Stand Your Ground: Defense For Alleged Movie Theater Gunman?

Curtis Reeves, the accused shooter, could use the "stand your ground" defense as witnesses say a bag of popcorn was thrown in his face.

Stand Your Ground: Defense For Alleged Movie Theater Gunman?
Tampa Bay Times

It’s the law you probably associate most with the trial of George Zimmerman for shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. And once again — in Florida — could stand your ground be a defense?

“A retired police officer who shot and killed a man in a movie theater over text messaging says it was all in self-defense.” (Via Fox News

“This is Florida, so the issue of stand your ground comes up.” (Via HLN)

“Now Florida’s controversial stand your ground law may come into play as a possible defense.” ​(Via WAWS

​​Authorities say 71-year-old Curtis Reeves got into an argument at a movie theater with Chad Oulson — another moviegoer. (VIa ABC)

While the reports vary, witnesses say an object — likely a bag of popcorn — was thrown at Reeves' face, and that’s when he took out his gun and shot and killed Oulsen. (Via WFTS)

Reeves told police officers he was in fear of his safety — and some legal experts say that could be enough for him to mount a so-called “Stand Your Ground” defense.

Though according to WTVT, the Pasco County sheriff said his office considered that possibility, but determined the criteria didn’t apply before arresting Reeves.

The criteria being, under Florida law, anyone can use deadly force, assuming they have reasonable fear for their physical safety and believe it's necessary to protect themselves. What’s reasonable would be up to a jury, but as a defense attorney explains to WTSP, there's a common misconception when it comes to the law. 

"The law is not concerned with what started your argument; the law is not concerned about how petty it is … The law is concerned about the acts between two people —  the person who died and the person who did the shooting." (Via WTSP)

And The Christian Science Monitor hits on a theme that seems to underlie much of the discussion — did Reeves' age — at 71 — make him more vulnerable in the first place? 

A former Florida prosecutor put it this way: "What may give a younger person a black eye could mean a cracked skull for a septuagenarian."

Reeves’ attorney said his client had every right to defend himself because he was allegedly attacked first. And while he didn’t say if Reeves will be using the Stand Your Ground defense, observers say that language implies he will. 

Here's how the Tampa Bay Times boils down that argument: “If Reeves considered the popcorn throwing to be one step in an escalating response from Oulson ... and if Reeves felt he wouldn't be able to handle such an attack from a younger man, then jurors might consider deadly force reasonable.”

Of course, that’s a lot of “ifs.” Reeves was denied bail at his court appearance Wednesday morning. He faces life in prison if convicted.