In a case with some similarities to the George Zimmerman case, Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody has denied the use of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in a shooting in September 2010 where an older man wrestled with a younger man on a basketball court. As with Zimmerman, Trevor Dooley, 69, had a gun permit and insisted that the younger man, David James, started the fight. In this case it was a black man shooting a white man, though the case has not generated the attention or controversy of the Zimmerman. Dooley is charged with manslaughter in James’ death.
James and his 8-year-old daughter Danielle were playing basketball on the court when a teenager entered the court on a skateboarder. Dooley told the teen that he was not allowed to skateboard on the court and was confronted by James who demanded that Dooley show him the sign that says no skateboarding. The teen was Dooley’s neighbor.
What followed as a shouting match and, what Dooley described, as a shoving match with James as the aggressor. Dooley says that he showed James his gun and shot James only after he was in fear of serious bodily injury. Notably, James’ daughter, aged 10, became a defense witness. She said that her father was “on top” of Dooley “to keep him down so he could actually get the answer” about where the sign was.
However, Moody still ruled that “…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.”
That is precisely the type of ruling that prosecutors hope for in the trial of Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin. However, the Dooley case again shows how Special Prosecutor seriously over-charged the case against Zimmerman who is facing not a manslaughter charge but a second-degree murder charge. While Angela Corey insisted that the campaign for a criminal charge had no impact on her decision-making, the actual charge is disconnected with the criminal code and practices.