Dunn's lawyers may ask for change of venue

Judge says he didn't know about jail letters being released

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Attorneys for Michael Dunn, the man charged with the murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis outside a gas station last year, are talking about the possibility of asking for a change of venue.

That's because of pretrial publicity concerns raised by letters Dunn wrote from jail that were released to the media last week. The letters Dunn sent to family and others, according to lawyers, were written to be read by the media to get Dunn's side of the story out there.

"The fear is that we may get a predominantly black jury and therefore, unlikely to get a favorable verdict," Dunn wrote in one letter. "Sad, but that's where this country is still at. The good news is that the surrounding counties are predominantly white and republican and supporters of gun rights!"

Judge Russell Healey told lawyers at a hearing Thursday morning he was "somewhat out of the loop" and didn't know about the jail letters that were disseminated.

READ LETTERS DUNN WROTE FROM JAIL:  To Grandma | To daughter | To unknown
Warning: Letters may contain foul, offensive language

"I did not know they existed until I saw it on the news probably like everyone else did," Healey said. "Same thing with witness interviews."

Healey entered an order that further information set to be released must first go to him. He said his main concern is being able to make sure an impartial jury can be selected in Jacksonville.

"I am very uncomfortable with it," Channel 4 attorney and legal analyst Ed Birk said of the judge's move. "It's very unusual, the process he has laid out in his written order, and we are going to be taking a close look at it to see if it follows the procedure the Supreme Court has set out for sealing documents, making documents secret."

No trial date was set for Dunn, though it is still expected to begin in late January or early February. His next pretrial hearing is Nov. 7.

Dunn is claiming self-defense. He said he starting shooting because of threats in a dispute over loud music, claiming he saw the barrel of a gun in the SUV that Davis was in.

Davis' parents are planning an event to mark one year since their son's death Nov. 23. They'll release balloons with his name at the SeaWalk Pavilion in Jacksonville Beach, and there will also be a candlelight vigil.

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