Gunman ‘in disbelief’ over loud-music verdict

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (CNN) — A jury on Saturday night convicted a Florida man on four charges related to his shooting into an SUV full of teenagers during an argument over loud music, but could not decide on the most serious charge — murder.

Michael Dunn was found guilty on four charges, including three of attempted second-degree murder, which could land him behind bars for decades. Yet there was no verdict on the first-degree murder charge tied to the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

As the jury’s decisions became clear about 7 p.m. Saturday, Dunn looked ahead solemnly with a frown but no tears. His lawyer, Cory Strolla, told reporters later that his client was “in disbelief.”

“Even as he sat next to me, he asked, how is this happening,” Strolla said. “… It has not set in. I don’t think it will set in anytime soon.”

The incomplete finale to this hot-button trial — emotionally charged partly because of the fact Dunn is white and the teenagers who were shot at, including Davis, are black — echoed George Zimmerman’s trial for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin about 120 miles down the road in Sanford, Florida. While the state’s “stand your ground” law wasn’t used by Dunn, his lawyers did argue that he fired in self-defense.

Given the partially hung jury, State Attorney Angela Corey said prosecutors would press for a new trial in Duval County on the murder charge.

“Justice for Jordan Davis is as important as it is for any victim,” said Corey, whose office also handled the Zimmerman case.

Even without a final decision on the murder count — and pending defense appeals — the 47-year-old Dunn is looking at a lengthy prison term.

Prosecutor Erin Wolfson explained Saturday night that each attempted second-degree murder conviction carries a minimum sentence of at least 20 years. There’s also a 15-year sentence possible on the conviction for shooting into the teenagers’ vehicle.

“You are looking basically at life in prison,” Strolla said, even as he vowed to challenge the convictions. “At 47 years old, that’s a life sentence regardless of count one.”

A CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, said in most cases prosecutors will take some time after a mistrial to reflect on the case before planning the next steps.

“If he winds up with 60 or 75 years in jail, from a pragmatic standpoint it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to retry the case,” he said Sunday, which would have been Davis’ 19th birthday. “On the other hand if you’re the parents of Jordan Davis and you believe, as well you should, that your son’s reputation has been besmirched by this self-defense claim, the family (might) want a retrial, and that’s something that a prosecutor has to consider carefully.

“Hopefully (Corey will) look carefully at the pluses and minuses of doing a retrial.”

The decision to convict on these counts, and not on murder, didn’t come easily for a jury that had deliberated for about 30 hours since getting the case late Wednesday.

Judge Russell Healey acknowledged earlier Saturday that the jury of four white women, two black women, four white men, an Asian woman and a Hispanic man was “struggling, obviously.”

“But it’s not for want of trying to reconcile all of this,” he said then. “I think we’ve got some analytical people in there who are trying to do just that — trying to analyze this from every possible angle.”

The lack of a murder conviction upset some, including protesters who marched outside the Jacksonville courthouse calling for Corey to lose her job. “The people united will never be defeated,” they chanted.

But Davis’ mother, Lucia McBath, didn’t express any anger when she addressed reporters Saturday night. Her family, she said, is “so very happy to have just a little bit of closure.”

“It’s sad for Mr. Dunn that he will live the rest of his life in that sense of torment, and I will pray for him,” McBath said. “And I’ve asked my family to pray for him.”

Confrontation at a gas station

It was November 23, 2012, when Michael Dunn pulled into a gas station in Jacksonville, parking next to a red Dodge Durango with four teenagers inside.

The teens had come in for gum and cigarettes; Dunn, meanwhile, had just left his son’s wedding with his fiancee, who’d gone inside the convenience store for wine and chips.

Dunn didn’t like the loud music — “rap crap,” as he called it — coming from the teens’ SUV. So he asked them to turn it down.

What followed next depends on whom you believe. Dunn says Davis threatened him, and he decided to take matters into his own hands upon seeing what he thought was the barrel of a gun sticking out of the Durango.

But prosecutors say it was Dunn who lost control, firing three volleys of shots — 10 bullets total — at the SUV over music he didn’t like.

Prosecutors challenged what he did next: He left the gas station and drove to his hotel, about three miles away. There, Dunn walked his dog, ordered a pizza, then drank rum and cola — “stunned and horrified, (shocked how) things escalated the way they did over a common courtesy.”

After learning almost six hours later that he had killed Davis, Dunn testified that he became “crazy with grief,” experiencing stomach problems for about four hours before taking a nap.

