Locals apply for seat at Dunn trial

Jury selection begins Monday in high-profile murder case

Author: Jim Piggott, General assignment reporter, jpiggott@wjxt.com
Published On: Jan 31 2014 03:07:09 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 31 2014 06:58:06 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Officials began accepting names Friday for a lottery to have the few public seats available in the Michael Dunn Trial, which begins Monday with jury selection.

Dunn is accused of shooting and killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis outside a Southside gas station in a dispute over loud music. Dunn is claiming self-defense.

The trial is gaining worldwide attention. More than two dozen signed up Friday for the lottery and hope to be able to see opening statements when they are given.

No one will be allowed inside for jury selection, but applicants say they want to watch what happens at the Duval County Courthouse because it's important and will be a historic trial.

"If the world is watching and I live here, surely I'm watching and I want to be involved," Jerry Garvin said. "I would like to hear and see the process."

One of those who hopes to attend is John Guns, the head of the group Save Our Sons. Guns said he wants to attend not for himself, but to send a message to the pubic and to young boys and fathers he mentors.

Guns, who's a pastor, believes this trial will be a lesson everyone can learn from.

"I think one is how we perceive each other," he said. "I think sometimes these kinds of moments in our history is a statement of perceptions, but it's also a statement of deep-seeded that we have to expose. Then, as a community, as a city and a nation, so we work that this does not continue to happen."

The Dunn trial is expected to raise many racial issues, and observers say it will question stereotypes about loud rap music, groups of teenagers and the fear it raises in some people.

Guns said that is something people have to learn to deal with.

"At the end of the day, we cannot keep living with the perception that someone is a threat to me just because they dress a certain way or listen to a certain type of music," he said. "And in the end, we must all learn in regards to respect to relate to each other in a healthy and functional way."

Those signing up to try to get a seat for the trial won't know until the night before if they will be allowed inside the courtroom.

"I signed up for every day," said Altea Aleston-Touris. "I am going to adjust my calendar if I can. So this is something new to us. We try to make sure that there are support teams for this family, but more importantly for the public."

There will be lots of security on hand, and on the outside it won't look like a normal case. But Jacksonville attorney Gene Nichols said inside the courtroom should be normal.

"It's no different than any other criminal case, except that this one has been in the press for so long and there is so much going on outside, both parties want to make sure they pick a jury that is fair and impartial to Mr. Dunn and to the state of Florida, and that process is going to probably take several days," Nichols said.

Overall, the trial should take about two weeks. It could take a week or less to pick a jury, and testimony could last three to four days. Once that is over and the jury has the case, no one knows how long it will take them to come back with a verdict.