Judge rules on motions in Michael Dunn case

Trial set to begin Feb. 3

Author: Kumasi Aaron, Reporter, weekend anchor, kaaron@wjxt.com
Erica Rakow, General assignment reporter, erakow@wjxt.com
Christopher Yazbec, News editor, News4Jax.com, cyazbec@wjxt.com
Published On: Dec 12 2013 05:42:51 AM EST   Updated On: Dec 12 2013 07:05:51 PM EST
Michael Dunn in court
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The judge in the Michael Dunn case ruled on several motions Thursday during a pretrial hearing in the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

Dunn is charged with murder in the teen's killing in a dispute over loud music at a Southside gas station last year. He's also charged with three counts of attempted murder in firing at the other three teens who were in the SUV.

Because Judge Russell Healey wants to make sure this case goes to trial as scheduled Feb. 3, he set aside Thursday and Friday to address all the pretrial motions that have been filed, but completed the hearing before Thursday afternoon.

Jordan Davis

Healey denied a defense motion Thursday to take the jury to the scene, citing security and logistical issues and the inability to recreate the scene.

Healey granted a defense motion to ask family, friends and supporters attending the trial to not wear supportive clothing. State Attorney Angela Corey said Davis' family has agreed to comply, even taking it one step further and telling the court they would show no emotion during the trial.

"That will probably be very difficult for both of us, but we want to do what's best for the trial, we want to do what's best for Jordan, and we want to do what's best for justice," said Lucia McBath, Jordan's mother.

The judge also granted the state's motion to allow Ron Davis, Jordan's father, to remain in the courtroom during the trial. Healey said he doesn't have to sit on the front row to alleviate defense concern of influencing the jury.

"I think everybody in the courtroom, no matter how involved in the case, realizes that if somebody kills your son that you should be able to witness whatever happens," Davis said.

"My concern was the prejudice in front of the jury to have them sit there every day of the trial for a week two weeks, then take the stand and sit back down," defense attorney Cory Strolla said. "My biggest concern as Mr. Dunn's attorney is that he gets a fair trial under the Sixth Amendment of our Constitution and that the jury not be swayed by having someone sitting there every day and then giving them extra credibility because they have seen them every day."

One of the other victim's mothers, Mrs. Brunson, will be allowed to stay in the courtroom too before and after testifying. The judge said he will work with the defense of where she will sit.

To alleviate defense concerns about her talking to her son before or after they testify, the judge will work to have them testify on the same day.

"Just believing justice will be served, but it's been very difficult because it’s been a whole year. We've had no closure," McBath said. "We're looking forward, not to the trial, but we are looking forward to finding some closure fairly soon."

Dunn will appear before the judge one more time before his trial. In January, the judge will hear motions on whether or not to sequester the jury or witnesses. The judge will also determine what items will be admitted into evidence.

Strolla said Dunn will not accept a plea deal, "only if the state drops the charges."

He said Dunn is holding up "as well as can be expected."

"It's been a long year in jail," he said. "He doesn't like being there. I don't think anybody ever likes being in jail. It's a culture shock when you basically live your life on the outside and all of a sudden you're put into a situation where we all hate to say it, but a lot of people in jail have been there before, and a lot of times people are comfortable in jail and Mr. Dunn is not."