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Mistrial On Murder Charge In Florida Gas Station Shooting

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
February 15, 2014

A mistrial was declared on Saturday in the first-degree murder charge of Michael Dunn after a Florida jury failed to come to an agreement. The jury did find Dunn guilty on four lesser charges including three counts of attempted second-degree murder in the 2012 killing of a teenager in a Jacksonville gas station parking lot.

Police say Dunn shot and killed Jordan Davis, 17, after an argument broke out over loud music coming from Davis’ car. Dunn had claimed he acted after being threatened.

The 12-member jury had several options in rendering its verdict, ranging from manslaughter to first-degree murder. They also had the option of finding that he was guilty of some crimes, and not of others, which is what happened in the end.

The case’s racial aspect — Dunn is white; Davis was black — has helped fuel interest in the case, particularly as the verdict comes roughly six months after neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

With the jury holding more than 19 hours of deliberations over several days, a growing crowd of protesters gathered outside the courthouse Friday in anticipation of a verdict.

As public broadcaster WJCT reports, those present included members of the New Black Panther Party and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, along with individuals such as Jaterra Lewis and her mother. The 14-year-old held a sign saying, “I could be next.”

Here’s how the shooting in November 2012 were recounted in court, as NPR’s Greg Allen reported:

“It was in 2012, the day after Thanksgiving, that Davis, 17, and three friends stopped at a gas station and convenience store in Jacksonville. They were in an SUV and were playing their music — loud.

“Dunn and his girlfriend pulled into the parking space next to them. Dunn, 47, asked them to turn down their music, and at first they did. But then, they turned it back up. And prosecutor John Guy said Davis and Dunn began — in his words — ‘jawing at each other.’

“‘The defendant rolled down his window again and said, “Are you talking to me?” And Jordan Davis looked at him and said, “Yeah, I’m talking to you,” Guy told the court. “And then [Dunn] said, ‘You’re not going to talk to me like that.’

“That’s when Dunn took a gun from his glove box and fired three shots into Davis’ car door. All three hit Davis, killing him.”

Dunn’s defense attorney have said he acted only after being directly threatened by Davis — attorney Cory Strolla told jurors that Davis told Dunn, “I’m going to f – - – ing kill you. I should kill you right now.”

As Greg notes, the idea of a threat is particularly relevant in this case, as it’s one of the requirements to determine if someone has acted in a justifiable manner in taking a life under Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense law.

The shooting occurred shortly after Dunn left his son’s wedding. As CNN reported earlier this month, Dunn acknowledged to police that he’d had two drinks – and that after the shooting, he and his girlfriend left the scene without contacting the authorities.

The pair drove to a bed and breakfast, “where they checked into their room and ordered pizza but didn’t call police,” CNN reports Dunn telling police.

The jury’s long deliberations have included several requests to inspect evidence in the case, including surveillance video filmed at the gas station. But the jury was quiet Friday, presumably debating the case.

“Thursday’s deliberations were peppered with questions from the jury,” WJCT reports, “made up of four white women, four white men, two black women, one Hispanic man and one Asian woman.” [Copyright 2014 NPR]

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