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. Trevor Dooley was found guilty of manslaughter. His case is currently on appeal.
When I first heard of the Dooley case, I expected that he would prevail on his claim of Stand Your Ground because of testimony that Dooley was walking back to his house when David James came up behind him, knocking him to the ground.
After the verdict and when I wrote the article, 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.
Likewise, I said that if not but for the fact that George Zimmerman got out of his car with a loaded gun to follow Trayvon, the two would not have come into physical contact. It was my position that the Zimmerman jury would find him guilty of 2nd degree murder, or manslaughter, by applying the law of initial aggressor to the facts.
I was wrong. Read the rest of this entry
In September 2010, then 69-year-old Trevor Dooley shot and killed 41-year-old David James. Dooley claimed that he shot James in self-defense. Two days later, Dooley was arrested and charged with manslaughter with a weapon, improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon or firearm, and open carrying of a weapon.
Dooley petitioned the court for immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground statute. On May 11, 2012, Judge Ashley Moody denied Dooley’s petition for immunity. The case proceeded to trial.
The situation started when Dooley, who resided across from a basketball and tennis court, saw a teen with a skateboard on the basketball court and yelled at him not to skateboard. David James, who was on the court with his 8-year-old daughter shooting hoops, yelled back to Dooley asking where was the sign saying no skateboarding. Dooley was washing his car and walked out of his driveway over to the basketball court. Testifying that he saw no good by arguing, Dooley turned to walk away when James grabbed him by the shoulders pulling him around. The altercation then went to the ground and ended with Dooley shooting James in the heart.
Dooley, who is 5 feet 7 and weighs 160 pounds, told jurors he had to struggle with a man 28 years younger who was 6 feet one inch and 240 pounds. Dooley testified that he had no choice other than to pull out his gun after James grabbed him by the throat. Dooley testified that he felt that he was going to black out, and that James went for his gun and he believed James would have shot him.
At trial, James’ daughter was a witness for the defense. She testified that Dooley did turn his back and was walking away when her dad rushed him. Furthermore, she said she did not see Dooley’s gun until he took it out during the altercation; that her father was “on top” of Dooley and was trying to keep him down to answer his question, which was, where is the sign that says “No Skateboarding”?
The Dooley case decision is very significant in understanding the legislative intent of stand your ground law. It is common to read George Zimmerman’s supporters argue that stand your ground immunity applies when the person tries removing themselves and/or does not throw the first punch. If that interpretation of the law is correct, then James would be the aggressor and Dooley granted immunity from prosecution.
According to the court’s ruling in the immunity hearing, “…the evidence showed that Mr. James had not been threatening or aggressive in any way toward Defendant, although he did appear to be shocked, defensive, loud, upset and agitated. It was not until Defendant reached for and pulled out his weapon – indicating an intent to escalate from an argument to violence – that Mr. James exerted and used physical force against Defendant.”
In other words, the court found that the victim had the right to use physical force because the defendant took a physical action that the victim perceived as a threat. At trial, State prosecutors proved the same to the jury.
Dooley testified that he never showed his gun. Witnesses said otherwise. They testified that Dooley raised his shirt, revealing his gun, and then turned to walk away. That action is why Dooley was charged with improper exhibition of a firearm and open carrying of a weapon. It is also why the jury decided that James, once seeing the gun, had the right to try to disarm Dooley.
Furthermore, and most importantly, the jury decided that Dooley was the aggressor and it was a senseless killing; if not but for the fact that Dooley left his garage with a loaded gun and walked over to James, the altercation would not have happened and James would not have been killed. Dooley was found guilty on all counts.
Dooley said that he is remorseful. Each time he takes a shower and hears the drain, it reminds him of James’ death gurgle. On January 17, 2013, the judge hearing Dooley’s remorse, sentenced Trevor Dooley, now 71 years old, to 8 years in prison and 10 years probation. His sentencing for all counts run concurrent, with 3 days of jail credit.
WHY IS THE DECISION IN THE TREVOR DOOLEY CASE SIGNIFICANT IN THE CASE OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN?
After the jury found Dooley guilty, he gave a statement to the media, blaming racism for his prosecution. “Do you really think that if it was the other way around and the skin color would be different we would be here today?” he asked reporters.
The jury in Dooley’s case consisted of multiracial men and women. Dooley’s focus was on losing the fight giving him the right to use deadly force, rather than his initiation of events leading up to the fight and the firing of his gun.
Although at trial it was established that James initiated the physical altercation, there would have been no physical altercation and no killing had Dooley not left his garage with a loaded gun. The jury decided by applying the facts and evidence to the law. Let’s see if Judge Nelson, in deciding George Zimmerman’s petition for immunity, and the jury at his trial, will decide likewise.
Similarities and Comparisons
|Trevor Dooley||George Zimmerman|
|City, State||Valrico, FL||Sanford, FL|
|Community||Twin Lakes||Retreat at Twin Lakes|
|Age of Defendant at time of incident||69||28|
|Age of Victim at time of incident||41(interestingly, there is a 28 yr difference between James and Dooley, and Zimmerman was 28 yrs old when he killed Trayvon Martin||17|
|Race of Defendant||Black||White Latino|
|Race of Victim||White||Black|
|Defense||Was assaulted by a younger, stronger man and was in fear for his life.||Was assaulted by a teen and was in fear for his life.|
|Cause of Death||Gunshot to the heart||Gunshot to the heart|
|Allegations:||Victim attacked first (supported by witnesses)||Victim attacked first (No witnesses)|
|Was being choked, could not breathe||Was being smothered, could not breathe|
|Victim saw and went for gun||Victim saw and went for gun|
|Fear that victim would get gun and shoot.||Fear that victim would get gun and shoot.|
|Admitted||Left garage and approached victim||Left vehicle and followed victim|
|Tried to walk away (supported by witnesses)||Shot victim while having victim’s wrist and arm restrained to prevent getting gun. (No witnesses)|
|Shot victim while victim was on top. (Supported by witness testimony)||Witnesses vary as to who was on top.|
|Victim rushed him.||Victim ran.|
|Similarities||Was washing his car when he saw the skateboarder and yelled not to skateboard||Was on his way to grocery shop when seeing Trayvon Martin.|
|Left his garage with a loaded gun to approach victim.||Left his vehicle with a loaded gun to follow victim.|