Jury Selection Finally Begins in Curtis Reeves Movie Theater Shooting Trial

More than eight years after a trip to the movie theater led to the death of Chad Oulson, the man who shot and killed Oulson is finally going to see his day in court.

Jury selection has finally begun in the Curtis Reeves case.

What Led to the Trial?

On January 13, 2014, Chad Oulson and his wife, Nicole went to a movie at Grove 16 theater in Wesley Chapel, Florida. Behind them sat retired Tampa police captain, Curtis Reeves and his wife, Vivian.

During the previews, Chad Oulson used his phone to text his daughter’s daycare. This activity annoyed Curtis Reeves, who went to complain to theater staff. Upon his return to the theater, Reeves and Oulson exchanged words. Oulson threw popcorn on Reeves. Reeves pulled out a gun and fired a shot that wounded Nicole Oulson and killed Chad Oulson.

For eight years, Reeves has avoided going to trial for the shooting.

Reeves and his legal team tried to dismiss the case, arguing that it fell under Florida’s stand your ground law. The motion was denied, but it led to appeals, which pushed the case to the  2nd District Court of Appeal. Changing laws caused the case to be delayed further as legal teams waited for a Florida Supreme Court decision regarding rules on burden of proof in stand your ground cases.

All efforts to dismiss the case were denied, and the case is now ready to go to trial — but it took eight years which can lead to some challenges.

Related: Movie Theater “Stand Your Ground” Case To Finally Start Trial 8 Years Later

The Challenge with Jury Selection

In the eight years since Reeves shot and killed Oulson in a Florida movie theater, it’s been difficult to avoid the story in the news. The many appeals, controversial nature of the case, and long timeline have made it a top news story, even gaining national media attention.

The public exposure can make jury selection in the case difficult.

For the case, 250 East Pasco residents were summoned for jury duty. They will be broken into groups of 50 who will be seen over five days of jury selection.

The first day of jury selection, which took place on February 7, 2022, was an indicator that finding an impartial jury could be difficult. When asked if they knew about the case, most jurors raised their hand, according to reporting by the Tampa Bay Times.

During questioning of the first ten jurors, one said, ”I just feel like he shot a guy, and if you kill someone, that’s murder. He’s already guilty.” The juror was dismissed.

Eight of the next nine jurors gave answers that were similar. When jurors are familiar with a case before the trial begins, the judge must question them to determine if they are unbiased and able to serve on the jury.

From the 250 potential jurors, the case will need six jurors who the court believes can hear the case and make a fair judgment based on what they hear in court, not what they hear in the news.

Related: Dealing With the Media During a High-Profile Case: What to Expect

What’s at Stake?

When the six jurors are selected, they will sit for a trial which is expected to take three weeks.

They will decide if Reeves is guilty of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and second-degree murder.

If found guilty, the 79-year-old Reeves faces life in prison.

Aggravated battery with a deadly weapon is a third-degree felony in Florida. It carries a potential penalty of up to five years in prison or five years probation and a $5,000 fine. When a firearm is discharged, as it was in this case, the penalties can increase to up to 20 years in prison.

Second-degree murder is a first-degree felony in Florida. It carries a potential penalty of life in prison, life on probation, and a $10,000 fine. Under Florida’s 10-20-Life law, a person may be sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison if a firearm is used to commit second-degree murder.

Related: Get Good Legal Representation by Asking This One Question

Pushing for a Fair Trial and Justice

TJ Grimaldi is standing by the side of Chad Oulson’s wife, Nicole to see that the trial is fair and leads to the maximum punishment for Reeves.

While the state is prosecuting the criminal case, Grimaldi is representing Nicole Oulson to ensure that justice is found for her husband and the father of her daughter.

“Curtis Reeves should have de-escalated the situation. But instead, all he did was make things worse, and continue to make things worse, even after leaving the theater and coming back when it was basically done and decided to shoot someone over popcorn,” Grimaldi says.

Protect Yourself in a Public Case

Cases that take place in the courtroom and the court of public opinion come with unique challenges. If you are involved with a case that has drawn public interest, work with an attorney who has experience with high-profile cases and knows how to manage the media and legal process through your public case.

Talk to TJ Grimaldi to see how he can use his experience to protect you during a high-profile legal case. Request an appointment or call 813-226-1023 today.

