If you’ve been following the case of the Florida man who shot and killed another movie goer after arguing with him being pelted by popcorn and a cell phone, the shooter had attempted to claim that his ballistic response was covered under Florida’s “stand your ground.”

That removes the duty to retreat in certain circumstances and allows armed citizens to more effectively defend their lives when in imminent danger. But according to CNN, Curtis Reeves’ (above) defense strategy wasn’t convincing.

From Judge Susan Barthle’s ruling:

Because the defendant’s testimony was significantly at odds with the physical evidence and other witness testimony, this court has considerable doubts about his credibility, and is not willing to come to the conclusion that these circumstances are those envisioned by the Legislature when the ‘stand your ground’ law was enacted.

The law requires a reasonable belief that a credible threat of grievous bodily harm or death is about to befall the defender. In this case the defendant clearly didn’t convince the judge of that possibility and was denied the protections under the law.

Also of note: the ruling directly refutes one of the main talking points gun control activists use against “stand your ground” laws. Their agitprop claims that SYG laws allow any yahoo with a gun to open fire at the slightest provocation and “get away with it.”

But as Judge Barthle’s ruling makes clear, just because SYG protections exist doesn’t mean the law will shield someone who shoots under questionable circumstances. So the lie is put to another anti-gun talking point and the trial will move forward. Go figure.

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65 Responses to Judge Rules Cell Phone Not a Deadly Weapon, Denies ‘Stand Your Ground’ Defense in Florida Theater Shooting Trial

    • Double good. Fry the old bastard before he nukes any more of our rights.

      Too many old crotchety armed get-off-my-lawn types. Especially in Florida.

      • Eh. Don’t really have a problem with people being crotchety or protective over their own property. But when in public people gotta learn to play nice. I have a feeling this guy was a cannon waiting to go off on someone.

      • Who ironically voted to get onerous gun control laws passed in their native New England states before flying south to crotchify in their old age. A plague plopping gun control wherever it goes…

      • Well given this is a firearms community, and there still appears to be seditious elements working in the federal government then the fact that the armslist is down might be the beginning of a story. Or they are just suffering technical difficulties.

      • Yo dawg, u take 3 ’97 Civic weel covers for that fo-tay? I can’t the Waffle House parking lot meet u, but my boy Curtiss is there.

        • Now that’s funny and true. I thought I was the only one that get’s insane texts from nutjobs. Ran into a guy that wanted to even swap a P11 for a glock 20……um,uh no! Then got all pissy. I have noticed a huge influx of AR15’s for crazy prices lately. Too funny. Must be the same jackwagons that bought cart fulls of ss109 planning to strike it rich.

  1. This is a good ruling. It shows that SYG laws can and should be interpreted reasonably and effectively.

    • And are technically unnecessary; they only apply when the usage is justifiable, they do not apply when it cannot be justified. Ergo, they only exist to protect the innocent from illegitimate prosecution (and would not need to exist if illegitimate prosecution was…dutifully prosecuted)

  2. Well the mere fact that the old ex-cop went crazy during PREVIEWS says something. Something bad and unhinged. I do have a tiny bit of sympathy for him(we’ve all been at movies where idiots were loud or rude) but I predict he’s going down. I don’t see “stand your ground” either…

    • “Something bad and unhinged.”

      My same impression of the old guy. This is a local story here, so I’ve been hearing daily recaps of the testimony of the witnesses to the incident. And there were a number of them, including off-duty law enforcement in that audience.

      Primarily, Reeves testimony of the incident was at substantial odds with what the witnesses saw.

      The impression the witnesses gave was that Reeves was the aggressive one, goading the guy who was shot to do something. Taunting him.

      The vibe I got from Reeves was that someone wasn’t ‘respecting his (non-existent) authority’ and that set him off.

      Reeve’s wife’s statement immediately after the shooting, something along the lines of “Well, that was no excuse to shoot him” Reeves pointed his finger at her and said – “You shut your fucking mouth and don’t say another word.” won’t be helping his case any…

  3. A current commissioned law enforcement officer would have gotten away with it. All they have to say is they had fear for their safety and then its “oh, OK.”

