JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A day after 12 jurors convicted Michael Dunn of first-degree murder for shooting and killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis, high-profile defense attorney Mark O'Mara weighed in on the outcome.
O'Mara, who's best known for defending George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, said he thinks the prosecution and the defense did a better job this time in the retrial, but ultimately it was the state that sealed the deal on Dunn.
"Certainly I respect the jury's verdict," O'Mara said. "I am a bit surprised with the first-degree murder conviction. I think this is a second-degree murder event, which is the emotions that lead to the killing."
O'Mara watched both Dunn trials very closely, noting there were similarities to when he defended Zimmerman. But Zimmerman was acquitted of shooting and killing the unarmed Martin.
It's a different outcome for Dunn, who will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
"This jury did their job," O'Mara said. "They looked at it very closely, and I think what happened is they saw some arrogance in Michael Dunn. They saw lack of remorse in Michael Dunn, and that, I think, informed their decision as to whether or not he was acting in fear or out of anger or hatred."
O'Mara pointed out that Dunn never apologized for killing Davis.
"Dunn should have acknowledged that he took a life and that he was very sorry for that," O'Mara said. "Failing to do that left him unsympathetic."
O'Mara believes the testimony from Dunn's former fiancee, Rhonda Rouer, also contributed to the guilty verdict. Dunn testified that he told Rouer that night that the teens had a gun and that Davis threatened him. But Rouer denied it on the stand.
"Dunn made a presentation to the jury that he was in fear for his life for reasons that only he saw, only he knew," O'Mara said. "And the idea that his fiancee was not able to support that position, I think hurt him a lot.
"I think that if he had called 911 and if you had reported it and said, 'I was in fear. Here's my gun. Here is what's going on. I think I saw a gun,' then it would have changed the whole dynamic of the case, because now he wasn't running and hiding from what he did, he is explaining why he did it. It would've been a completely different outcome. ... Absolutely a possible acquittal."
O'Mara said the jurors did a good job of keeping race out of their decisions and they didn't seem biased either way. But he still thinks that race played a big role in the argument and subsequent shooting.
O'Mara is speaking about it Thursday night at the University of North Florida in a lecture called Race and Justice.
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