Trial date set in Wesley Chapel theater shooting

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A trial date is expected to be set for a retired Tampa police officer, accused of fatally shooting another man during an argument over texting in a movie theater.

It started as an argument over texting in a Wesley Chapel Movie Theater but ended with the shooting death of Chad Oulson.

Four years later, the man accused of shooting Oulson, former Tampa Police Department officer Curtis Reeves has yet to go to trial.

Back in January 2014, Curtis Reeves, who was 71 years old at the time, killed 43-year-old Chad Oulson before a matinee showing of “Lone Survivor” at the Cobb Grove 16 theaters in Wesley Chapel.

Reeves claimed Oulson threw popcorn at him, then hit him in the head with a cell phone. At one point, Reeves fired his gun. 

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During a Stand Your Ground hearing, Reeves said he feared for his life, but a judge rejected the self-defense claims, and so did an appeals court.

While they waited for the appeals court’s decision, the Stand Your Ground Law was tweaked by lawmakers, complicating things.

It now puts the burden of proof on the prosecution instead of the defense. Now, defendants awaiting trial, including Reeves, want to know if the new law is retroactive.

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If it is, Reeves would get another Stand Your Ground hearing, with the burden shifting to the prosecution.

Recently, two different Florida courts ruled differently. One said it was retroactive and another said it’s not.

So the matter will have to be decided by the Florida Supreme Court.

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Meanwhile, during a hearing Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors pushed for a trial date to be set in Reeves’ case.

Reeves attorneys argued it would be best to wait to see what that high court decided, but Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Susan Barthle agreed the wait needed to be over.

"We are going to go ahead and set this. This needs to be on the calendar," said Judge Barthle.

Judge Barthle set a trial date for February 25, 2019. The trial is expected to last three weeks.

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