TAMPA — A TV microphone on the defense table compromised the trial of 71-year-old Trevor Dooley when he was convicted of manslaughter eight weeks ago, his attorney argued Thursday, asking a judge to declare a mistrial.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody rejected the defense motion, telling Dooley to report for sentencing on Jan. 17. The former school bus driver, who said nothing during the hearing, faces up to 30 years in prison for the 2010 fatal shooting of his 41-year-old Valrico neighbor, David James.
They had argued over a skateboarder using the community basketball court. Prosecutors called it a killing over nothing. James died in front of his 8-year-old daughter, who testified during the trial.
The unusual hearing Thursday focused on a microphone on the defense table during the first day of the trial in November. It was put there by In Session, formerly called Court TV, which plans to show the trial on cable television later this year.
Dooley's contention that the shooting was justified under Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law had attracted national media attention.
In getting permission to place microphones all over the courtroom, In Session promised the one on the defense table would be switched on only to record objections. It was removed at the end of the first day when Dooley's attorney, Ronald Tulin, objected to it.
On Thursday, Tulin admitted he heard no clear privileged conversations on the recordings when he reviewed them Wednesday.
But Tulin argued that the microphone's presence for one day was enough to justify a mistrial. He said it violated the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration and it could have inhibited Dooley from fully participating in his defense.
"Simply the presence of the audio device created a prejudicial effect," he said.
Assistant State Attorney Stephen Udagawa said Tulin "hasn't proven anything except paranoia."
Judge Moody denied the motion for mistrial without comment, saying she would issue a written order later.
John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or [email protected]