TAMPA — Whatever happened to Trevor Dooley?
He claimed self-defense in the 2010 shooting of man on a neighborhood basketball court in suburban Valrico. After a lengthy appeal of his manslaughter conviction, he won a new trial last April.
In the eight months since, Dooley’s case has not moved. No court hearings have been held. No motions have been filed.
Kanina Eurez would like to know.
She’s the widow of David James, the man Dooley was convicted of killing in an argument that began over whether a teenager should be allowed to ride his skateboard at the park. For years, she said, she has struggled to get information about the case. For years, she and her family have lived with the frustration that it remains unresolved.
“I’m thoroughly disgusted with the justice system,” she told the Tampa Bay Times this week.
It is unclear why nothing has happened in recent months. The attorney who handled his successful appeal did not return messages for comment. The office of Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren was unable to explain the delay.
After a Times reporter asked about the Dooley case this week, a status hearing was scheduled for Jan. 9.
“We’ve stood ready to prosecute this case on behalf of the victim since the appellate court’s decision," Warren’s office said in a statement. "Now that the case has been docketed, we will re-prosecute Mr. Dooley to hold him accountable for his crimes.”
Much has changed in the three years since Dooley was let out of jail on an appellate bond. The original trial judge, Ashley Moody, is now Florida’s attorney general. The prosecutor who handled the trial has since left the State Attorney’s Office. The judge who last presided over the case was promoted to the federal bench last year.
Did Dooley’s case get lost in the shuffle? It’s unclear.
Other things have changed, too.
Danielle James was 8 years old when she witnessed the shooting of her father in a park where they had gone to shoot hoops on a fall day. She recently turned 18. Eurez, her mother, has remarried and now lives out of state. She said her daughter is getting ready to attend college. Her father’s death haunted the girl throughout her childhood and adolescence.
“This is something that is always on our minds,” Eurez said. “It just feels unfinished. It’s not fair at all. It’s not fair to David.”
On the afternoon of Sept. 26, 2010, David James, a 41-year-old Air Force veteran, was playing basketball with his daughter on their neighborhood court in Valrico. A 14-year-old boy asked James if it he could skateboard on the court. James said it was okay.
Dooley, then a 69-year-old Hillsborough County school bus driver, lived across the street. He noticed the skateboarder and admonished him, yelling something to the effect of: “You’re not allowed to skateboard," according to court records. James asked Dooley to show him where the signs prohibiting skateboarding were and said he had given the teen permission.
Dooley returned to his garage but emerged a few minutes later and walked to the edge of the court, records state. An argument ensued. Dooley lifted his shirt, exposing the butt of a gun tucked in his pants, according to court records. He turned to walk away, but James turned him around to continue the argument, the records state.
A physical struggle began. Dooley drew the gun. James tried to grab it, records say. Dooley then shot James in the chest.
In court, Dooley invoked Florida’s stand your ground law, which says a person has no duty to retreat when faced with a violent confrontation and can use deadly force if in fear of great bodily harm or death. But a judge denied him immunity from prosecution. He argued the same at trial, but a jury found him guilty of manslaughter.
He netted a prison sentence of eight years. He appealed his conviction and was allowed free on bail, but eventually did about a year in state prison.
Then came another appeal. His attorney argued that the jury in Dooley’s trial received erroneous instructions on the justifiable use of deadly force.
Back then, Eurez implored the judge not to let Dooley go free while the appeal was pending. She mentioned the case’s lengthy duration and her family’s enduring pain.
The judge told her that it is hard to see the fairness in cases like this, that there should be some finality, but that it didn’t always work out that way in the legal system.
Dooley later posted a $100,000 bond. His attorney estimated at the time that it would take up to a year for the appeal to work its way through the system. That was three years ago.
Dooley is now 79. Conditions of his release on bail have restricted him from leaving Hernando County, where he now lives. He has been granted permission to attend medical appointments elsewhere.
“Something needs to happen," Eurez said. "He still has been able to live his life and we’re left without David.”