State rests case against Michael Dunn; Jordan Davis' father testifies
Murder trial in death of 17-year-old could go to jury on Thursday
After calling two forensic investigators and the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on 17-year-old Jordan Davis' body to the stand Monday morning, prosecutors rested the state's case in the trial of Michael Dunn.
After the jury was dismissed for the day, Judge Russell Healey discussed with the lawyers on both sides the possibility that the defense could rest by Tuesday's lunch break, with closing arguments in the afternoon.
On this timetable, the jury could be deliberating the charges of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder that shooting deadly missiles into an occupied vehicle by Thursday. However, Healey admitted he might be overly optimistic.
Healey also discussed jury instructions with the lawyers, including the "lesser included" charges the jury would be allowed to consider. He said he would leave it up to the defense attorney whether that would be called "attempted manslaughter by act" or attempted "voluntary manslaughter."
Pace of trial picks up
During morning testimony, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyst said Dunn would have had to remove his gun from a holster and then load it just before the shooting.
Maria Pagan's testimony Monday bolstered the contention from prosecutors that Dunn acted with premeditation when he fatally shot Davis outside a Southside convenience store in November 2012.
Dunn, 47, is accused of firing 10 shots at a SUV with four teens inside after an argument over loud music. Dunn pleaded not guilty, claiming he acted in self-defense.
Pagan says Dunn would have had to put more than six pounds of pressure on the trigger to fire the gun.
Under questioning from State Attorney Angela Corey, Pagan said it would take a conscious effort to fire the gun like that.
Also Monday, the assistant medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Davis' body testified, saying he was shot three times.
The testimony was very graphic at times, with photos from the autopsy showing Davis' wounds as well as X-rays.
Dr. Stacey Simons said Davis was struck once in the torso and twice in the groin and thigh area. She said there was no reason to believe Davis was anywhere but sitting inside the SUV during the shooting.
Davis' parents stepped out of the courtroom for that part of the trial.
Dunn watched with little emotion and took notes.
"That bullet traveled from right to left and also we're moving from the inside of the left leg towards the outside of the left leg," Simons said. "We look for drugs of abuse, to drugs that are prescribed or alcohol. There was nothing found in his system"
Cory Strolla, Dunn's defense attorney, said Dunn fired when he saw Davis trying to get out of the SUV. He's also been trying to show that investigators, especially the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Jacksonville police, didn't do a thorough investigation.
UNCUT: Testimony of Dr. Simons
IMAGES: Monday testimony
The state concluded its case after calling 27 witnesses. After the lunch break, the defense began calling its witnesses.
Among them was Ron Davis, Jordan's father. He was visibly shaken and his voice raspy as Strolla questioned him, asking him about the time after the shooting when the other three teens in the SUV came over to his house.
"They (the three teens) didn't talk about the facts surrounding his death. They talked about how sorry they were that my son was killed," Davis said. "The boys were just so sorry my son was killed and they tried to console me."
Attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters says the defense strategy to call Ron Davis was surprising.
"It may have been slightly helpful to the defense," said Peoples-Waters. "But the real question is, did it outweight the emotion that he brought to the stand from Jordan Davis' fater who had to repeatedly say, 'I was devastated. I had to learn my son was killed."
Davis was the defense's sixth witness. After him was Dunn's son, Christopher, whose wedding Dunn was attending just before the shooting. Christopher Dunn said his father was in good spirits.
"He appeared to be a in a good mood," he said.
Dunn's ex-wife, Phyllis Molinaro, also testified, saying he was in a good mood throughout the wedding and reception. Dunn's step-daughter, Lexi Molinaro, who attended the wedding, then testified, saying she only saw him have one drink and was pleasant to everyone.
Under cross-examination, both his son, ex-wife and step-daughter said they did not get a call from Dunn that evening or next morning about the shooting or asking if they could care for their dog -- the reason Dunn's girlfriend testified on Saturday that had to get home to Brevard County the next morning.
Several of Dunn's friends and a co-worker also took the stand, saying he was a nice guy, a pilot and someone they'd never expect to be involved in something like this.
Attorney Randy Reep, who's not affiliated with the case, said he thinks Dunn needs to testify.
"We really have never heard from Michael Dunn's statements," Reep said. "So for people -- a jury -- to find him justifiable in shooting a 17-year-old man, they're going to have to understand why he did it. And I think he's the only one that can bring it out."
The risk, Reep said, is that Dunn opens himself up to cross examination by the state.
Kenneth Adkins, of Save Our Sons, said this trial allows for more conversation.
"This is an opportunity to open the dialogue between different races and ages of people so that the stereotypical view of each other can be changed. I think that's key," he said.
Some people watching from the courtroom believe the jury already has their minds made up, while others don’t think it’s so cut and dry.
“To me, it’s sort of a toss-up right now,” said Jim Neill, a trial watcher.
Neill believes the defense attorney, Cory Strolla, has given jurors reason to doubt the testimony from the three surviving victims based on conflicting reports about the SUV’s child safety locks being on or off that night.
“I think there is definitely a gray area,” Neill said. “It will be very difficult for the jurors to make a decision on whether or not Jordan Davis actually had a weapon, or was he attempting to get out of the vehicle to attack Mr. Dunn.”
But some believe the graphic autopsy images of where three of the 10 bullets Michael Dunn fired that night wound up is some of the most damaging evidence.
“That was hard because ,you know, that was someone’s child,” said Sandra Ellison, another trial watcher. “It just appears to me from the evidence there’s no other verdict but guilty.”
Some are concerned that Michael Dunn’s demeanor of looking very serious one moment or smiling or laughing the next may affect jurors, but most legal analysts say the jurors shouldn’t really be looking at Dunn’s demeanor. They say jurors should be focused on determining if he had reasonable fear for his safety that night.
Legal analysts believe that Dunn will testify tomorrow in order to prove self-defense, but he still has a constitutional right not to do so.
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