JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Honorable Russell Healey helms one of the biggest cases in the country.
The 58-year-old judge is the third assigned to the Michael Dunn murder case. The first two before recused themselves in the first months after Dunn was arrested in the November 2012 shooting death of Jordan Davis.
Healey was a county judge who handled misdemeanor and civil cases. He is now an acting circuit judge and has applied for one of the two circuit court vacancies in the Fourth Judicial Circuit.
He's been called a "strict" judge with a "good sense of humor." That humor has helped break the tension during the Dunn trial.
"You can sit if you'd like," Healey said Thursday while waiting for the jury to come into the courtroom, prompting some laughs. "Of course as soon as I say that they're going to be right at that door. Here they are."
Among all the tragic testimony and tears in this courtroom, Healey has also managed to create a little laughter. Another moment was when jurors asked for one of Dunn's jail letters.
"I can do this a variety of ways, the simplest way is probably to say June of 2012," Healey said.
"'13, judge," attorneys said as they corrected him.
"I'm sorry. '13. Today's day 10, right?" he said, leading to laughter from those in the courtroom.
The First District Court of Appeals reversed several of Healey's rulings in the Dunn trial related to discovery material, including the one in which Healey said all future discovery releases would have to go through him and the ones related to the release of Dunn's jail calls.
In a previous case, the First District Court of Appeals also threw out a 30-year sentence for a convicted rapist, ruling that Healey's personal religious views influenced the sentencing decision.
In the Dunn trial, Healey has had a lot to balance, with the state attorney prosecuting, a one-man show defense, and a whole heap of media from across the country and the world. And he's kept his circuit court in order.