Michael Dunn jury continues deliberations

Published On: Feb 13 2014 09:30:44 AM EST
Updated On: Feb 13 2014 12:16:59 PM EST

Live feed from courtroom as jury deliberates in the "loud music" murder trial.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The seven women and five men charged with determining a verdict in a first-degree murder trial will return to the courtroom Thursday morning to see surveillance video inside the Gate convenience store the night Michael Dunn fired 10 shots at an SUV containing Jordan Davis and three other teens.

Clips of that video, which includes audio of the gunshots fired by Dunn, was played several times during the trial. 

After nearly three hours of deliberations Wednesday evening, the jury said they would like to see all 20 minutes of the video and all six camera angles.

Judge Russell Healey determined the video should be shown in the courtroom at 10 a.m. Thursday, then a second day of deliberations would begin.  Four alternate jurors were kept sequestered overnight, as well.

In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors say Dunn reacted viciously to an argument over loud music with teenagers parked next to him and fired into their vehicle, killing Davis, and then drove away as if nothing happened.

However, defense attorneys argued that the state failed to prove its case or show that Michael Dunn hadn’t acted in self-defense.

Dunn, who has pleaded not guilty, faces life in prison if convicted of that charge.

Besides first-degree murder, jurors could also consider the lesser crimes of second-degree murder or manslaughter, according to the jury instructions. Dunn also is charged with attempted murder for shots fired at Davis’ three friends.

Closing arguments: Contrasting versions of same event


Prosecutors made their closing argument Wednesday morning in the murder trial of Dunn, saying 17-year-old Jordan Davis' shooting death was a deliberate act -- not an act of self-defense.

During her 90-minute argument, Assistant State Attorney Erin Wolfson played audio of the gunshots and showed images of the bullet holes in the SUV in which four teenagers were sitting the day after Thanksgiving 2012. She said not only is there no evidence there was a shotgun in that car, the physical evidence shows Davis was shot sitting in the backseat of his friend's Dodge Durango, not outside the SUV threatening Dunn.

"Ten rounds, nine of them hitting that car -- hitting this defendant's target. Three of those shots hit directly the target Dunn was aiming for (Jordan Davis)," Wolfson said. "There was no gun or weapon ever found. And it wasn't because of shoddy police work, it was because there wasn't one. The boys didn't have a gun."

Blog/Tweets From Courthouse

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Wolfson summarized, saying there is ample evidence to find Dunn guilty of first-degree murder.

"This defendant was disrespected by a 17-year-old teenager, and he lost it. He wasn't happy with Jordan Davis' attitude. What was his response? 'You're not going to talk to me like that,'" Wolfson said. "He took these actions because it was premeditated. It was not self-defense."

Wolfson ended her argument, saying: "Today is the day that you all as members of the jury can define what this defendant did on Nov. 23, 2012," Wolfson said. "He might have silenced Jordan Davis but cannot silence the truth."

After the jury's lunch break, defense attorney Cory Strolla began by reminding the jury that the burden of evidence is on the state to convict his client "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Strolla pointed out things he believes will instill such doubt, including remaining silent for three minutes to dramatize the amount of time the SUV was in the adjoining plaza before returning to the Gate parking lot -- which he said was plenty of time to get rid of a shotgun.

He also said detectives should have immediately gone to the area and searched, but waited five days.

Strolla argued that there were no signs Dunn was was in a bad mood, intoxicated or planning to do anything that night. He only asked the teens in the car to turn down the music, which they initially did, only to turn it back up again.

Strolla said Dunn only fired his gun when he saw Davis wielding a weapon from inside the Durango and felt threatened.

"He's had that gun for 20 years and never pulled it once," Strolla said. "He told you that nobody has ever scared him, no one has ever threatened him like that."

After Strolla's 75-minute closing, prosecutor John Guy used the state's rebuttal to tell the jury: "This case is not about self-defense, it's about self-denial."

"That defendant didn't shoot into a car full of kids to save his life. He shot into it to save his pride," Guy told the jury. "Jordan Davis didn't have a weapon, he had a big mouth."

When closing arguments concluded, the judge began delivering length jury instructions -- estimated to be 40 pages. 