    He was just so used to doing what he wanted his entire law enforcement career and getting away with it, he thought he could pull this off. He’s just say he had fear for his safety. It always worked before!

      • @ Hannibal
        Thankfully, not so well. But you well know that’s by far the exception rather than the rule, but with cameras everywhere, it’s getting better. We had a case here in Spokane not too long ago where a cop, Karl Thompson acted on inaccurate information and beat a mentally challenged person in a convenience store who was buying a 2L bottle of pop and a Snickers. That was it! He wasn’t doing anything wrong. Karl went in and clobbered him with his baton on the head, then they put a breathing mask over his head as a makeshift spit mask, but it was supposed to have oxygen hooked up to it, it wasn’t a spit mask and he couldn’t breath and he died. Well let the lies begin!! First Karl said in the standard police guide and page 101 that he clenched his fists and charged at him. Well that was a big fat lie and the stores cameras proved it. Nevertheless, police brass, the mayor continued on their quest of lying and distortion in attempt to have it go away. They wanted to protect themselves from the liability of killing a person guilty of nothing other than buying a candy bar. Unfortunately, it didn’t go away and the lies were the police departments undoing. It went federal and the officer was convicted in Federal court of lying to investigators and using unreasonable force ( I think) and was sentenced to Federal Prison. I think he did about 4 years.
        Every trick in the playbook was used to get the cop off though, but it didn’t work as he went to prison and the city had to pay out millions.
        This is how it used to always work, the standard police lying. However, today with cameras everywhere and a heightened awareness of police lying and misconduct, we are seeing more accountability for bad police behavior.

  4. It’s not okay to shoot a jerkass who uses his phone in the theater. Duly noted.

    There is still a bit of a gray area when it comes to pistol-whipping, though…

    • Beating someone with a blunt object (i.e., a pistol) could be construed as deadly force. However, since this judge set precedent (at least within his district court) that a cell phone is not a deadly weapon, you appear to be free to Android-whip or iPhone-whip someone who needed that service. Not sure about tablet-whipping, though.

        • Not to mention the disservice to a high quality and expensive electronic device… unless of course it’s a legit thug.

      • Is that a 12 megapixel camera and headphone jack? Sorry man, my gun’s gotta have those. (but seriously, cool… if you’re on the right side of it)

  5. I think the article misrepresents a major piece of information. I don’t think the judge necessarily ruled a cell phone isn’t a deadly weapon so much as he questioned whether the phone was even actually thrown at the accused. If I recall correctly from another article the judge said there was no evidence the phone was thrown after reviewing a video of the incident and he didn’t believe the account of the accused. That’s a significantly different issue. Happy to be corrected if I am wrong on the details.

    • even if it WAS thrown I’m not sure I’d classify a non-exploding phone as a deadly weapon. After all, he threw it, it’s no longer in his hand.

    • That is what I read as well. Your only error maybe calling the Judge a he. Maybe a boy named Sue, but I doubt it.

  6. This is not a “stand your ground” case – the media and most people can’t seem to understand this simple point. Briefly, “stand your ground” refers to not having the duty to retreat if you’re somewhere you have the right to be. Some state laws require you to retreat if that is a viable option. This hearing was to determine if self defense immunity applies in this case. The “so called” judge made a few errors herself. Click this link for more. I’m surprised the blogger didn’t see this. Click or paste link in your browser for expert analysis: http://legalinsurrection.com/2017/03/order-denying-immunity-in-popcorn-shooting-riddled-with-legal-errors/comment-page-1/#comment-739952

    • Except Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law is the exact reason they have these hearings. The whole point is that the defendant is given the opportunity to prove that they were acting in self defense and avoid an actual trial.

      • Yes but please, please understand that has nothing to do with stand your ground law. Two different things!

        • The old fart should have used pepper spray on the young hooligan.
          30 days in county lockup is a lot easier than 30 years in prison.
          There are many cases where non-lethal force will save you time and money.

