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Eight-Year Sentence for Valrico Manslaughter

In a case we’ve discussed here on this blog in the past, Trevor Dooley, 72 was sentenced this week to eight years in prison after being found guilty by a Hillsborough County jury of the manslaughter death of David James.

Dooley asserted a “stand your ground” defense in the case, claiming he feared being overpowered by the larger, younger James as they wrestled on the ground for Dooley’s gun. The judge rejected that defense prior to trial. At trial, the defense argued that the shooting was self-defense.

James was playing basketball on a Valrico community court in 2010 when Dooley came to the court from his home across the street to complain about a 14-year-old skateboarder who had gotten James’ permission to use the other side of the court. Witnesses said an argument between James and Dooley turned dangerous when Dooley flipped up his T-shirt, revealing a gun in his waistband, as he cursed James. They testified Dooley then turned and headed home, but James spun him around and tried to grab the gun. The men fell to the ground. Dooley said he pulled out the gun only after James grabbed him by the throat. James was shot and died in front of his eight-year-old daughter.

At the sentencing hearing, a forensic psychologist testified that Dooley’s rigidity and inability to express remorse was the result of an abusive childhood that included being tied to a tree and whipped by a stepfather in Jamaica. The expert stated that Dooley’s childhood experiences compelled him “to never let anyone take that kind of control over him again.” He became “an overly diligent, hard-working conservative type.”

The judge heard from James’ widow and as well as a letter from James’ young daughter at sentencing. Dooley’s attorney read a letter from Dooley to James’ daughter in which he asked for forgiveness. James’ family sought a 30-year sentence for Dooley.

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