“My intent was to stop the attack, not necessarily end a life,” he testified. “It just worked out that way.”

Yet his fiancee, Rhonda Rouer, testified that Dunn had never mentioned any weapon to her — be it a shotgun, a stick, a barrel or a lead pipe.

In fact, police found a basketball, basketball shoes, clothing, a camera tripod and cups inside the teenagers’ Durango. There was no gun.

Dunn himself never called police. The first contact he had with them was at his home in Satellite Beach as he was being apprehended.

Arguing that he wasn’t in a rational state of mind, Dunn admitted, “It makes sense that I should have (contacted authorities). We didn’t. I can’t tell you why.”

Echoes of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman

Some people were quick to compare Dunn to Zimmerman, who ultimately was acquitted of murder for the shooting of Martin.

Martin’s own parents were among them, claiming Davis’ killing is another reminder that, in Florida, “racial profiling and stereotypes” may serve as the basis for illegitimate fear “and the shooting and killing of young teenagers.”

But Dunn’s defense attorney, Strolla, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Friday that the Zimmerman and Dunn cases aren’t so similar.

There was a physical confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin, and police gave Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt about defending himself, Strolla said.

“My client did not wait to become that victim,” he said. “My client did not wait to either get assaulted by a weapon or have someone potentially pull a trigger,” he said.

Though a weapon was never found, Strolla maintains the youths could have had one and somehow ditched it. He said the key point was that Dunn believed they were armed and that his life was in danger.

“Now, does it sound irrational? Of course it sounds irrational. But have you ever been in that situation?” the lawyer asked.

Strolla said Saturday the four convictions leave him with regret, even as he said he couldn’t immediately think of anything he’d do differently in the case.

At the same time, the prosecution didn’t manage a conviction on what was by far the biggest charge: first-degree murder.

This mixed bag means that no one can fully celebrate the jury’s decision.

“Everybody lost something in this,” the lawyer said.

His client “will live to fight another day” in court, but he and his loved ones are suffering now, Strolla said. He acknowledged, too, the pain felt by Davis’ family.

22 comments

  • airjackie

    The jury had a hard time in their decision as it turns out to be only attempted murder as no one was killed. Florida law sees the taking of a life differently when kids play loud music or walk have. Mr. Dunn was in fear of these black kids and their loud music. He express in a letter to him Mom from jail these people should learn how to act and stay in their place. Society felt the same way in the 30’s and 40’s as blacks could not look a white person in the eye, nor answer back accept saying yes sir or yes mam. Killing or raping a black was sport and entertainment. Many young black men have been killed by people who feel blacks are not human and really worth less then an animal.

  • Miou

    It is sad that we, humans who are gifted with the capacity to reason can think like Mr. Dunn. He expressed that these people should learn how to act and stay in their place. This based on what “race”. I guess the color of a man makes him superior or inferior. I really thought it was the character of an individual made the difference. I think Dunn should learn how to act and stay in his place. This guy should be ashamed to be counted as a human being. A beast like this needs to be put in cage. Well now, he will be placed in a cage for the rest of his life. When you see situation like this, you can bet that has to do with his upbringing. If he can express that in a letter to his mother, it means that she has never taught him to respect others or treat them well. Now he is paying price for his poor upbringing. Mr. and Mrs. Dunn, good job, your son is a decent member of society.

  • solari

    Perhaps he should have claimed the kid was carrying a bag of skittles? Yes, I hate (c)rap music too, and I do get annoyed when people teens and grownups both blast their trashy music until my head rings, my car shakes and I can’t hear my own music, but the only thing I ever wanted to shoot was the cd player…strange, a white man shoots an unarmed kid over playing loud music and he gets convicted..a spanish man shoots an unarmed kid in his own neighborhood carrying a bag of skittles and he gets a pat on the back and released..this is no longer florida..this is little mexico!!

  • Robert Strawick

    What is going on with this prosecutor in Florida, Angela Corey is over charging simply to throw cases, this case was clearly overcharged and that turned it from a six person jury to 12 person jury. Fortunately this time the people on the jury still convicted Michael Dunn with overwhelming evidence. Still the jury couldn’t convict on the murder charge which should have been 2nd degree murder. Angela Corey is clearly the wrong choice for top prosecutor for Florida. This is an elected position in Florida, they need to vote her out of office.