How Much Jail Time Could Parents of Oxford School Shooter Get?

Another senseless tragedy occurred on November 30 in Michigan at Oxford High School when 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley brought a gun to school and turned it on his classmates, injuring seven and killing four.

While many of the details are as familiar and heartbreaking as many other school shootings, there is something different about this case. It appears to be the first time the parents of a school shooter are being criminally charged in the case.

What’s different about Crumbley’s case, what’s the legal reasoning behind the charges, and how much jail time do the parents of the Oxford school shooter face?

Why Are Parents Being Charged in This School Shooting?

By some estimation, there have been 149 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in 2021. Far too often, we hear news about kids dying in the classroom. But, what happened in Michigan was different.

The day of the shooting, Ethan’s parents, James and Jennifer were called to the school after officials became concerned about Ethan’s behavior. The parents seemingly ignored concerns and asked for their son to be returned to the classroom. That afternoon, Ethan killed four classmates.

Failing to head warning signs is just one of the reasons why Ethan’s parents are being partially blamed for the tragedy. A series of events and situations, as reported by the New York Times, show their involvement in the days leading up to the shooting.

  • November 26: James and Jennifer took their son to a gun shop and purchased a  9-millimeter Sig Sauer pistol for him as an early Christmas gift. Ethan posted a photo of the gun on his social media with the caption, “Just got my new beauty today,” with a heart emoji. The gun was reportedly stored unlocked in their house.
  • November 29: The day before the shooting, the school notified Jennifer that Ethan was caught searching for ammunition on his phone during school hours. In response, she texted Ethan, “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”
  • November 30: The day of the shooting, both parents were called to the school after a teacher saw a drawing of Ethan’s that depicted a handgun along with the phrases “the thoughts won’t stop,” “help me,” and “blood everywhere.” The parents declined to remove their son from school. They also didn’t inspect the backpack he had with him, which held the gun he used to kill four students later that day.

Oakland County prosecuting attorney Karen McDonald says the Cumbleys gave their son access to a handgun and ignored warning signs that showed he was a threat to those around him. She believes the Crumbleys could have prevented the shooting, which is why she filed criminal charges against them.

What Criminal Charges Are Ethan Crumbley’s Parents Facing?

The shooting occurred in Michigan so it will follow the laws and statutes of that state.

James and Jennifer were both charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count for each student that died in the shooting.

Each charge carries a maximum $7,500 fine and 15 years in prison. The parents face $30,000 in fines and 60 years in prison if convicted on all four counts.

For the parents to be found guilty on the charges, prosecutors will need to prove:

  • The parents’ gross negligence led to the deaths of the student.
  • The parents failed to act when they were presented with evidence that an ordinary person would recognize as having the potential to create harm.

Both of the Crumbleys have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Have Parents Been Charged in School Shootings Before?

What makes this case unique is that parents are rarely, if ever, criminal charged in school shootings.

Civil lawsuits have been filed in past school shootings. In fact, there is already a civil suit filed in the Oxford school shooting. A set of parents are suing the school district for endangering the lives of their two daughters. One daughter was shot in the neck and the other witnessed it. Their parents say they are now both dealing with post-traumatic stress.

Dozens of civil lawsuits were also filed by parents of students who died or were injured in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

Parents of shooters have also faced civil charges in the wake of school shootings. The lawyer representing the parents of the two daughters involved in the Oxford school shooting also sued the parents of Columbine shooters back in 1999.

But, this seems to be the first time parents of a child who committed a school shooting have been prosecuted in criminal courts.

Related: Examples of Wrongful Death Cases: Do You Have a Case?   

Getting Justice for Injured Parties

It is a tragedy any time a person is injured or loses their life in a situation that could have been prevented. The criminal courts will now decide if the negligence of Ethan Crowley’s parents is enough to warrant jail time. Civil courts will determine if the school is also partially responsible for the terrible tragedy.

If you or a loved one experienced a senseless act that led to the death of a loved one, justice needs to be served.

Talk to a wrongful death attorney about your options for holding liable parties accountable. Learn how you can get justice for a loved one. Talk to attorney TJ Grimaldi today. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023.

