After Michael Dunn tells jury he feared for his life, defense rests

By Vic Micolucci, General assignment reporter, vic@wjxt.com
Tim Pulliam, General assignment reporter, tpulliam@wjxt.com
Hailey Winslow, General assignment reporter, hwinslow@wjxt.com
News4Jax.com Staff, webteam@wjxt.com
Published On: Feb 11 2014 07:28:57 AM EST
Updated On: Feb 11 2014 10:26:09 PM EST

VIDEO: Michael Dunn takes the stand in the final day of testimony. Dunn is charged in the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis at a southside gas station.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Michael Dunn testified Tuesday, telling the jury hearing his first-degree murder trial that he saw a teenager in the SUV parked next to him slam what looked like a shotgun against the door, then threaten to kill him.

Dunn was at times emotional as he recounted the confrontation, shooting and aftermath. After more than three and a half hours consistently testifying that he shot into the SUV in self-defense, his attorney rested their case.

"I'm going to f***ing kill you," Dunn said he heard the teenager yell at him over the loud music coming from the SUV parked next to him. He said that even though he feared for his life, he did not initially reach for the 9mm handgun he had in his glove compartment.

But he said the threats kept coming, quoting the boy as saying, "This s*** is going down now."

"Not having any doubt at all between his threats and his actions that it was a gun ... this was a clear and present danger," Dunn said he was thinking when he made the decision to pull out the handgun he has had since the early 1990s.

IMAGES: Tuesday in trial

"I grabbed the gun and cocked and pointed it to my left," Dunn said. "I said, 'You're not going to kill me you son of a b****,' and I shot."

He said he could not remember how many times he fired his gun -- pointing, not aiming at his "target" in the back seat of the SUV. He said he had "tunnel vision" and didn't initially realize the vehicle was moving.

"I know they've got one weapon and at least three, four potential shooters," Dunn said, adding he stopped shooting when they were far enough away they no longer posed a threat.

Blog/Tweets From Courthouse

 

Dunn said he was still panicked, "shaking like a leaf," and asked his fiancée to get in the car so they could "get to safety."

He said once they got back to the hotel, walked their dog and ordered a pizza, he remained "stunned and horrified" at what had happened. They went to bed around midnight, but he couldn't fall asleep. He said when he learned in a news story on his phone about 1 a.m. that there was a fatality in the shooting on Southside Boulevard, he went into the bathroom and threw up.

Guided by defense attorney Cory Strolla, Dunn described the drive back to his Brevard County home the next morning. He had placed a call to a friend who was a federal law enforcement officer to get advice about how to turn himself in.

Dunn had the most compelling testimony of the murder trial in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

After nearly 90 minutes of testimony, Assistant State Attorney John Guy began cross-examination. Dunn said Davis was outside the SUV when he began firing, "at least his feet were outside" as the teenager was diving back inside the vehicle. Guy accused him of lying, contradicting some of the information he gave to Brevard County deputies the day he was arrested.

Dunn said that having only two hours of sleep, he "mischaracterized" some of the information he gave to police that day.

Dunn admitted he didn't like rap music, and said he asked for a common courtesy when he asked them nicely to turn it down, which initially they did; but then it became "painfully" loud.

"It was Jordan Davis that kept escalating it to the point I had to defend myself; it was life or death," Dunn said. 

Guy said to Dunn: "You were being disrespected by a mouthy teenager, weren't you?"

Dunn replied: "Yes, I was."

Later, asked about how many shots he fired, Dunn said: "I consciously pulled the trigger once. Everything after that was panic. I was in shear terror."

When asked why he didn't call 911 from the store after the SUV pulled away or from the safety of the hotel, where they spent the night, Dunn said he did call police once he got back to Brevard County.

"Whether I called police that night or the next morning didn't seem, you know, it wasn't going to change it from self-defense to anything else," Dunn told the prosecutor.

During cross-examination, Guy challenged Dunn's assertion that he had told his fiancée after the shooting that he thought one of the teens had a gun.

"You never told the love of your life that those guys had a gun," Guy said. "Did you?"

Guy also questioned why Dunn didn't call Jacksonville police right after the incident.

Dunn told jurors his plan was to call police when he returned home to Brevard County with his fiancée and dog Charlie.

"You killed a 17-year-old boy," Guy said. "And it didn't matter to you? You we're concerned about Charlie?"

Dunn replied to Guy, "I was concerned about Rhonda."

Later in the day, the prosecution recalled Rhonda Rouer to ask her when Dunn first mentioned that he saw a gun in the SUV. She said it was the next day, after Dunn took a phone call from a friend.

During nearly three hours on the stand, Dunn never strayed from his claim of self-defense. During a short redirect near the end of the day, Strolla asked, "Were you shooting only to defend yourself?"

Dunn's reply: "Yes, I was."

After the state recalled a homicide detective and played a portion of the video of Dunn's interview at the Brevard County Sheriff's Office the day after the shooting, the prosecution ended its case.

Attorneys who have been analyzing this case say Dunn's testimony was well-prepared and compelling.

"I would probably rate him (Dunn) about a six out of ten," said attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters.

She continued, "He definitely laid the foundation of what's necessary for self-defense, and all he had to do is establish that his own perception is that some great bodily harm or death was about to come upon and that it was reasonable. It need not be actual."

As for attorneys handling the case, State Prosecutor Angela Corey started and finished strong with the help of two state attorneys. 

Attorney Randy Reep says Defense Attorney Corey Strolla's performance was the biggest surprise. 

"The wild card was Strolla who also did a fantastic job, and I don't think that was expected," said Reep. "I think he kept Dunn in the game with his good cross-examination early on, and I think he gave Dunn a good platform early on.  

About 4:40 p.m., Judge Russell Healey told the jury that closing arguments would begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday, then dismissed the jury for the night.

Healey and attorneys for both sides remained in the courtroom to discuss pending motions and to discuss the language that would be used in jury instructions, including possible lesser charges and Florida's justifiable homicide statutes.

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