A former police officer who shot a man in a movie theater and then claimed he was afraid for his life may now get a new stand your ground hearing. The question, of course, is whether or not Curtis Reeves had the right to pull the trigger in a crowded movie theater because he lost his temper. If he did, then this could represent a serious threat to public safety. Nonetheless, his trial is being postponed while the courts determine whether or not he is entitled to a new stand your ground hearing.
In the spring of 2017, Curtis Reeves received a stand your ground hearing during which his defense team failed to have the case against him dismissed. This is largely because Reeves entered into an altercation inside a movie theater over a cellphone and discharged his weapon on another cell phone culprit while Florida families watched in horror.
However, due in large part to a recent change in the stand your ground statute which shifts the burden of proof from the defense to the prosecution, the Florida Supreme Court is being asked to step in and determine whether or not the new statute should be applied retroactively.
Understanding the New Stand Your Ground Statute
Initially, if a defendant claimed stand your ground as a defense, the defendant had the burden of proving that the individual they shot was threatening their lives or that they had reasonable cause to believe that their life or other’s lives were in danger.
However, in June of 2017, Governor Rick Scott signed a piece of legislation into effect that shifted the burden of proof to the prosecution. Prosecutors are now forced into the position of proving that a defendant did not feel as though their lives were in danger.
While Reeve’s temporary reprieve may be a relief to him, it’s going to be hard for his attorneys to prove that Reeve truly believed that his life was in danger. Luckily, however, they no longer have to. Florida’s prosecutors must prove the negative.
Why the Temporary Stay after the Grand Jury Ruling?
The idea here is to allow the Florida Supreme Court to have its say before the lower court judges make determinations on whether or not defendants are entitled to new hearings under the law. Such hearings are generally costly to both the state and defendants and if a judge rules that a defendant is not entitled to a new trial under the current statute but the Supreme Court later rules that they are entitled to a new hearing, then that could be considered grounds for appealing a guilty verdict should the defendant, in this case, receive one.
In other words, it’s more economical simply to wait until the Supreme Court rules and then determine the best course of action.
It’s clear, however, that stand your ground laws were not meant to protect men who shoot others in movie theaters.
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