In the last month, a circuit court in Tampa held a Stand Your Ground hearing on the case of Curtis Reeves, a retired police officer. Reeves shot and killed a man named Chad Oulson after a heated argument in a movie theater. There is some dispute about the factual details, but the general case is based on an argument that began verbally, but became physical. The two exchanged words, and at some point, Oulson snatched a bag of popcorn out of Reeves’ hand, and threw it back at him. Defense lawyers allege that he also threw a phone at Reeves. Reeves pulled out a handgun and shot Oulson: CNN has the surveillance video of the incident.
The court held about two weeks of testimony. In her ruling, the judge found some of Reeves’ testimony to be contradicted by the evidence, and questioned his veracity. Under the current iteration of the Stand Your Ground law, the burden is on the Defendant to prove up his motion, but that could be changed down the road. Reeves can still argue that he was justified in defending himself to a jury, if he can convince them that he reasonably thought he was in fear of death or great bodily harm. Generally speaking, that’s hard to show when the other party is unarmed… Reeves brought a gun to a popcorn fight. Given that he’s in his 70s, I fully expect this case to end up going to trial, though it could still be a while.
Advocates of sentencing reform have been doing a nationwide tour for their push, and came to Florida this past week. Brian Elderbroom, of the Urban Institute, took part in a “Fair Sentencing” event at the Florida State University College of Law. Also taking part was Lauren Galik, who’s report “The High Cost of Incarceration in Florida: Recommendations for Reform” can be found online, HERE.
There is a serious movement from both sides of the aisle to put more common sense in sentencing, and in doing so, reduce the cost and potentially be more proactive in preventing crime. It’s a movement to keep an eye on.
read more here. and here.
Surveillance of Darth Vader’s most recent robbery attempt
Darth Vader committed another robbery, this time in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Vader can be seen on surveillance videos at an 8 ’til Late convenience store, where he walked in, pulled out a gun, and demanded money.
Jacob Mercer mug shot
This is where it gets amazing: apparently the force was not strong with this Vader. One of the clerks in the store threw a wine glass at him, striking him in the face. Vader ran out, only to be captured a short time later. Judging by the suspect’s mug shot, the clerk seems to have struck him square in the face. Why didn’t he use the force?
This is the second time Vader has struck this year, that I’m aware of. As I pointed out last time, still not as classy as the Point Break guys. But, programming note… they are releasing a new Point Break remake next month, a week after Star Wars – The Force is Highly Anticipated. Doesn’t look as classy as the first one, though…
Point Break (2015)
Michael Spiegel Mug Shot
There was never any doubt that he did it, he was apprehended shortly after the crime splattered with the victims’ blood. However, Michael Spiegel’s defense at trial was that he was not sane at the time of the killings. The jury found him guilty in just a couple of hours.
Insanity is an affirmative defense, which means the burden is on the Defendant to prove that he was insane at the time. It’s difficult to do, especially when two people are brutally killed. There was evidence of a long history of mental illness, but the jury did not find it sufficient. The State argued that the steps he took demonstrated planning: which is indicative that he understood the nature and wrongness that he undertook. The finding today doesn’t mean that he wasn’t crazy, but that the jury wasn’t convinced that he was so mentally impaired that he did not appreciate what he was doing or that it was wrong.
There is a 25 year minimum mandatory sentence on the firearm charge. Due to his age, Mr. Spiegel will almost certainly die in prison, even if the judge doesn’t give him a life sentence.
You can read the standard Florida jury instruction on Insanity here.
Michael Spiegel Mug Shot
Trial is underway on the Michael Spiegel case. Spiegel is charged with killing his ex-wife and her new fiance a couple days before their wedding. Since he’s 72 years old, Spiegel is probably going to be sentenced to the rest of his life in prison if he is convicted of any charges related to the killing. As Mr. Carpenter points out in the NDN article, it is extremely hard to convince a jury that someone should escape culpability with an insanity defense: they must have such a great mental impairment that they do not know what they are doing or cannot tell right from wrong. The James Holmes defense attempted this argument, unsuccessfully. The state is arguing that his pre-planning, google searches, and so forth demonstrate comprehension and understanding of the wrongfulness of his crime.
The convenience store on Beau Dr. in North Fort Myers got hit twice in less than a week last spring. This week it got hit again. It was a 7-11, but changed recently to a Mobil on the Run.. but the change apparently didn’t ward off the bad juju of the location.
Surveillance of Beau Robberies
It appears they’ve changed camera locations, and for some reason, the image is reversed in media reports… so I flipped it for comparison. I would not want to work in this shop. The clerk’s records indicate that one robber, Kyle Orr pled guilty to two robberies and was sentenced to 60 months in prison.
Ashley Toye and Roderick Washington, who were under 18 at the time they took part in the torture and murder of Alexis and Jeffrey Sosa, were back in court yesterday for resentencing. The Supreme court ruled in 2012 in Miller v. Alabama, that mandatory life sentences for juveniles were not proper under the Constitution. Florida passed a new law providing for new sentences for such criminals, and Toye and Washington are among the first to be sentenced under the new law. The judge could have sentenced them to less time, but declined to do so based on the facts of the case that included false imprisonment and torture before the victims were shot. They will have a chance to have their sentences reviewed after 25 years, another provision of the new law that has yet to be tested.