Video of former Tampa Police Captain Curtis Reeves, Jr. shooting and killing local man Chad Oulson will be viewed in open Court according to Pasco County Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa. Reeves Jr. has been charged with second-degree murder for his actions. Several media outlets have requested footage of the video. Pasco County Prosecutors sought a Judicial order prior to turning over footage of the alleged second degree murder citing Florida Statute 406.136, a statute that makes it a third degree felony to turn over footage of a “killing of a person” to a third party not enumerated within the statute. The Statute was created to protect the families of victims from further emotional damage.
In this instance, the Florida statute’s restrictions tend to conflict with Section 21 of Florida’s Constitution. Section 21 states, “[t]he courts shall be open to every person for redress of any injury, and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay.” This Florida Constitution clause is in accord with the Sixth Amendment of the United States’ dictate that a defendant is entitled to a “public trial by an impartial jury.” Traditionally this clause has been interpreted to allow for spectators to observe Court proceedings unless the excess publicity would serve to undermine the defendant’s right to due process.” Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333 (1966).
In the Reeves Jr. case Judge Siracusa ordered the Pasco County State Attorney’s Office to show the video in open court. Attorneys for Reeves Jr. understandably asked for temporary seal of the Court file in order to properly review the evidence within to determine what would be challenged if anything. No doubt in asking for a temporary seal, Reeves Jr.’s attorneys are trying to stave off the media onslaught that comes with any high profile case. Ultimately Judge Siracusa granted a 30-day temporary seal to allow for defense counsel’s review but also ruled that the video must be seen in open court in order to be in accord with Constitutional dictate.
As is often the case in cases as high profile as this one, local media outlets have a right to be heard on the matter of a sealed file or closed court. In this instance local media outlets, including the Tampa Bay Times, lobbied Judge Siracusa to release the video instantly, citing the size of Pasco County and other high profile cases in support of the notion that release of the video wouldn’t prejudice Reeves Jr.’s right to an impartial jury. As I’ve stated in other blogs dealing with change of venue, geographical size of an area very likely has no impact on a jury in today’s age of instant information. That said, I agree with the delay in the video’s release to allow the defense time to evaluate their case without the media weighing in. Ultimately I believe the video must be shown but I don’t see any harm in a delay to ensure due process is served and to avoid an appeal bringing the house down.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, contact Tampa criminal lawyer Jason Mayberry today at 813-444-7435 or at 727-771-3847 for a free consultation.