The attorneys and judge stayed more than three hours Tuesday evening finalizing the exact wording of those jury instructions, including what lesser charges such as voluntary manslaughter the jury will be allowed to consider, and how to explain Florida's statutes regarding justifiable homicide.

Judge Healey began reading the instructions to the jury about 3:45 p.m. -- a process that took just over an hour.  Then four members of the 16 people chosen as jurors were excused and the 12 remaining retreated to pick a foreperson.  About 15 minutes later, they had made a decisions and their deliberations officially began.

With the jury out of the courtroom, Healey addressed the four alternates, asking them to "stick around" in case one of them needed to be used to replace one of the primary jurors.

In order to conclude that the killing was justifiable, jurors must believe it occurred while resisting an attempt to murder or commit a felony against Dunn, Circuit Judge Russell Healey told jurors.

Assistant State Attorney Erin Wolfson told jurors that the evidence clearly shows Davis was unarmed when Dunn fired 10 shots at a Dodge Durango where Davis was sitting. Wolfson said no witnesses saw any of the four teenagers in the vehicle with a weapon and police searches turned up none.

“This defendant was disrespected by a 17-year-old teenager, and he lost it. He wasn’t happy with Jordan Davis’ attitude. What was his response? ‘You’re not going to talk to me like that,’” Wolfson said. “He took these actions because it was premeditated. It was not self-defense.”

Dunn’s attorney Cory Strolla told jurors that the state had failed to prove its case or disprove Dunn’s assertion he acted in self-defense.

“Not one single witness said this man (Dunn) showed any signs of anger,” he said.

Strolla argued that there were no signs Dunn was planning to do anything that night and only asked the teens in the car to turn down the music. Strolla said they initially did, only to turn it back up again.

Strolla said Dunn only fired his gun when he saw Davis wielding a weapon from inside the Durango and felt threatened.

“He’s had that gun for 20 years and never pulled it once,” Strolla said. “He told you that nobody has ever scared him, no one has ever threatened him like that.”

Police didn’t find a weapon in the SUV, but Strolla contended that the teens got rid of it during the three minutes they were in an adjacent parking lot after fleeing the gunshots. He said detectives should have immediately gone to the area and searched, but didn’t.

In his testimony Tuesday, Dunn told jurors he was in Jacksonville with his fiancee, Rhonda Rouer, to attend his son’s wedding. Dunn said he and Rouer went to the convenience store for wine and chips. He said he pulled in next to an SUV playing loud music.

“My rear view mirror was shaking. My eardrums were vibrating. It was ridiculously loud,” Dunn said.

Dunn said he asked the teens turn down the music and they turned it off. “I said, ‘Thank you,’” Dunn said. But soon afterward, Dunn said he heard someone in the SUV shouting expletives and the word “cracker” at him. Dunn is white, and the teens in the SUV were black. Cracker is a derogatory term for white people.

The music was turned back on, and Dunn testified, “I wasn’t going to ask for favors anymore.”

Dunn said the men in the SUV had “menacing expressions,” and he asked the teens whether they were talking about him. He said he wanted to calm down the situation but saw a teen in the backseat reach down for something. Dunn said it looked as if the barrel of a shotgun was sticking out the window.

One of the teens stepped out of the SUV, Dunn said, and he felt “this was a clear and present danger.” He reached for his pistol in a glove box.

Dunn, who had a concealed weapons permit, fired nine shots into the car, according to an affidavit. Authorities say a 10th shot fired by Dunn missed the car. Once his fiancee returned to the car, he drove off out of fear of the SUV returning, he said.

Dunn said he told Rouer on the drive back to the hotel that he had shot in self-defense. But Rouer, called by prosecutors as a rebuttal witness, said Dunn never told her he thought Davis had a gun.

Dunn and Rouer drove back to their hotel and Dunn said he didn’t call the police because his focus was on the well-being of Rouer, whom he described as hysterical. The next morning, Dunn said, Rouer insisted she wanted to go home and they drove back to their home in Brevard County, 175 miles away. There, Dunn said he contacted a neighbor who is in law enforcement for advice on how to turn himself in.

In her closing argument, Wolfson said the actions Dunn took after the shooting are those of someone who thought he wouldn’t get caught.

“This defendant didn’t tell anyone because he thought he had gotten away with murder,” the prosecutor said.

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