      • Kevin is correct – SYG essentially abrogates the common law Retreat Doctrine. This issue here is the immunity hearing. The reason that these two are mistaken so frequently is probably that the two (SYG and immunity) were passed together in the same bill.

  7. The defense was seeking dismissal before the case was even heard. It’s not uncommon as a hail mary legal tactic but it would have been absurd if the judge had gone with it.

    • Not a hail mary – anyone in this situation would want to go this route – if court finds justified use of deadly force the defendant is immune from criminal and civil liability. That’s a big deal.

      • This is local to me, there is a *ton* of eyewitness testimony that does NOT jibe with Reeve’s version of the events in that theater.

        It isn’t open-and-shut by a longshot. The judge made the right call that all the evidence should be heard by the jury…

      • It was certainly a hail mary throw in this case. Not only because of the facts of the case but the politics. Imagine if the judge had thrown it out!

    • It is not a Hail Mary. Rather, FL law provides for civil and criminal immunity if the defendant can prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that their use of force was justified (as self-defense). If the defendant wins their immunity hearing, the state must dismiss any related charges, and they can’t be sued for wrongful death, etc, by the decedent’s heirs. If they lose, then they continue to trial, where the state has to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The purpose of the law was to protect those engaging in pretty clear self-defense from being destroyed by the process of being tried in criminal court, when the state is unlikely to get a conviction. Note that the standard of proof, at this time, is by a preponderance of the evidence, a much lower level than the state will face at trial, when they will have to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Assuming that the odds that the state would win are, say, 60%. That means that the state is likely to wi the immunity hearing, but lose the actual trial.

  8. I’ll be surprised if he’s convicted although it does come down to the jury. People are looking at this as an x-cop with an attitude but here’s a different angle. A 45 year old man assaulted (albeit with popcorn) a senior citizen in his seventies who had his wife with him after said senior citizen had gone to complain to the movie management about the texting. There are details we don’t know yet but the asshole texting showed some clear antisocial behavior that started and elevated this incident such as he shouldn’t have been texting in the first place and physically assaulted the defendant). At the very least he was a bully who thought he could push those that were weaker than he was around Not saying he deserved to die but clearly Oulson needed to be taught some respect and consideration for those around him. My guess is that a lot about his overall character will come out in the trial that will help exonerate and make Reeves (a frail old man who is a retired police office out to enjoy a movie with his wife) sympathetic to the jury.

    • I wouldn’t count on that.
      Many of the jurors will be of similar age and don’t see themselves that way (frail & weak).

  9. The retired cop is gonna get fried. Mark my words on that. PopCorn v/s Gun, what would you think?

    Poor judgement at best. A trained (albeit retired) LEO should know a lot better.

    Nuff said.

    • Did you not watch the video or read the article? He was also assaulted with a cell phone. We and everyone else knows now that it was a cell phone but if you saw a flash of light and were struck by something in a dark theater you may, in the moment believe it was something more serious and dangerous than a cell phone like a knife or being shot etc… Hindsight is 20/20. The video clearly shows the cell phone flying through the air toward the old guy and striking him.

      • So was it clearly a cell phone flying through the air, or not? If so, how on earth could ANYONE mistake it for something else? And when did the defendant even make such a claim?

        The standard of force to be used in self-defense is not “least necessary” but instead is “reasonable.” Still, I don’t think this clears even that bar. If this is considered ‘reasonable’ then almost anything is.

      • “He was also assaulted with a cell phone.”
        That’s a funny line.
        A credible, imminent threat of death or grave bodily harm? I think not.

  10. Kevin Crummie had the right link above. This case has nothing to do with SYG. See Andrew Baranca’s analysis. In fact, read lots of Baranca’s analyses. They will educate you. TLDR the judge missed half the statute related to preventing an impending felony. Assault on a sr citizen is a felony in Florida.

    • It isn’t that assault on a senior citizen is a felony, but rather that aggrivated assault thereof is classed as a violent felony, and one of the situations where the use of deadly force is justified is to prevent a violent felony. The critical point here is that normally it takes a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily injury to justify the use of deadly force in self-defense. But the standard drops to merely a reasonable fear of aggrivated assault if the person utilizing the deadly force is >= 65.

