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State rests; Michael Dunn's defense begins case

Medical examiner testifies 17-year-old was inside SUV when struck by gunfire; defense's opening expert says his door must have been open

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After the prosecution wrapped up its case Monday in the murder retrial of Michael Dunn, calling a forensic investigator and the pathologist who conducted the autopsy on 17-year-old Jordan Davis, the defense called its first witness, an expert who said Davis' door was open when the shots were fired.

Michael Knox, a former police detective and crime scene reconstruction expert, said that judging by the angle of the gunshots into the SUV, he can say with 100 percent certainty that Davis' SUV door was open to some extent.

"If you have both front windows aligned and you have the vehicles anywhere relatively centered in the parking spaces, then there is no way that those trajectories align without the door being open to some extent," Knox said.

Knox testified for hours about the trajectory of the bullets. His said he believes that Davis was at least partially out of the SUV and the window was down when Dunn started to shoot.

"It's got to be close to fully down, it can't be close to fully up," he said of the window. "Because you'd expect to see that glass deposited on the inside of the vehicle, and it's not there."

Dunn, who's accused of murdering Davis, is claiming self-defense.

IMAGES:  Monday's witnesses | UNCUT: Pathologist testifies
SPECIAL SECTION: State vs. Michael Dunn

When the prosecution rested earlier in the day, the defense then moved for a direct acquittal -- standard practice -- which was denied by Judge Russell Healey.

On Monday morning, Dr. Stacey Simons, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Davis, testified and demonstrated for the jury how she believes Davis was ducking to try to protect himself from the gunshots, given the bullet wounds in his body (see image below).

Simons said that in her medical opinion, there is no way any part of Davis would have been outside the SUV he was in when he was shot.

During her lengthy testimony, Simons said Davis did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system. She described how he was shot three times -- in the chest, in the thigh and just under the buttocks. She said the shot in the chest punctured his heart, and that's what likely killed him.

Using a anatomical figure,Simons demonstrated where the bullets hit Davis' body and said that in her medical opinion, there is no way any part of him would have been outside the SUV when he was shot.

Defense attorney Waffa Hanania questioned the former medical examiner's expertise, at one point calling her "the low man on the totem pole" and implying she did not have a lot of experience with autopsies on people who were shot and killed.

Simons was the 27th and final witness for the prosecution.

The defense also called several character witnesses Monday afternoon.

Friends of Michael Dunn and even his ex-wife testified that Dunn is generally calm and a gentleman.

Those sentiments were echoed by Dunn's former attorney Cory Strolla, who represented Dunn during his first murder trial.

"There's no such thing as a perfect case. There's no such thing as a perfect trial," Strolla said. "That's like saying would you like to do your newscast different.

"There's always something you would've said or wanted to say, especially if you don't get the verdict you wanted," Strolla said. "You'll second guess yourself all day every day. If you don't do that, you're not a good trial attorney."

Monday's testimony was hard to hear for Lucia McBath, Jordan Davis' mother.

Despite the argument between Dunn and her son that fatal night, McBath said her son was also a kind person.

"Jordan always wanted to bring peaceful resolutions," McBath said. "He always wanted people to get along. He always wanted people to live together peacefully.

Dunn is expected to testify in his defense, as he did during the February trial that ended in Dunn's conviction on three counts of firing into an occupied vehicle and three counts of attempted murder, but that jury deadlocked on the murder charge in Davis' death.

Attorney Randy Reep, who is not affiliated with the case, said he believes the defense case will be short and he thinks Dunn has to take the stand in order convince the jury he was fighting for his life the November 2012 night he fired 10 shots at an SUV of teenagers after exchanging words over loud rap music the teens were playing.

Michael Dunn sits alone in the courtroom Friday afternoon during a break of his retrial on murder charges.

Dunn has claimed that he saw Davis with what he thought was a gun. Police found no gun in the SUV or at the scene, although crime-scene detectives admitted during Saturday testimony they didn't conduct a thorough search of the property and trash bins in the area until four days after the shooting when they learned that Dunn was claiming self-defense.

Reep said Dunn really has two things to accomplish when he gets on the stand: articulate his reasonable fear of Davis and explain why he didn't call police immediately following the incident.

"You just took someone's life, where do you go? You drive to the police and say, 'Hey, I almost died. There's some bad dudes. They left by the way.' If he thought those people were out doing nefarious things, trying to shoot people, three of them got away," Reep said.

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Dunn's ex-fiancé, Rhonda Rouer, testified Saturday that shortly after the incident, where Dunn fired 10 shots in the parking lot of a Southside Gate gas station on Baymeadows and Southside Boulevard, he hastily drove them back to the hotel where they were staying, ordered pizza, walked the dog, drank a rum and coke and then went to bed. Rouer told the jury they didn't talk about anything that night.

"He didn't tell his fiancée about it till a great deal of time? That speaks very much to his consciousness of his guilt," Reep said.

Another thing the prosecution said Dunn didn't divulge for a long time, even during his first trial, was that Davis had a shotgun. Dunn said that's what prompted him to fire his gun. No weapon was found in or around the red SUV Davis was riding in. Reep said that the evidence is compelling and will be difficult to reconcile for the jury.

Anyone interested in attending the proceedings may obtain an application for general public seating at the trial by visiting michaeldunntrial.com. A lottery-style drawing will be held each afternoon for the next day's proceedings. Those selected will be notified by phone.

Completed applications must be turned in no later than 4:30 p.m. the day before the requested date to attend the trial. The location to turn in applications or obtain a blank application is the Prime Osborn Convention Center at 1000 Water St. Use the north entrance on Bay Street.