Michael Dunn found guilty, but not of murder
Updated On: Feb 16 2014 10:42:26 AM EST
Fifteen months after 17-year-old Jordan Davis was shot and killed, a two-week trial of the Brevard County man who fired the shots ended in guilty verdicts that could send Michael Dunn to prison for the rest of his life, but which left some in the community feeling he got away with murder.
Dunn, a 47-year-old software developer, was convicted Saturday night of attempted murder for shooting into a car full of teenagers after an argument over loud rap music, but jurors couldn't agree on the most serious charge of first-degree murder. A mistrial was declared on the murder charge.
The jury deliberated for 30 hours over four days -- asking several questions that indicated they were struggling with the murder charge against Dunn -- before handing in the verdicts just before 7 p.m. Saturday.
Dunn showed no emotion as the verdicts were read. Each attempted second-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, while the fourth charge he was convicted on -- shooting into an occupied vehicle -- carries a maximum of 15. A sentencing date will be set next month.
"It's been a long, long road, and we're so very happy to have just a little bit of closure," Lucia McBath, Davis' mother, said after the trial.
Defense attorney Cory Strolla acknowledged that there were no winners.
"Everyone lost something. Everyone will be grieving because of what happened here tonight," Strolla said.
State Attorney Angela Corey said her office -- which was closely watched after her prosecutors failed to convict George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin -- will likely retry Dunn on a first-degree murder charge.
"Ten times out of 10, when someone fires 10 shots into a car of unarmed teenagers, we will file first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder," Corey said. "As far as we're concerned. we intend to retry him -- retry Michael Dunn. We fully intend to push for a trial right here in Jacksonville in Duval County, Florida."
After the verdict, about three dozen demonstrators marched to Corey's office chanting "Justice for Jordan" and "Angela Corey's got to go." They submitted letters asking for her resignation before peacefully dispersing.
Many in the black community were trying to use this trial to have a larger conversation about how society treats young black men.
"Playing music should never be an issue," said Pastor John Guns of St. Paul Church of Jacksonville. "This is bigger than one young man. Not just for for Jordan and Trayvon, but every young man. This has to change."
On Sunday, friends and family of Davis were expected to gather on what would have been his 19th birthday.
"It wasn't allowed to be said in the courtroom, but he was a good kid," said Jordan Davis' father, Ron, after the verdict was announced. "There's a lot of good kids out there, a lot of good nephews, a lot of good grandsons, granddaughters, nieces, and they should have a voice that they shouldn't live in fear and walk around the streets worrying about if somebody has a problem with somebody else, that if they get shot it's just collateral damage."
Jury struggled reaching verdict
Earlier in the day, the panel said in a note to Judge Russell Healey that they couldn't agree on the murder charge. They also had the option of convicting him of second-degree murder or manslaughter. The judge asked them to continue their work, and they deliberated for two more hours before returning with a verdict.
"I've never seen a case where deliberations have gone on for this length of time," Healey said afterward, praising the jurors. "They've embraced their civic duty, and they are to be commended for that."
"We are so grateful for the truth," McBath said. "We are so grateful that the jurors were able to understand the common sense of it all."
Jurors declined to talk to the media.
Dunn was returned to jail to await sentencing.
"If he's given 60 years in prison and none of the charges are overturned on appeal, you are looking at basically life in prison," Strolla said.
Strolla said he plans to appeal based on several issues, including how the jury could reach guilty verdicts on four counts and deadlock on another.
Jurors heard testimony that Dunn, who has a concealed weapons permit, fired 10 shots, hitting the SUV nine times. Davis was the only person hit.
Dunn, in claiming self-defense, testified that he thought he saw a firearm pointed at him from the boys' SUV as the argument escalated, but police testified that no weapon was found in the vehicle. Dunn also told jurors he feared for his life, perceiving "this was a clear and present danger."
Prosecutors contended that Dunn opened fire because he felt disrespected by Davis. The teen made his friend turn the music back up after they initially turned it down at Dunn's request. Dunn was parked in the spot next to the SUV outside the convenience store.
According to authorities, Dunn became enraged about the music and ensuing argument. One person walking out of the convenience store said he heard Dunn say, "You are not going to talk to me like that."
Dunn testified he heard someone in the SUV shouting expletives and the word "cracker," which is a derogatory term for white people.
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