      Which is Branca’s key point – which is that the judge’s decision is plain error (i.e. not harmless error that can be ignored) because he used the wrong legal standard, requiring that the defendant be in reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily injury, instead of merely being in reasonable fear of an imminent aggravated assault, a significantly lower threshold, which is the proper legal standard, since he is >= 65.

  11. Their agitprop claims that SYG laws allow any yahoo with a gun to open fire at the slightest provocation and “get away with it.”

    Of course, when it’s pointed out that's not the way it works, with specific references to statute law and example cases, they say "yes, but it'll lead to bloodshed because people think that’s what it means.” Because of their own constant stream of misleading propaganda. A neat trick, isn’t it?

    • Well, it’s not TOO neat, every time I hear that stream of nonsense, I only think of how stupid they are, not that SYG gives me authority to shoot anyone, any time.

    • If it gets re-heard, fine. A pain in the ass, but fine.

      The eyewitness testimony doesn’t match his version of the events…

  12. The judge did not take into account that it was likely hard for the defendant to know what was being thrown at him. Perhaps the defendant thought that a knife was being thrown at him.

    • 1) The judge takes into account the defense provided, particularly in an ‘assertive defense’ type situation like that of self-defense. It does not appear that any such claim about a knife-looking phone was made by the defendant. He seems to claim he was hit in the head with a phone (NOT a knife) and then was about to be punched. If the reports are accurate in that regard it would have been malpractice for the judge to just come up with that legal theory herself (much like the juror in ‘Twelve Angry Men’ would have been thrown off within an hour of starting deliberations)

      2) Even if the defendant did say “I thought it was a knife!” that’s reaching levels of absurdity. Sorry, reasonableness comes into this. You can’t just make stuff up afterwards and justify whatever force you want by spinning a tale. For a jury, fine- but a judge can’t dismiss on such a claim.

  13. What was the movie? I can see how that figured into the perp’s state of mind, and could count as an extenuating circumstance. 😉

  14. He’s sorta correct. He had no duty to retreat, due to SYG. Unfortunately for him, there was absolutely no justification for throwing a punch, much less shooting the mofo dead. If he’s not found guilty of murder, he’s one lucky SOB.

  15. The shooter still has a self defense element, Age disparity, fairly dark, had popcorn and cell phone thrown at him, what was next, a physical assault, a knife, circumstances: a request to shut off his cell phone {do not know what tone of voice was used! either direction, } Younger man in physical prime take’s exception to this and throws a tantrum and escalates situation. old guy had a choice leave and look the fool or cap his ass. the rest is history in the making!

  16. Correct me if I am wrong but if I remember correctly this nut case was a retired cop. He knew that when he was a cop he could kill anyone and get away with it because the Nazi corrupt U.S. Court System makes it just about impossible to convict a cop if he decides to execute someone on the spot.

    The South Carolina Nazi Cop that gunned down the fleeing man by shooting him in the back and then trying to plant evidence by the body is walking around free and probably will never spend any time in jail ever.

    All this is exactly why the U.S. Cops gunned down an horrific 1,500 people in 2015 and China with 4 1/2 times the population only shot and killed 4 people while the Germans that have been dealing with terrorism only shot and killed 12 people. But German Cops get 3 years of intensive training and are tested psychologically to weed out the psycho’s that seem to be drawn to this type of profession.

    The popcorn murder makes all gun owners look like deranged psycho’s just looking to play “Dirty Harry” and say “make my day punk”. The Anti-gun fanatics will have a field day with this case and in this particular case the public will rightly come to the conclusion that they are right.

  17. How much more likely is a cop or retired cop to shoot and kill someone? Theres 10k firearm killings a year hear by the what 300 million people. How many federal state and local law enforcement are there? They kill 1k to 1500 a year, they gotta be way more likely than your avg joe or even ccl person. So after they retire they keep capping people? Great.

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