'Stand your ground' defense focuses on phone

The retired Tampa police captain at the center of a landmark 'stand your ground' case in Pasco County is scheduled to take the stand Tuesday, a day after a cell phone and gun became a focus of the hearing.

For the first time since the shooting on January 13, 2014, Curtis Reeves will testify about what he says happened in the Cobb movie theater.

"Don't even have the slightest doubt in your mind; Mr. Reeves will be testifying," said Reeves' attorney, Richard Escobar.

The hearing is scheduled to wrap up Friday but defense attorneys still had several more witnesses to call as the second week of testimony began Monday.

Pasco County Detective Aaron Smith, the lead detective on the case, took the stand first. Escobar has been critical of the way Smith and other detectives handled the evidence and witnesses in this case and has called their credibility into question.

During his questioning of Smith, Escobar discussed a cell phone Smith collected as evidence that had been found at Reeves' feet. Reeves, then 71 years old, has said Chad Oulson threw his cell phone at him as they argued over Oulson using it during the previews.

"It's a weapon," Escobar said, attempting to further his argument that a phone thrown at someone from a close can be deadly.

Escobar went into more detail during his questioning of Smith.

"Do you know whether this particular phone, when you all weighed it, weighs more than a regulation baseball?" Escobar asked.

"I do not," Smith responded.

"Do you know whether this phone, when you all weighed it, weighs more than a cue ball, a billiards regulation cue ball?" Escobar asked.

"I do not," Smith again responded.

"But you certainly realized one thing," Escobar pressed, "that if this phone was used as a weapon, it cause great bodily harm, correct?"

"Generally speaking," Smith replied, "any object depending on the manner it's used, can be considered a deadly weapon."

Reeves has said he was frightened after Oulson threw his cell phone at him, lunged, grabbed Reeves' popcorn and threw it back at him, before Reeves' opened fire, killing Oulson.

Prosecutors, however, argue it's Reeves credibility that should be called into question.

"He said he was hit with a phone. Where?" asked Assistant State Attorney Glenn Martin, the question referring to the location in which Reeves first made the claim about the phone. "How do you evaluate how you're going to do things without going into the credibility of the witness as to whether or not this man right here has a motive when he's sitting in a cruiser with handcuffs on, knowing that he's going to jail, knowing that only the police officer, if he spins the right web, can let him go?"

Reeves will tell his story again Tuesday morning, when he takes the stand for the first time.

Escobar, however, doesn't view this as the first time Reeves has testified.

"Mr. Reeves took the stand in this case on January the 13th of 2014 when law enforcement asked him all the questions that they wanted to ask him in a tape-recorded statement and he gave it to them from the bottom of his heart. So this will be the second time that Mr. Reeves will testify," Escobar said. "Mr. Reeves believes in our system. He's been in our system for 27 years as a Tampa police officer. Twelve years as the head of security for Busch Gardens. He believes in our system. He believes in his position in this case and we look forward to presenting Mr. Reeves to you all so that you can evaluate him for yourself."

That recording was played in court during Reeves' bond hearing in 2014.
"He hit me with his fist or with something. I think he had his cell phone in his hand because I saw the blur of the screen," Reeves told the detective that day, adding he shot Oulson because he "scared the hell out of me."

Prosecutors are planning to begin calling witnesses Wednesday and have indicated there are nine people who will testify for the state over a two-day span.


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