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Jury Fails to Reach Verdict on Murder Charge in Michael Dunn Trial | The Nation

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Steven Hsieh

Steven Hsieh

Stories that matter. Tips: shsieh@thenation.com.

Jury Fails to Reach Verdict on Murder Charge in Michael Dunn Trial

Jordan Davis and Michael Dunn

Jordan Davis (Flickr/kelseu, CC 2.0) and Michael Dunn (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Bob Mack, Pool)

After more than thirty hours of jury deliberations, a Florida judge declared a mistrial on the first-degree murder charge in the trial of Michael Dunn, accused of fatally shooting Jordan Davis—an unarmed, black teenager—during a dispute over loud rap music.

While the jurors could not reach a verdict on the charge of murder, they found Dunn guilty of four other charges, including three counts of attempted murder and one count of firing into a vehicle. A sentencing date has not been set. He faces at least sixty years in prison.

In November 2012, Dunn, who is white, opened fire at an SUV carrying four black teenagers, including Davis. He continued to fire at the vehicle as it fled the scene. Three of ten bullets hit Davis, puncturing his diaphragm, liver, lungs and aorta, according to a medical examiner who testified in court this week. The teen was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Dunn drove back to his hotel with his fiancée, where he ordered pizza and walked his dog. He did not call the police. The next day, he was arrested at his home in Brevard County.

According to court testimonies, the incident happened after Dunn and his fiancée attended the wedding of his son, where Dunn says he had three or four “small drinks.” They stopped at a gas station for wine and chips, parking next to the teenagers’ vehicle, which was blaring loud rap music. Dunn’s fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, testified that he told her “I hate that thug music,” before she left the car for the store. An argument ensued between Dunn and the teenagers over the volume of the music. The dispute ended when Dunn pulled a handgun from his glove compartment and shot at the vehicle, fatally wounding Davis.

Prosecutors argued that Dunn, feeling angry and disrespected, acted with premeditation when he “wantonly and maliciously” shot Davis. State attorneys said Dunn “went crazy” and fired “round after round after round” at a vehicle filled with unarmed teenagers. The fact that Dunn did not call police, attorney Erin Wolfson argued, suggested “he thought he got away with murder.” The prosecution also highlighted inconsistencies between Dunn’s court testimony and what he said to police the night of the shooting.

Dunn’s attorneys argued that he shot Davis in self-defense, saying the teen threatened him with a gun—though police found no weapon at the scene. The 47-year-old software engineer said Davis posed a “clear and present danger,” claiming he saw a four-inch barrel poking out the window of the SUV, resembling a shotgun. Dunn testified that he saw Davis exiting the vehicle when he fired at him.

“I’m looking out the window and I said, ‘You’re not going to kill me you son of a bitch,’ ” Dunn testified. “And then I shot him.”

Rouer contradicted her fiancé’s claims, testifying that he did not say anything about a gun or any other weapon in the moments after the shooting.

Jurors took four days to deliberate the case. During that time, they asked for, and were granted, a twenty-minute surveillance video of the shooting. Only portions of the video were shown in court. The jury was denied access to a dummy showing bullet paths in Jordan Davis’ body because it was a “demonstrative exhibit,” not officially offered as evidence.

The racial component of the shooting has thrust Dunn’s case into the national spotlight, with some drawing comparisons to the George Zimmerman trial last year. Assistant State Attorney John Guy was on the prosecution team for both trials.

In letters from jail released by state attorneys, Dunn wrote, “This jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs.… This may sound a bit radical, but if more people would arm themselves and kill these fucking idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.”

Speaking at a press conference before the verdict, Dunn’s defense attorney, Michael Stolla said, “This is not a black-and-white issue. This is what he would call a subculture-thug issue. It’s not about race.”

A First Coast News report highlighted the impact the trial has had on local youth.

“I have taken off my hoodie,” 13-year-old David Daniels told First Coast News. “I usually wear it in the stores, but I’ve taken it off. And I don’t really listen to music, as in that situation. I don’t really listen to music loud, but I look around. I watch my back while I’m walking down the streets.”

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