Michael Dunn attorney files appeal brief in Tallahassee

Dunn convicted of killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis in Jacksonville

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The attorney for the man convicted of killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis has filed a 38-page brief of written arguments detailing why Michael Dunn's convictions should be thrown out.

Dunn's attorney filed a nearly 200-page appeal of his convictions last year, outlining nine ways the defense thinks Judge Russell Healey erred during Dunn's two trials.

Two years after he fired 10 rounds into a car occupied by four black teenagers, a jury found Dunn guilty of murdering Davis and attempting to kill his three friends outside the Gate Station at the corner of Southside Boulevard and Baymeadows Road the day after Thanksgiving in 2012. Dunn opened fire after an argument over loud music.

READ: Michael Dunn appeal brief

Dunn said he retrieved his gun out of the glove compartment and fired in self-defense, claiming he thought Davis had a shotgun. No weapon was found at the scene. Dunn and his girlfriend drove off and never reported the incident. He was arrested at his Ormond Beach home the next day.

Dunn was tried twice on the murder charge after the first trial ended in conviction on the other charges and a hung jury on the murder charge. He was convicted in a retrial months later.

In the appeal brief filed in state court, Dunn's attorney, Terry Roberts, argued nine grounds for appeal:

  1. The judge should have acquitted Dunn by reason of self-defense
  2. In the charges of attempted murder of the friends, he should have been acquitted because of lack of intent
  3. The jury should have gotten an instruction on the presumption of fear
  4. The judge improperly allowed the medical examiner to reconstruct the shooting of Davis
  5. The defense was now allowed to put on an expert witness on acute fear
  6. The removal of a juror who made a disparaging comment about Angela Corey
  7. The judge denied the change of venue motion
  8. The prosecution improperly asked the jury to “send a message” to the community with a conviction in the second murder trial
  9. The answer the judge gave to a jury question about self-defense

”Typically when you file an appeal, you throw in the whole kitchen sink, and if you have a reasonable argument to make you make it," attorney Gene Nichols said.

Nichols, who is not associated with the case, looked over Roberts' nine reasons for appeal. He said the courts will most likely only consider one, but Nichols said that is still a long shot.

"There is an issue here that sometimes we see in appeals that may bring a case back and that is if a judge decides a witness will not testify against a witness," Nichols said. "In this case, Judge Healey did not permit the testimony of the witness from the defense."

State Attorney Angela Corey said Thursday that she thinks Healey handled the case carefully and fairly.

Roberts claims that in his closing argument, Assistant State Attorney John Guy crossed a line in trying to sway the jury when he told them:

"Your verdict in this case will not bring Jordan Davis back to life. Your verdicts won't change the past, but they will forever define it in our town."

"I raised it as fundamental error," Roberts said. "In my view, prosecutors are not allowed to ask the jury to send a message to the community or any kind of statement that sends an idea across to the jury."

Another argument is that Dunn's second trial should not have been held in Duval County, but moved to another location and that jurors were exposed to national media coverage and protest rallies.

According to the appeal: "Community awareness of the case pervaded the trial, and protesters and reporters filled the courtroom and an overflow room. It was impossible to receive a fair trial."

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has previously argued that the prosecution was well-handled and that Healey made no errors during the case.

Davis’ mother, Lucy McBath, said the appeals process forces her and her family to relive the pain of losing Jordan all over again.

"Of course, red flags go up every time the appeals occur. I know it’s a part of the legal process. I know that he has the ability to appeal, but it does make you a little anxious, because there are other cases that I know of personally where they’ve been overturned," McBath said.

If the 1st District Court of Appeals agrees that any of these issues should be argued, it will set a court date in the coming months. 

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