TAMPA — An eyewitness in the manslaughter trial of 71-year-old Trevor Dooley dumped a prosecutor on his backside Thursday to show a jury how an argument between Dooley and a neighbor over a teenage skateboarder led to a fatal struggle on the ground for a gun.
"You can get up now," Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody told Assistant State Attorney Stephen Udagawa, who lay sprawled, his legs up. "The jury can't see you down there."
The wrestling demonstration brought nearly to its end the trial of Dooley, who has admitted to fatally shooting neighbor David James, 41, in front of James' 8-year-old daughter.
Today, the girl, Danielle, will testify, then Dooley will have the final word, indicating he wants to testify before the jury decides whether he shot James out of fear for his life or provoked the tragedy by flashing a gun.
Moody previously rejected Dooley's claim of immunity under Florida's "stand your ground" law.
On Thursday, salesman Michael Whitt, a resident of the Twin Lakes neighborhood in Valrico, described for jurors the shooting he had seen from a tennis court where he practiced serves with his wife on a sleepy September Sunday in 2010.
Dooley had come from his home across the street to object to a skateboarder on the basketball court, where James was shooting hoops with his daughter.
An argument started when James told Dooley the boy could keep skateboarding.
After a few heated minutes, Dooley cursed at James, flipped his T-shirt up, then turned to go home, Whitt testified.
"I saw an object in (Dooley's) waistband," he said. "I didn't know what it was until I later realized it was the butt of a pistol."
Whitt said James grabbed Dooley's gun hand and his shoulder and, with a twist, took him to the ground, landing on top. They briefly wrestled for the gun until Dooley fired.
A medical examiner later said the bullet went through James' heart.
"Mr. James looked at me," Whitt told jurors, "and said, 'Call 911. I've been shot.' "
Those were James' last words. His daughter watched him die.
Danielle testified in a previous hearing that she never saw Dooley flash a gun, and heard him say, "I don't want to fight."
The defense has now called her as a witness.
She has been flown in from Minnesota, where she lives with relatives.
Before jurors were sent home Thursday, they heard Whitt's 911 call.
"All this," Whitt told a dispatcher, "over a skateboard."
John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.