TAMPA — At last, Trevor Dooley has a new trial date.
Nine months after an appeals court ruled that the former Valrico man is entitled to a new trial for the 2010 fatal shooting of his neighbor on a basketball court, a judge on Monday scheduled Dooley’s trial to begin July 13.
Dooley, 79, stood beside his new trial attorney, Michael Snure, during the brief hearing Monday morning. He did not speak.
Snure mentioned the possibility of a new stand your ground hearing before the trial, but it was unclear whether that would happen.
“I’m coming on fresh,” he said. “I’m trying to absorb all the facts.”
Monday’s development came a few weeks after the Tampa Bay Times questioned why the case had not moved in nine months since an appeals court overturned Dooley’s manslaughter conviction.
It has been nearly 10 years since Dooley was first accused in the fatal shooting of David James. A 41-year-old Air Force veteran, James was playing basketball with his daughter, then 8, on their neighborhood court on the afternoon of Sept. 26, 2010. Dooley, then a 69-year-old Hillsborough County school bus driver, lived across the street.
Dooley noticed a teenager skateboarding on part of the court and admonished him. That sparked an argument with James, who said he had given the teen permission to skate there.
Dooley went inside his garage, but emerged minutes later and confronted James. At one point, he lifted his shirt, exposing the butt of a gun tucked in his pants, according to court records.
The argument turned into a physical struggle. Dooley drew the gun and James tried to grab it, according to court records. Dooley then shot James in the chest.
The case made headlines. Dooley claimed self-defense under Florida’s stand your ground law, which says a person has no duty to retreat and can use deadly force if in fear of great bodily harm or death. A judge rejected Dooley’s claim and a jury later did the same, finding him guilty of manslaughter.
He was allowed to remain free on bail while he appealed the conviction, but ultimately, Dooley served about a year of an eight-year prison sentence.
But another appeal challenged the wording of the jury instructions in Dooley’s trial on the justifiable use of deadly force. The erroneous language, his defense attorney argued, misstated the law and may have led the jury to discount Dooley’s self-defense claim.
Dooley was again set free on $100,000 bail, with restrictions, while that appeal was pending. It took more than two years for the case to work its way through the Second District Court of Appeal. In April, the court decided that Dooley was entitled to a new trial.
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In the months that followed, there was no activity in the case. It is unclear why.
But in court Monday, Judge Michael Williams seemed determined to see the case through this summer.
Snure, the defense attorney, asked about the likelihood that the trial might later be postponed, as often occurs as cases work their way through the court system.
“No,” the judge said. “When I set this, I want to set a hard date.”
He set a routine status hearing for the end of March.