Stand Your Ground Changes Have Wide Impact

A recent court decision has put the controversial “stand your ground” law back under the microscope. Passed in Florida in 2005, the law changes traditional self-defense guidelines immensely. “Stand your ground” eliminates the responsibility to retreat from dangerous situations and authorizes individuals to forcefully defend themselves to “prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” Since it’s passing there has been debate over consequences and convictions, and now, more concerns are surfacing.

A 2017 amendment reversing the burden of proof, is the origin of a state-wide disagreement. Originally, the burden of proof, or responsibility to prove one’s claim, was left to the defense. However, the amendment now leaves it up to the prosecution to refute a “stand your ground” claim. One contentious question that arises from this change is whether the change can be applied retroactively to active cases. Not all courts agree, as the Second District Court of Appeals has decided to apply the rule retroactively to various cases in Hillsborough and Pinellas County, while the Third District Court of Appeals, located in Miami, has deemed the amendment unconstitutional and has decided not to apply it retroactively.

These conflicting decisions mean that the final decision on retroactive application rests with the Florida Supreme Court; a process that could take as long as a year. Until the Florida Supreme Court reaches a decision, each district will handle cases as their district court has directed. In the meantime, there is a lot of uncertainty amongst defendants, victims, defense attorneys and prosecutors.

One of the first cases to apply the amended law is the Pinellas County trial of Bobby Ryan. Accused of taking part in a fight in 2016 that turned fatal, Ryan claimed a “stand your ground” defense under the new rules and prevailed. Although the charges against Mr. Ryan were dismissed, the Attorney General’s Office has appealed the decision because they do not believe that the law should be applied retroactively to crimes committed before June 9, 2017. While his case is under appeal, Mr. Ryan has cited great uncertainty for himself and his family as his fate is once again in the hands of the courts.

In Hillsborough County, Tymothy Ray Martin was previously convicted of felony battery against his girlfriend. He unsuccessfully attempted a “stand your ground” defense and was convicted. Martin’s attorneys appealed the conviction on the grounds that the amended law should apply to his case. The Second District Court of Appeals agreed, and Mr. Martin will get a second shot at a “stand-your-ground” defense.

Cases such as Martin’s raise concerns from both victims and prosecutors. Retrying cases that have already been decided carry heavy costs to the prosecution as time and expense must be allocated to retrying cases. Additionally, the necessity of reliving trials and the possibility of reversals can be very painful to victims.

Those in Pasco County are particularly curious about the long-standing case of retired Tampa police captain, Curtis Reeves. Reeves has been awaiting trial since he shot and killed Chad Oulson in a movie theatre in 2014, claiming a “stand your ground” defense. The judge did rule against him, rejecting his “stand your ground” defense. Unsurprisingly, his lawyers appealed the decision. Now, with the amendment in place, prosecutors, defenders and family members alike are unsure of what this means for Reeves or the Oulson family.

The decision of the Second District Court of Appeals impacts everyone involved in the case. For Curtis Reeves, the more time passes, the more time he will live free of any consequences for his actions. Oulson family attorney TJ Grimaldi stated, “An opportunity for a second chance at a stand your ground defense can only be seen as a win for Mr. Reeves and his attorneys.”

For the widow of Chad Oulson, this waiting game only adds to the suffering she experienced by losing her husband. Waiting for these decisions means anxiously anticipating another potential hearing, and more importantly, further delaying justice.

The individuals from the cases highlighted above are not the only ones who will be directly affected by this conflict. The uncertainty the amendment creates can be costly to the state itself and its citizens, and especially painful for both defendants and victims. It also impacts the dockets which will be pushed back for both the state and defense attorneys to focus on cases they had deemed done. The debate over this amendment is causing statewide chaos and is ultimately doing more harm than good. If you have any further questions, comments or concerns please comment below.

Can Bankruptcy Help with Past-Due HOA Fees?

The short answer is yes! Often times when dealing with mounting homeowner’s fees, you may feel there is no available option to remedy the situation. The bills continue to pile and fees add up with no end in sight. However, there are several options available to you with respect to alleviating some of this financial strain.

