Dunn guilty of 3 counts of attempted murder; mistrial on murder charge
Decision comes on 4th day of deliberations; trial lasted 2 weeks
Michael Dunn was found guilty Saturday evening of three counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of firing into an occupied vehicle. But with the jury deadlocked on the first-degree murder charge, that count ended in a mistrial.
The jury reached the verdict after 30 hours of deliberations over four days after the trial of Dunn, who shot and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis while shooting into an SUV carrying four teenagers outside a Gate convenience store in a dispute over loud music.
Dunn showed no emotion as the verdicts were read.
Davis' parents each left the courtroom in tears, and afterward his mother, Lucia McBath, expressed gratitude for the verdict. Sunday would have been the teen's 19th birthday.
"It's been a long, long road, and we're so very happy to have just a little bit of closure," Lucia McBath, Davis' mother, said after the trial. "It's sad for Mr. Dunn that he will live the rest of his life in that sense of torment, and I will pray for him and I've asked my family to pray for him. But we are so grateful for the charges that have been brought against him. We are so grateful for the truth. We are so grateful that the jurors are able to understand the common sense of it all, and we will continue to stand, we will continue to wait for justice for Jordan."
Ron Davis, Jordan's father, said it's been about 450 days since he, McBath and their supporters have stood strong.
"I believe we've stood strong in the eyes of not only Jacksonville, not only Florida, not only the nation, but the world is looking at all of us here in Jacksonville," Davis said.
He said he has to hold in his inflammatory statements because he thinks his son deserves the best representation he could've gotten from his parents.
"It wasn't allowed to be said in the courtroom, but he was a good kid," Davis said. "There's a lot of good kids out there, a lot of good nephews, a lot of good grandsons, granddaughters, nieces, and they should have a voice that they shouldn't live in fear and walk around the streets worrying about if somebody has a problem with somebody else, that if they get shot it's just collateral damage."
Davis said Dunn will learn that he must be remorseful for the killing of his son.
"My son will never be just another day at the office where I can leave the scene and be stoic," Davis said.
UNCUT: Verdict announced | Davis family speaks after verdict
Earlier in the day, jurors said in a note to Judge Russell L. Healey that they were having trouble reaching agreement on the murder charge. He asked them to continue their work, and they went back to the deliberation room for two more hours.
"I've never seen a case where deliberations have gone on for this length of time ..." Healey said after the verdict. "They've embraced their civic duty and they are to be commended for that."
In a post-trial news conference, prosecutors said the attempted murder counts carry 20 to 30 years in prison each. The fifth count carries up to 15 years in prison. A sentencing hearing date is set for March 24.
Responding to criticism that she over-charged Dunn by accusing him of first-degree murder, State Attorney Angela Corey stands behind the decision to ask for first-degree murder.
"Ten times out of 10, when someone fires 10 shots into a car of unarmed teenagers, we will file first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder," Corey said. "As far as we're concerned we intend to retry him -- retry Michael Dunn. We fully intend to push for a trial right here in Jacksonville in Duval County, Fla."
Corey said she was proud of her office and prosecutors John Guy and Erin Wolfson, along with the investigation done by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office in this case. She said her office is always dedicated to seeking justice for victims.
"Tomorrow would've been Jordan's 19th birthday," Corey said. "(His family) will spend that, I'm sure, wondering a little bit about this verdict, but as they told you, grateful for the justice that was served and the justice that is yet to be served."
Defense attorney Cory Strolla also addressed the media after the verdicts were announced.
"We agree with Ron Davis on this point, there were no winners," he said. "Everyone lost something. Everyone will be grieving because of what happened here tonight."
Strolla said what may be an issue on appeal is the fact that the jury was not allowed to consider that if they found cause for self-defense on the murder charge, it could have been applied to all the charges.
"If he's given 60 years in prison and none of the charges are overturned on appeal, you are looking at basically life in prison," Strolla said.
Dunn claimed self-defense in the Nov. 23, 2012, Black Friday shooting, saying he saw what appeared to be the barrel of a shotgun after being threatened by Davis.
The shooting happened after Dunn asked the teens to turn down the loud music coming from their SUV. He fired 10 shots, three of which struck Davis, who died at the scene.
Dunn and his fiancée had stopped at the store at Southside Boulevard and Baymeadows Road to get a bottle of wine before going to their hotel after attending Dunn's son's wedding.
The teens were on their way to the Avenues Mall to go "girl shopping" and had stopped for the driver, Tommie Stornes, to buy cigarettes.
Following the shooting, Dunn and his fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, drove back to their hotel. They ordered a pizza, each testifying that Rouer didn't feel well because of what happened and it may be best if she ate something. They stayed at the hotel overnight and the next morning saw from news reports that a teen had died in the shooting.
The two then headed back to their home in Satellite Beach, and Dunn testified he called a friend who was a federal law enforcement officer to get advice about how to turn himself in. He was later arrested at his home.
At the scene of the shooting, the teens' SUV left the gas station after the gunfire and pulled into a connecting plaza. Three minutes later, they returned to the gas station, saying they were looking for help for Davis.
Dunn's defense attorney, Cory Strolla, said during the trial that three minutes was long enough for the teens to get rid of a weapon. He pointed out that police did not search that area until four days later.
The trial has gained national attention, especially in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial, in which he was acquitted of murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, also a black teenager. State Attorney Angela Corey, the prosecutor in the Dunn trial, was the special prosecutor assigned to that case.
Demonstrators have remained outside the Duval County Courthouse every day since the Dunn trial began Feb. 3.
After being given the Allen charge Saturday afternoon because the jury said it was deadlocked on a count one of first-degree murder or any of the lesser included charges, jurors in the Michael Dunn trial asked the judge another question at about 6:20 p.m.
"We have reviewed the weaknesses of our position and have more to talk about," the question read. "If we are unable to agree and reach a verdict, is the entire case mistried or is the single count mistried?"
"Only the single count is mistried. Not the entire case," the judge answered. "If you've reached a verdict on the other counts, they stand."
Earlier in the afternoon, the jury said it had reached a verdict on four of the five counts against Dunn, but was unable to reach a unanimous decision on count one of first-degree murder or any of the lesser included charges.
The judge gave the jury the Allen charge, which urges them to come up with a verdict and gives them additional time to deliberate.
Less than an hour after the jury began its deliberations Saturday morning, the jurors sent out three questions:
- Is the defense of self-defense separate for each person in each count? Judge Russell Healey answered "Yes."
- Are we determining if deadly force is justified against each person in each count? Judge: "Yes."
- If we determine deadly force is justified against one person, is it justified against the others. Judge: "No. Self-defense and justifiable use of deadly force applies separately to each count."
Dunn and defense attorney Cory Strolla objected to the way the judge answered the last count, but that the judge overruled and gave that instruction to the jury and it was sent back into deliberations just after 10 a.m.
The 12 sequestered jurors returned to the courthouse just after 9 a.m. Saturday to discuss whether Dunn is guilty of five different charges for firing 10 shots into an SUV full of teenagers, causing the death of Davis.
Healey said they jury requested several boxes of evidence in the jury room removed so they would have more room to spread out. The jury has asked 11 questions since it began deliberating Wednesday afternoon.
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