Trevor Dooley’s Conviction and Sentence Vacated. He Gets New Trial
When I heard that Trayvon Martin was killed, and that his killer was claiming Florida’s stand your ground defense, that law peeked my interest. I had not heard of stand your ground and wanted to know of other cases in Florida where the defendant claimed that defense.
Among the cases I found was that of Trevor Dooley. On January 23, 2013, I wrote an article on the significance of the Dooley decision. It is a Florida case where the defendant claimed self-defense.
I expected that Dooley would prevail on his claim of stand your ground because of testimony that Dooley retreated when David James came up behind him, knocking him to the ground. Dooley shot and killed David James.
At trial, prosecutors argued that Dooley could not claim that he stood his ground because he broke the law by showing his gun to the victim, thereby committing the crime of unlawful exhibition of a weapon.
In November 2012, Dooley was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 8 years in prison. He remained free on bond until his first appeal was denied and on November 2014, Dooley began serving his prison time.
After the verdict in Dooley’s case, and when I wrote the first article about the case, it was my position that the jury applied the facts to Florida law from the beginning, finding that if not but for the fact that Trevor Dooley left his garage with a loaded gun and approached David James for mouthing off at him, the two would not have come into physical contact. If Dooley was truly the initial aggressor, then the jury should find the same in George Zimmerman’s case.
In George Zimmerman’s case however, Judge Debra Nelson omitted the part of initial aggressor from the jury’s instructions because the defense asked her to.
Tampa Bay Times reports that now, Trevor Dooley gets a new trial because the 2nd District Court of Appeal found that the wording in the jury instructions on the justifiable use of deadly force was “erroneous.”
The 2nd District Court of Appeal also found that the state was wrong — that “stand your ground” doesn’t depend on whether or not a person is “engaged in unlawful activity.”
Dooley, who is now 73-years old, is being returned to Hillsborough County and his lawyer said he will be eligible to be freed on bond pending the new trial.
This is Dooley’s second appeal. On his first appeal in 2014, the court said that the attorney handling that appeal should have raised the error in the jury instructions about self-defense. The jury’s instructions included;
“If the defendant was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.”
Florida appeared to be working out its understanding of stand your ground law, and made some changes between 2010 and 2012. The Court of Appeal’s decision states;
“Dooley contends that the instruction and the State’s argument were erroneous because at the time of the offense in 2010 and at the time of trial in 2012, sections 776.032(1) and 776.012, Florida Statutes (2010), did not condition stand your ground immunity on whether the defendant was engaged in unlawful activity. Moreover, on April 10, 2013, months before appellate counsel filed the initial brief on December 16, 2013, this court held that sections 776.032(1) and 776.012(1) permit a person engaged in unlawful activity to claim stand your ground immunity. Little v. State, 111 So. 3d 214, 221-22 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013) (holding that Little’s status as a felon in illegal possession of a firearm did not preclude his claim of immunity under section 776.012(1)). Dooley argues that the erroneous instruction negated his defense and if this issue had been brought to this court’s attention, the result of his appeal would have been different.”
Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed Dooley’s manslaughter conviction and his sentence, and remanded the case for a new trial.