After waiting for more than eight years to get justice for her husband, Nicole Oulson got the terrible news that the man who killed her husband in front of her would walk free.
On Friday, February 25, 2022, a jury of six found Curtis Reeves not guilty of the murder of Chad Oulson.
An Eight-Year Wait For the Wrong Verdict
TJ Grimaldi has been representing Nicole Oulson throughout the eight-year legal battle and says the verdict and the years leading up to the trial are in many ways a failure of justice.
For eight years, after shooting Chad Oulson in a movie theater, 79-year-old Reeves has been able to be home with his family while waiting for his day in court. From the onset, his legal team did everything they could to delay the trial knowing it would keep Reeves out of prison.
“After the horrific day on January 13, 2014 where Curtis Reeves murdered Chad Oulson, Nicole Oulson and the Oulson family were forced to live with delay after delay for over eight years in their attempt to seek justice. To have to suffer like that, knowing that Mr. Reeves was able to be home with his family made the wait that much more difficult,” says Grimaldi.
Now, after a three-week trial, the Oulson family did not get the justice they’ve been patiently waiting for. The jury took approximately 3 ½ hours to decide to acquit Reeves of the two charges against him: aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and second-degree murder.
The verdict comes after multiple witnesses took the stand and described the same scene in the movie theater over and over. Curtis Reeves and Chad Oulson exchanged heated words. Popcorn flew in the air, but Chad Oulson didn’t appear to try and hit Reeves. Reeves pulled out his firearm and shot Chad Oulson in the chest, killing him and also injuring Nicole Oulson.
Grimaldi says the not guilty verdict adds even more pain to a family who has already gone through years of heartache waiting for the case to go to trial.
“To get slapped in the face with not guilty verdicts is just like getting salt in a wound,” Grimaldi says.
No Justice for the Oulson Family
“As for the Oulson family, I will always be here to assist them in any way possible as it was my honor to be chosen to help them from the outset,” says Grimaldi.
But at this point, there isn’t much the Oulson family can do. A not guilty verdict removes any chances of a criminal conviction, and civil lawsuits against Curtis Reeves, Cobb Theater, and theater-employee Thomas Peck have already been settled.
Grimaldi believes the verdict sets a dangerous precedent for future cases.
“I worry for the future of our state as it seems as if people can get away with anything, as long as they can afford to pay the price,” he says.
“This case is another stain on the legal process in Florida. Some will try to say this will not set a bad precedent because the facts are unique. To that, I will say that creative lawyers learn how to adapt their facts to fit into certain parts of this case and who knows, one day someone will kill someone else as a result of a pillow fight, and they will be allowed to continue to live a free life,” Grimaldi says.
Grimaldi doesn’t blame the prosecutors for being unable to secure a guilty verdict in the case. Instead, he blames a system that rewards defendants with the resources and connections.
Reeves is a retired Tampa police captain.
“I do believe that the prosecutors did all they could to convict Curtis Reeves as I was familiar with their strategy and was there for this entire trial. But unfortunately, they had to fight an uphill battle at every turn, including the defense being allowed to introduce basically anything they wanted,” says Grimaldi.
The Jury Got It Wrong
At the end of a trial, the case is ultimately in the hands of the jury. In this case, Grimaldi feels they simply got it wrong.
“I do not believe the defense or the defendant did anything to advance their position. The jury just plain got it wrong. If I am incorrect and somehow the jury got it right, I fear for our future and the future of our judicial system,” says Grimaldi.
For now, Grimaldi is providing support to the Oulsons during this difficult time. They have waited eight years and been forced to relieve the tragedy over and over in court, only to get no justice for a man who was a friend, husband, and father, senseless shot and killed during the trailers of an afternoon movie date with his wife.