DADE CITY, Fla. -- A trial date has been set for Curtis Reeves, a former Tampa police captain accused of gunning down a man inside a Pasco County movie theater back in 2014.
If the Feb. 25, 2019, trial date stands, it will have been more than five years since that deadly confrontation took place inside the Grove 16 Movie Theatre in Wesley Chapel.
Judge Susan Barthle set the trial date for Reeves, denying a defense argument to delay the case even further.
Reeves, who is now 75, is accused of shooting Chad Oulson inside a Wesley Chapel movie theater where the two argued over Oulson using his cell phone and popcorn being thrown by Oulson at the former police captain.
“I need to set it for trial. That’s all there is to it,” said Barthle. “With everything I’ve got before me, there’s just no basis not to."
Barthle is the same judge who said she had serious issues with Reeves' credibility when denying his "stand your ground" defense last year, a decision which an appellate court recently upheld.
But in the interim, Florida’s Legislature also passed a new law that shifts the burden of disproving "stand your ground" to the prosecution.
Since then, two cases have gone to court ending with opposite rulings about whether the new law should be applied retroactively to cases like Reeves’.
“What would you suggest?” Barthle asked Reeves’ defense lawyer, “Just wait another couple of years for the (Supreme Court) to rule in this?”
Reeves' defense attorney asked Barthle to wait for a clarification from the Florida Supreme Court, but the judge said the other cases were not yet legally binding. The case, she said, had gone on long enough, and could see no legal reason not to move forward with trial.
Oulson’s widow Nicole agreed.
Through her civil attorney, T.J. Grimaldi, Oulson pointed out it will have been more than five years since the shooting by the time Reeves goes to trial.
“There’s no reason why it’s lasted this long,” said Grimaldi.
The Oulsons' daughter, 2 years old when her father was killed and now 6 - and asking painful questions.
“Questions that weren’t there before. Questions that are there now,” said Grimaldi. “Why is this man able to go home why is Daddy not here? What happened that day?”
His attorneys claim Reeves, who’s been on house arrest for years now, has always wanted his day in court, and for a trial to begin as soon as possible.
So, why hasn’t it?
“Because these things take time. Because there are over 120 witnesses,” said Michaels. “Because we’ve put on a hearing in terms of the 'stand your ground' immunity, that was two weeks long it was unprecedented in the state of Florida.”
Reeves himself was not present for today’s court hearing. His attorney said the 75-year-old is doing as well as can be expected. But that the situation is a nightmare. Horrible, for both families.
His lawyers pointed out the almost-unheard-of legal circumstance that Tuesday’s court decision could create. That their client could feasibly go on trial, and - if convicted - even be sentenced before possibly finding out he is entitled to a new "stand your ground" hearing.
It’s a scenario Barthle acknowledged was uncharted territory. But the time, she said, had come to go to trial.
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