  • A. Dudley

    Those people don’t care about other human being’s ! That’s all their is to
    it ! Angela Corey the prosecutor don’t care , and we know that Michael
    Dunn nor his mother don’t care from what he told her in his letter . Which
    is why we must put our trust in GOD’S hands at all times , and teach our
    children to do the same ! For then we have a choice in life , that will led
    us away from such incident’s ………..

  • David Marks

    The “Loud Music Murder” trial’s bizarre result in a verdict of guilty on four counts of “attempted murder” raises only questions, as there remains the sad fact of a dead 17-year-old, Jordan Davis, whose wrongful death this verdict ignores.

    Does the killing of a young lad, at the hand of a cartoon bigot, apparently overcome by an attack of something akin to “road rage”, amount to only a footnote in the record of this trial?

    Was the shooter in any way justified in taking the life of this kid? If not, the offense is murder…attempted, and odiously carried out.

    Again, Florida justice has distinguished itself with all the seriousness and gravitas of a circus sideshow.

    If Michael Dunn had no lawful purpose in shooting Jordan Davis, he is by definition a murderer. How then was this jury permitted to sidestep the very definition of murder in rendering its verdict?

  • cherami

    1. The law can punish an intent even when effects are absent. If I break a man’s arm trying to kill him, I am accountable to more than the damages to his arm but also to my intentions to kill.
    2. Though strenuously possible to raise doubt on self defense for the first SEVEN shots, the last three fired on the fleeing car after a break in the shooting and having established and used a safe cover option cannot be given the same generosity.
    3. You have to treat all shots fired as having been fired with the same intention as the final three and he should be convicted on second degree murder. Though it is always possible, for at least the first few shots fired, to raise belief that the opposite party WAS GOING TO INITIATE lethal force if they hadn’t been stopped, the last three shots fired can’t be said to fit that defense. And the jury isn’t treating them as such assigning them as the rounds used to convict him of his attempted second degree murder charges.
    4. The killer’s waning spot in the shade is doubt that it could have been one of the seven more selfdefensey shots that killed the victim but I think that shouldn’t matter. If the killer was willing to fire bullets treated in the courts as attempted second degree murder in a case in which somebody was killed, any shots fired by the killer should be treated as attempted kill shots not in self defense. If only in a case where the other side never fired a bullet or brandished a weapon seen by anybody but the shooter.
    5. I’m all for self defense, I think it’s a much more fascinating topic than people give it credit no matter which side their on, and I’m hugely in favor of gun rights but I think even if this guy at any point rationally felt that the other side was going to initiate lethal force, he clearly fired with attempt to kill someone in retreat and did kill someone. He’s guilty of second degree murder.

  • greg

    can’t wait until black on black crime and daily killings get the same media headlines and outpouring from the black community.Why is it so much more important when a Mexican or white person kills a black person?Doesn’t seem equal to me and I thought thats what the fight was for.You had that years ago,now youre just being greedy

  • javon

    OK. I’m not heartless. I don’t like seeing a child killed. But this reverse racism has to stop. AND I’M BLACK!

  • Robo

    I think he had a good D until he (as I understood it) fired into the SUV when it was driving away.
    No weapon found in the SUV, bad choice of action. But hey, Mr. Dunn will have plenty of time to think that over when he is in the slammer.

  • Mario R

    Easy nice life, about to get married and all. Now he’s facing the rest of his life in prison. I’m sure there is more than enough brothers anxiously waiting to welcome him in his new home. He’ll stay in the county jail he’s been housed in until sentencing, then he’ll jump from kindergarten straight to the collegiate level where the big boys are, the Big House. Now his family will be visiting him there instead of the regular barbecue at home. One thing that’s forgotten with people incarcerated is their families go with them to prison in mind. Too bad, he doesn’t look like he was the type that had any priors, history of jail time, and neither his family I’m sure, but there is always a first for everything..

  • Peter

    Dunn definitely deserves to go to jail and he will, but two things strike me about this case. First, it is nothing like the Zimmerman – Martin case; there is no evidence, except for his work, that his life was in danger, and whether you believe it or not there was evidence that Zimmerman was actually getting beaten up by Martin (the stupidity of Florida’s law that allowed Zimmerman to put himself in danger and still cling to the “stand your ground” law is the real issue in that case). Second, why did they try to convict on first degree murder? A second degree murder charge, it would seem, would have been much easier to prove because they would not have had to prove that his actions were premeditated. In the end he was able to say that the situation just got out of control, hence no premeditation. Either way, the charges he was convicted of should keep him in jail for the rest of his life – good riddance.

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