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; Read the rest of this entry
Since the George Zimmerman case, Florida’s Stand Your Ground (SYG) law has grabbed worldwide attention. Florida requires that those applying for conceal carry licenses attend classes. However, as we learned from the jurors in Zimmerman’s case, there are Florida citizens who have concealed carry licenses who do not understand SYG law. This brings forth more interest as we watch Florida courts decide SYG or self-defense cases. Read the rest of this entry
Florida is not the only State that has conceal carry of guns and stand your ground law, but this nation’s most recent experience in the injustice committed upon Trayvon Martin brings the spotlight upon the State of Florida. I would like to add the Trevor Dooley and Marissa Alexander cases to the reasons for why cruises boarding in Florida should be boycotted. Juries in the State of Florida have one stand your ground law for White defendants, and another stand your ground law for Black defendants.
We await to see if Michael Dunn, charged with the murder of unarmed 17-year old Jordan Davis, and also charged with attempted murder of others who were in the vehicle with Jordan, will be judged by the written law, or acquitted by racist jurors.
The Soul Train cruise is scheduled to leave Ft. Lauderdale in February 2013. Those disagreeing with any or all of the three aforementioned cases should boycott the Soul Train cruise and all other cruises leaving out of Florida, and encourage their friends and relatives to do the same. This will be a most difficult decision for those honoring what Soul Train stands for, but we need to make a powerful, economic statement.
Airlines flying into Florida, and cruise ships boarding in Florida, will feel the economic effect.
A current list of performers who have joined Stevie Wonder in boycotting Florida includes:
Mary Mary; Eddie Levert; Rod Stewart; Madonna; Usher; Pattie Labelle; Kanye West; Mary J; Rolling Stones; Justin Timberlake; R. Kelly; Rihanna; Alicia Keys; Joe; WillIAM; Keyshia Cole; Erykah Badu; Frankie Beverly; and Parliament. Let those of us who can, join their efforts beginning by boycotting cruises boarding in the State of Florida.
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.|