Pasco movie theater shooting case could be impacted by ‘Stand Your Ground’ law changes

Curtis Reeves testified for 6 hours during a 'Stand Your Ground' hearing on Feb. 28, 2017.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Retired Tampa police captain Curtis Reeves testified that he feared for his life, so he shot and killed Chad Oulson in an argument over texting at a Wesley Chapel movie theater in 2014. After a pre-trial hearing that took two weeks, a judge will soon decide if Reeves is immune to prosecution under the Stand Your Ground law.

But, what happens if the law changes?

State lawmakers are set to vote on major changes to the law, including one that would place the burden of proof on the state.

“It would require the state to prove that someone didn’t act in self-defense,” said local defense attorney John Hackworth.

Hackworth says if the law changes, prosecutors could face an uphill battle.

“If it’s a murder, one of the witnesses is already dead, so you have limited witnesses. Generally, these things don’t happen on a street corner, so putting that enhanced burden on the state would make it that much more difficult to prosecute these folks.”

What about the Reeves case?  Could that be impacted by these changes, too?

“I don’t think anyone knows the answer to that yet. I do know that had his attorney Mr. Escobar known about this, and the statues were enacted, I can guarantee he would have testified under the new statute, and the burden is so much higher, it probably would have increased their chances of succeeding on this motion significantly,” said Hackworth.

Another big change in the Stand Your Ground law up for vote is that the defendant’s testimony during pre-trial would not be able to be used against them in court.

Hackworth also says if enacted, it would make it easier for criminals to take advantage of the Stand Your Ground law.

The legislative session starts tomorrow, where these changes are on the agenda.


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