DADE CITY — The judge handling the case of movie shooter Curtis Reeves didn’t mince words Thursday afternoon.
“We have literally days of work left before that’s scheduled,” Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Susan Barthle said, “so I’m going to have to really set some serious deadlines.”
The case against Reeves, 79, who faces charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault in the 2014 shooting death of Chad Oulson, 43, at a County movie theater Pasco, dragged on for eight years due to trial delays, a long wait. audience of your land, and a number of prosecutors and judges.
In fact, the case is before Barthle for the second time after the most recent judge, Kemba Lewis, was transferred to a civil division this month as part of routine court rotations. Barthle oversaw and rescinded Reeves’ binding offer in 2017.
But Thursday’s status check hearing was another signal that the trial may well go ahead this time, which is due to start on February 7. Barthle has scheduled hearings next week to resolve 19 outstanding motions and discussed a 20th motion for a defense expert witness to be heard. at a later date.
She also set the parameters for the jury panel: The court clerk will summon 250 East Pasco residents to be considered for the six-member panel. They will be divided into groups of 50 people per day for five days of jury selection.
After lead defense attorney Richard Escobar raised concerns about the sharp rise in coronavirus cases in Florida spurred by the omicron variant, Barthle said she would allow four alternates to make sure they don’t. there would be no shortage of people.
The shooting, which stemmed from an argument over Oulsen’s cellphone use at film premieres, made national headlines and was widely covered by the media – always a concern for choosing a objective jury.
Barthle said jurors shouldn’t be excluded by simply knowing about the case. It could become a problem, she said, if they had formed opinions or had fixed ideas about it.
But over the time it has taken, she says, “there are people who probably haven’t heard of this case.”