-year-old daughter on a neighbourhood court. They were at one end while a 14-year-old skateboarder skated at the other end.
Dooley, who lived across the street, took exception to the skating and yelled at the boy to get off the court. James took the teen's side and demanded to know where the sign was that prohibited skateboarding. This began a verbal altercation between the two that shortly turned physical.
According to James' daughter, her father was on top of Dooley who was smaller and older than her father. Dooley took out his gun and shot James.
Dooley had a permit to lawfully carry a concealed weapon.
The issue was whether or not Dooley showed the gun he had tucked into his waistband prior to the physical altercation. Dooley admitted he pulled out his gun and shot James, who died at the scene, once in the chest. He also testified James was choking him and he feared for his life.
Moody accepted the evidence of the other witnesses. As quoted by Tampa Bay Online
, she wrote,
The witnesses all testified that the defendant reached for his gun before Mr. James reached the defendant. It was not until this point that Mr. James acted in what witnesses testified was an attempt to disarm the defendant. Based on this evidence, the court finds that the defendant was the initial aggressor who provoked the use of force against him by drawing his gun during the argument with Mr. James.
The judge rejected Dooley's claims he was being choked. She found that once James saw the gun, he was justified in using reasonable force to disarm Dooley to protect himself, his daughter, and others who were on and near the basketball court.
Despite the fact that, barring a successful appeal, Dooley cannot rely on the 'stand your ground' law, he can still claim self defense. Attorney Rick Terrana was quoted in the Tampa Bay Times
The best approach is to create the impression in each juror's mind that the victim was an aggressor, that he made some kind of movement. That's all he can do.
Terrana also pointed out, Dooley's defenses are limited because he has already testified in court that he shot James.
Legislators in Florida are reexamining the law after the controversial killing of Trayvon Martin last February.