Legal Experts on Theater Shooting – Stand Your Ground Law

PASCO COUNTY, FL -Three top criminal lawyers say arrested Cobb Theater shooting suspect Curtis Reeves may have a defense for what he did Tuesday, but Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law won’t play a role in it.

“You would have to have some overt threat, some deadly force some type of weapon pulled,” said defense lawyer Jay Hebert. “Throwing popcorn at somebody is not the just use of deadly force.”

Hebert planned to use the Stand Your Ground law in his murder defense of tow truck operator Donald Montanez two years ago, but dropped the idea when he went to trial and argued self defense. He still lost the case and says the facts in Reeves case are even more difficult.

“The key question for the jury is was he justified in the use of deadly force,” said Hebert. “That’s the key legal issue.”

Suspect’s former colleagues say shooting was out of character.

Former prosecutor turned defense lawyer Doug Prior agrees. “I think whoever’s going to defend him is going to have an uphill battle, that’s for sure,” said Prior.

Prior won the first Stand Your Ground defense victory in Pinellas County three years ago when he represented George Peffly, a client who stabbed another man. 

But in that case the victim had committed a burglary against Peffly and battered him. The judge ruled Peffly had a right to defend himself. “My client was within his own apartment,” Prior said.

Prior said the facts are much different in the theatre shooting involving Reeves. “Just on it’s face it sounds like there was more of an overreaction here than Stand Your Ground,” said Prior. 

Defense lawyer Roger Futerman said based on the facts that have unfolded so far, even a simple self-defense argument would be difficult to make since there’s no evidence that Reeves was in any danger. 

“This isn’t the Wild West,” said Futerman. “You can’t shoot someone because you’re irritated at them or someone is obnoxious toward you.”