AFRICANGLOBE – A trial that put race relations, Florida’s gun laws and Jacksonville in the national spotlight ended Saturday night with a verdict that appeared to please no one.
Jurors deadlocked on whether Michael David Dunn, 47, murdered 17-year-old Jordan Davis or shot him in self-defense. Judge Russell Healey declared a mistrial on the murder charge.
Jurors did convict Dunn of the second-degree attempted murders of Tevin Thompson, Leland Brunson and Tommie Stornes, and also convicted him of a fourth count of firing bullets into the vehicle all four teenagers were in.
Now facing prison for what likely would be the rest of his life, Dunn showed little emotion, but looked back at his family as he was being led out of the courtroom.
State Attorney Angela Corey said she would consult with the Davis family, but plans to retry Dunn for Davis’ murder and would pursue a first-degree murder charge — which requires prosecutors to prove premeditation. Dunn’s attorney said he would appeal.
Months after the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin miscarriage of justice made Corey a national figure, she returned to the spotlight by personally prosecuting another case where the murderer was a White male and the victim was a Black child.
Corey rejected suggestions she overcharged Dunn, a criticism that also was leveled against her office after Zimmerman’s acquittal. Prosecutors sought first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder charges against Dunn, but the jury deadlocked on the murder charge and dropped the attempted murder charges to second-degree before convicting him.
Protesters outside the courthouse loudly criticized Corey, saying the prosecution was lackluster and Corey had to go. The protesters later marched from the courthouse to the offices of the State Attorney.
Supporters of both the murderer Dunn and the child victim Davis appeared crestfallen after the verdict, with the parents of both men fighting back tears. Ron Davis, father of Jordan, held his wife and cried while leaving the courtroom.
“It’s my nature to lash out, but I have to hold all of that in for Jordan,” Davis said after the verdict was announced.
Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis, said she was grateful for some closure.
“We will continue to stand, and continue to wait for justice for Jordan,” McBath said.
Lawyers for Thompson, Brunson and Stornes said their clients would have no comment.
Ken Adkins, pastor of Greater Dimension Christian Fellowship in Brunswick, Ga., said the prosecution never let jurors get to know Jordan Davis.
“Jordan was a good kid,” Davis said. “A lot wasn’t allowed to be said in the courtroom, but he was a good kid.”
Corey said her office would make changes when it retried Dunn, but she isn’t sure what those changes would be.
She hopes to speak to jurors to understand why the deadlock occurred.
Jurors deliberated for 32 hours over the testimony and other evidence related to the November 2012 shooting that killed Davis in a dispute over loud music. No one at court Saturday could remember a verdict that took as long.
Jurors appeared exhausted, with several near tears at the end of the day on Friday when they first indicated a verdict might not be coming. But the jurors appeared somewhat refreshed Saturday and showed little emotion when the verdict was read.
Court officials said none of the jurors wanted to be interviewed after the verdict was announced. Healey has kept the names of the jurors confidential and has not said when those names will be released.
After the jury departed, Healey ordered a pre-sentence investigation. Dunn is now scheduled to have a sentencing hearing the week of March 24. He faces a potential 105 years in prison on the four convictions, and under Florida’s minimum mandatory laws must be sentenced to at least 60 years.
Defense attorney Cory Strolla conceded that 60 years was essentially a life sentence for someone Dunn’s age. Strolla said his client expected to be exonerated, and was in shock over his conviction.
“I basically told him to stay strong,” he said, “and we’re still going to fight.”
Strolla said he was disappointed by the decision, but said he would not critique a jury that worked hard.
Dunn was arrested in November 2012 the day after he fired 10 shots into the vehicle Jordan Davis was in with three friends. Jordan Davis died at the scene while the other three teenagers were not hurt.
According to police and court documents, Davis and Dunn argued over the loud music in the boys’ Dodge Durango. Dunn had pulled his Volkswagen Jetta into a Gate gas station next to the Durango while his fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, went into the convenience store to purchase a bottle of wine and some chips.
Dunn asked the teenagers to turn down their thumping rap music. Thompson, who was in the front seat of the Durango, complied.
But Davis cursed and told Thompson to turn the music back up.
An argument allegedly ensued, and Dunn testified Davis threatened to kill him and had a shotgun. He said Davis was getting out of the car to kill him when he defended himself with his own gun from his glove compartment.
The other teens in the SUV and several witnesses in the parking lot said Davis never got out and didn’t have a gun. They said Davis cursed at Dunn but never threatened him.
One witness in the parking lot said Dunn screamed, “You can’t talk to me like that” before pulling out his gun and firing it at the Durango. Dunn testified he said, “You’re not going to kill me.”
After Dunn opened fire, Tommie Stornes backed the Durango up and fled into a connected plaza parking lot to get away. Dunn continued to fire, hitting the back of the Durango with three shots.
After about three minutes and realizing Jordan Davis had been shot, the teenagers returned to the Gate and 911 was called.
Dunn fled the scene and didn’t tell his story to police until the next day when he was arrested.
Dunn and Rouer, who were in town for the wedding of Dunn’s son, fled to their nearby hotel where they ordered pizza and made themselves drinks.
The next morning they drove back to their home in Brevard County after learning that Jordan Davis had died. A witness had gotten Dunn’s license plate tag, leading police to arrest him.
Rouer testified during the trial that Dunn never told her that Davis was armed after the shooting occurred. Dunn said he did but Rouer was so hysterical she forgot.
Rouer referred to Dunn as her fiance on the stand, but Strolla said he didn’t know if the two were still planning to marry. He also didn’t know how much Rouer’s testimony hurt his client.
“There was no winner,” Strolla said. “Everybody lost something in this.”
By: Larry Hannan