Fla. Man Guilty Of Lesser Charges In 'Loud Music' Murder Case

Feb 16, 2014
Originally published on February 18, 2014 1:18 pm
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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

In Jacksonville, Fla., a murder case revolving around issues of race and the right to self-defense ended last night with mixed results. Michael Dunn was accused of shooting and killing teenager Jordan Davis outside a convenience store in a dispute over loud music. The jury couldn't agree on the murder charge, but found Dunn guilty on four other counts.

NPR's Greg Allen has more in this story, which - we should say - includes some strong language.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: The shooting took place in Jacksonville, in November of 2012. Dunn, who's white, pulled into a convenience store and parked next to an SUV containing Jordan Davis and three other African-American teenagers. Dunn asked them to turn down their loud music and at first, they did. But then they turned it back up. And Dunn began exchanging words with Jordan Davis, who was in the SUV's back seat.

Dunn told the jury Davis threatened him. He said he saw him raise a weapon - a shotgun - and then begin getting out of the car.

MICHAEL DUNN: Well, he said he was going to f-ing kill me. But after he opened the door, then he looked at me and said: You're dead, bitch.

ALLEN: No other witnesses saw Davis get out of the car. Police say there was no evidence Davis had a weapon. But that's when Dunn pulled out his 9 mm handgun and fired three shots into the SUV, killing Davis. He said he was acting in self-defense, and in fear for his life. Enough jurors believed Dunn's version of the incident that the panel deadlocked and was unable to reach a verdict on the murder charge.

The jury did find Dunn guilty on three counts of attempted murder of the three others in the SUV; also guilty on the charge of shooting into a vehicle. Combined, those counts mean Dunn is likely facing at least a 75-year prison sentence.

After the verdict, Davis' mother, Lucia McBath, said she was grateful for the truth and that jurors, in her words, saw common sense.

LUCIA MCBATH: And we will continue to stand. And we will continue to wait for justice for Jordan.

ALLEN: Outside the courthouse, during the two weeks of the trial, a group of protesters gathered daily, sometimes chanting those words: Justice for Jordan. Yesterday, after the verdict, many said they were unhappy with the mistrial on the murder count, and some were critical of state attorney Angela Corey. Corey is the state attorney who prosecuted George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, a trial that ended with Zimmerman's acquittal.

After the verdict, despite the mistrial, Corey was unapologetic. Dunn is facing an effective life sentence for his convictions on the other counts. Even so, Corey said, she intended to seek to retry him on the murder charge. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: We did not properly set up and identify a sound clip of Michael Dunn's defense attorney, Cory Strolla, reacting to the verdict. This introduction was omitted: "Dunn's lawyer, Cory Strolla, said he was extremely disappointed with the verdict. Because Dunn is indigent, Strolla said he didn't know how long he'll continue to serve as his attorney. But under Florida's law on justifiable use of deadly force - sometimes called Stand Your Ground - Strolla said Dunn may have grounds for an appeal."]

CORY STROLLA: If a jury would have decided self-defense was an issue with count one, Mr. Davis, it would have applied to every single person in that car. So that may be an issue we have to look at.

ALLEN: The mixed verdict left both sides dissatisfied and with many questions. As the jury deliberated yesterday, Judge Russell Healey had what may be the best explanation. After firing the shots that killed Davis, Dunn continued to shoot at the SUV as it pulled away. After a question from the jury, Judge Healey said it appeared that with those shots, the panel believed Dunn may have gone beyond the limits of Florida's self-defense law, shooting at people who no longer posed a threat.

Greg Allen, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.