TAMPA Trevor Dooley was "simply defending himself" when he shot and killed a man who was playing basketball with his young daughter in a Valrico park two years ago, his lawyer told jurors today.
Dooley, 71, is standing trial on charges of aggravated manslaughter and weapons offenses in the Sept. 26, 2010, killing of David James, 41, during a dispute over a skateboarder at the Twin Lakes recreational park.
A jury of six, plus two alternates, was seated late this morning, and both sides delivered brief opening statements before breaking for lunch.
Assistant Hillsborough State Attorney Lori Ellingsworth, who spoke only about five minutes, described how James was playing with his daughter, a young boy was skateboarding and a couple were playing tennis, when Dooley started yelling from his home nearby telling the boy to stop skateboarding on the basketball court.
James told the boy to keep skateboarding because there were no signs saying it was not permitted. Ellingsworth said Dooley went to his garage and then "quickly rushes" to the court yelling at the boy to stop skateboarding, Ellingsworth said. James met Dooley in a grassy area, and asked him where the signs were, Ellingsworth said.
Ellingsworth said Dooley lifted his shirt to show a gun in his waistband and said, "F--- you!"
Ellingsworth said James demanded to know why Dooley would have a gun with kids around and why he would curse. Ellingsworth said Dooley pulled out the gun, and the two began struggling. They fell to the ground, and Dooley pulled the trigger and shot James.
Defense attorney Ronald Tulin had a different version of events. Telling jurors Dooley will testify, Tulin said Dooley had the gun in a holster in his right pants pocket, not in his waistband. The defendant had a permit to carry the gun and always had it in his pants pocket, the defense lawyer said.
Tulin detailed a list of Dooley's medical problems, including pain from shoulder surgeries, as well as leg and knee problems. James, Tulin said, was half Dooley's age and twice his size.
The basketball court had recently been resurfaced, and Dooley wanted the boy to skateboard on a concrete pad nearby, Tulin said.
Tulin said Dooley was barefoot when he "gingerly" walked out to the park and was confronted by James, who demanded to know where the signs were. Tulin said Dooley said, "Screw this," put up his hand and turned to walk away.
James, Tulin said, told Dooley not to turn his back because James was not through with him. James spun Dooley around, and Dooley took his gun out of his pocket and pointed it at the ground, Tulin said. James forced Dooley to the ground, straddled him and began choking him with one hand while holding Dooley's left hand with his other. Tulin said.
Dooley couldn't talk because he couldn't breathe, so he started jabbing James with the gun, Tulin said. Dooley "feels as though he is going to die," Tulin said. "He fires one shot and Mr. James sits up and he dies."
Danielle James, who was 8 years old when she saw her father killed, is expected to be called as a witness for the defense.
Before the trial, Dooley unsuccessfully sought immunity from prosecution under the state's "Stand Your Ground" law.
Testimony is set to begin this afternoon.
had seen media reports about Dooley.