Florida jurors back to deliberate in loud-music murder trial
By Eliott C. McLaughlin and Faith Karimi
(CNN) — The jury weighing the fate of a white Florida man accused of killing a black teen during an argument over loud music could make a decision Friday in the much-watched case.
The jury was scheduled to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. ET Friday.
Jurors are considering evidence in the case against Michael Dunn, who says he acted in self-defense when he opened fire on four teenagers in an SUV in Jacksonville in November 2012.
Prosecutors contend it was an act of murder. Dunn has been charged with first-degree murder in the killing of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. He also has been charged with three counts of attempted murder. If Dunn is found guilty, he faces up to life in prison.
A “comprehensive public safety plan” has been established ahead of a verdict in the case, according to the Duval County joint information center handling the Dunn trial. The case has drawn parallels to the trial of George Zimmerman in the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin, which also had racial overtones and claims of self-defense.
“All contingencies have been planned for,” the Duval County statement said. “We will not discuss the specifics of any security plan. We will continue to protect the rights of those who choose to peaceably demonstrate.”
Defense attorney Cory Strolla told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Friday the Zimmerman and Dunn cases aren’t so similar in his mind.
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; my client did not wait to either get assaulted by a weapon or have someone potentially pull a trigger,” he said.
Unlike the Zimmerman case, police rushed to charge Dunn with murder, the defense attorney said.
“They already made up their mind before they even had the evidence basically looked at and put together,” he said.
Even though a weapon was never found, Strolla maintains the youths could have had one. Dunn felt threatened and acted to defend himself, he said.
“Now, does it sound irrational? Of course it sounds irrational. But have you ever been in that situation?” Strolla said.
Jurors on Thursday asked to see surveillance video from the gas station where Dunn shot Davis.
The video contains 20 minutes of footage from multiple angles, though a shorter version showing only one angle was slated to be shown in court.
The jurors posed another question later Thursday: “Can we get that dummy with the sticks?” — a reference to a flexible mannequin and three dowels used to demonstrate the angles of the bullets as they entered Davis’ body.
Judge Russell Healey said he’d grant the request if both the prosecution and defense agreed, but after examining the dummy, Strolla said he felt the dowels in the body had been repositioned and objected to the jury seeing it again.
In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors said inconsistencies between Dunn’s words and actions undermined his assertion he acted in self-defense when he fatally shot the teen.
His attorney countered the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt his client was guilty. He pleaded with jurors to find Dunn not guilty.
In testimony Tuesday, Dunn said he fired in self-defense after the teen threatened him with a gun.
“My intent was to stop the attack, not necessarily end a life,” he said. “It just worked out that way.”
‘There was no gun’
But Assistant State Attorney Erin Wolfson said Wednesday that Dunn’s claims don’t add up.
She noted that Dunn fired 10 shots at the SUV, three of them while the car was fleeing.
He never took cover — but instead opened his car door — even though he would later tell detectives he had seen a weapon, she said.
“There was no gun,” Wolfson told jurors.
In addition, she said, he did not tell his fiancee, Rhonda Rouer, that he had seen a weapon until more than a month later.
Dunn also left the scene of the shooting, went back to a hotel where they were staying and walked his dog, she said.
And he returned the next day to his house — more than two hours away — all without calling 911, Wolfson said.
“This defendant didn’t tell anyone because he thought he had gotten away with murder,” she said, adding that Dunn had no idea a witness had taken down his tag number.
Dunn has testified he described the music to his fiancee as “rap crap.”
In the parking lot, as the music blared, “his blood started to boil; he didn’t like the music that was coming out of the car next to him; he got angrier and angrier,” Wolfson said.
Dunn rolled down his window and asked the youths to turn it down, which they did, but then turned it back up, Wolfson said.
“He got angry at the fact that a 17-year-old kid decided not to listen to him,” she said, adding that Dunn then pulled a 9 mm gun out of his glove box and shot “systematically and methodically” at the SUV. “Nobody denied that Jordan was talking back. But this defendant took it upon himself to silence Jordan Davis forever.”
Dunn testified Tuesday that he saw Davis reach down and pick something up, and that he saw about “4 inches of a barrel” from a 12- or 20-gauge shotgun above the window.
‘You’re not going to kill me’
He muttered aloud to himself, ” ‘You’re not going to kill me, you son of a bitch,’ ” as he opened the glove compartment, grabbed his pistol, dropped the holster at his feet, chambered a round and began firing, he said.
Nine of the 10 rounds hit the car, and three of them struck Davis, one of them cutting through his liver, his lung and his aorta.
Wolfson rejected Dunn’s assertion he had been trying to de-escalate the situation and he feared for his life.
Strolla, the defense attorney, noted that no witnesses had accused Dunn of using any hate words and testified that his client had just come from a wedding, where his ex-wife said he had appeared to be in a good mood.
Strolla noted that the SUV departed the gas station after the shooting and was gone for three minutes before it returned, enough time for the youths to have dumped a gun.
Detectives did not search the area for days after the shooting, he said.
Strolla cited testimony from another passenger in the car with Davis who acknowledged he may not have heard all the conversation between the two men.
‘You have reasonable doubt’
Witnesses testified that child locks on the SUV were engaged, and that Davis — who was seated in the rear — could not have gotten out of the back seat to threaten Dunn. But Strolla said the teen could simply have opened the door by putting his hand out the window, which was open.
“You have lack of evidence, conflicts of evidence and reasonable doubt,” he told the jurors.
On rebuttal, Assistant State Attorney John Guy appealed to the jurors’ “common sense.”
“That defendant didn’t shoot into a car full of kids to save his life,” he said. “He shot into it to preserve his pride. Period. That’s why we’re here.”
Though Davis may have had a big mouth, he had no weapon, Guy said. Though he acknowledged minor inconsistencies in witness accounts, he said that was to be expected. “It’s not like television,” he said. “In real life, there are inconsistencies.”
The court has decided not to release the identifications of the jurors, fearing they could be the subject of threats, but a document obtained by CNN affiliate WTLV-TV in Jacksonville showed the makeup of the jury.
It has four white females, two black females, four white males, an Asian female and a Hispanic male, plus four alternates.
CNN’s Tom Watkins and John Couwels contributed to this report.
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