Florida law permits HOAs to impose a lien upon a property to secure payment. Hiring a lawyer for your bankruptcy is the best way to know more about the law, and get things done legally and properly. In Florida, under both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can potentially strip off your HOA lien if the property is worth less than the amount you owe on your mortgage. While filing for bankruptcy may eliminate past due amounts, you will be responsible for paying current amounts as they become due after you file your bankruptcy case if you wish to retain the property. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy may also give you an opportunity to restructure past amounts due if you wish. To further understand your legal options it is best to discuss your particular case with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

For more information on how bankruptcy can help with past-due HOA fees, contact the bankruptcy lawyers at McIntyre Thanasides today.

Zombie Foreclosures Continue to Haunt Florida

One in five homes in the foreclosure process are zombies, according to RealtyTrac which says that Florida leads the list with roughly 55,000 homes that are abandoned by their owners and in a state of legal limbo.  Despite economic recovery in much of the nation, the foreclosure issue is not going away any time soon.  What do zombies mean if you are looking to list your property?  Most likely if there is one on your street, you will not be able to sell your home.  If you do, you’ll get much less than you were hoping for due to the proximity of the zombie foreclosure.  Zombie foreclosures not only lower property values of surrounding homes, but they also lead to lost property tax revenue – a double whammy for anyone considering listing a real estate property. You can also get more information from attorneys for family law claims.

RealtyTrac’s most recent data on zombie foreclosures also reported that about 21 percent of the 141,406 total foreclosures reported in Q2 were of the zombie variety.  What makes a foreclosure a zombie?  This type of foreclosure occurs when a lender goes through all the steps of a foreclosure, but fails to complete the last step of registering the deed to move title from the borrower to the lender.  The owner then deserts the property leaving it abandoned which leads to an unkempt eyesore, making the surrounding properties less appealing. If you want to know how to stage your house for a fast sell, with the help of a real estate agent, click here.

One of the reasons that Florida is on the top of this list is because it is a judicial foreclosure state.  That means that in order to foreclose on a property a bank must go through the court process which takes a long time.   While new laws set out to protect borrowers and prevent servicers from reacting to foreclosures at the same rate they typically would, there are other ways service providers can provide assistance to borrowers while working directly with their business partners to prevent such a high vacancy rate.

Working with a qualified lawyer is the first step you should take if you are facing a foreclosure or currently involved in one.  A well informed homeowner can be counseled by a foreclosure attorney who can provide guidance in terms of what options are available to you and communicate with involved parties to find the best resolution and reduce the time period of the foreclosure sale right of redemption.  In some cases, this time period can be shortened from six months to as little as 30 days.

Servicers may also work directly with a lawyer who will contact the borrower.  For example, when a company has made an attempt to serve the borrower papers and finds the property to be vacant, they are often times legally required to search for the borrower.   This process will not eliminate zombie foreclosures, but does help expedite the foreclosure or proceed to workout.  By enlisting the help of an attorney from the start, you can be proactive and address the issue before vacancies increase and prevent zombie foreclosures from spreading.

If you find you are the victim of a zombie foreclosure, there may be a number of remedies available to you. Contact the Tampa foreclosure attorneys at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. today.

Development Extension Opportunities Through December 2014

The Florida legislature passed numerous bills over the last several years, giving property owners the right to obtain two-year extensions for certain types of development permits simply by sending a letter to the permitting agency by a specific deadline. This year the Florida legislature passed CS/HB 7023, which contains provisions very similar to the bills previously passed.  This new two-year extension is somewhat limited in its applicability, but presents an opportunity for projects that may have missed past extensions or were recently approved.

The statutory extension applies to those enumerated permits, including local government-issued development orders and building permits as well as permits issued by the Department of Environmental Protection, with an expiration date between January 1, 2014 and January 1, 2016. It is in addition to any existing permit extensions, provided that the total permit extension time does not exceed a total of four years.  For example, if you used a previously enacted bill to extend the expiration of a permit by a total of four years, then you will not be able to apply for a further extension.

In order to exercise the right to a permit extension under CS/HB 7023, the property owner must give written notice to the authorizing agency by no later than December 31, 2014. The letter must identify the specific permit or authorization for which the extension is for and the anticipated timeframe for the permit or authorization.

It is important to act quickly due to the impending deadline.  Those who are eligible should review all of their existing permits to see if an extension is authorized and begin making the required notifications to the appropriate agencies.

If you would like to take advantage of the filing extension and wish to discuss your options prior to conducting notifications, contact Blake Bringgold at 813.899.6059 or [email protected].