Jury Deliberations Continue In Michael Dunn Murder Trial
After three hours of deliberation on Wednesday evening, jurors in the murder trial of Michael Dunn returned Thursday morning to continue working towards a verdict.Jurors began deliberating at 5:03 p.m. on Wednesday.
They requested an opportunity to view surveillance footage from the Southside Jacksonville gas station where Dunn fatally shot Davis, which they reviewed this morning.
In closing statements Wednesday afternoon prosecutors reiterated their case that Dunn intended to shoot and kill Davis with premeditated actions. Dunn's defense is that he was acting in self-defense because he was in mortal fear that Davis was raising a shotgun to fire on him.
PREVIOUS UPDATE (2/12 - 5 p.m.) POSTED BELOW
A jury of 12 has begun deliberations to determine if Michael Dunn is guilty as charged in the November 2012 killing of Jordan Davis. Deliberations began at 5:03 p.m.
Following extensive jury instructions, Judge Russell Healey dismissed four alternate jurors and sent the jury and evidence into the jury room.
"This has been an extraordinary experience, I'm sure, for all of us," Healey said, addressing the court. He thanked the attorneys and court officials for their time and conduct during the trial.
When asked, Dunn told Healey he was satisfied with Strolla's representation throughout the case.
PREVIOUS UPDATE (2/12 - 3 p.m.) POSTED BELOW
Prosecutors say Michael Dunn fired “round after round after round” with the intent to kill Jordan Davis, while Dunn’s defense claims he was acting in self-defense, and should therefore be acquitted.
"Whether you like the law or don't like the law you have to use the law,” said defense attorney Cory Strolla in closing remarks, referring to Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.
“That flag wraps around (Michael Dunn) until the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this was not self-defense."
Strolla spoke for about an hour and twenty minutes on Wednesday afternoon, telling jurors that evidence and testimony shows Jordan Davis escalated the situation that led to the shooting which resulted in his death.
"Not a single witness or evidence suggest any anger or any hate by Mr. Dunn, towards anyone," he said, describing his client as having tried to de-escalate the argument that led to the shooting.
"The only one cursing and getting angry was Jordan Davis.”
Strolla called the shooting “a tragedy” while accusing prosecutors of “playing semantics” with Dunn’s freedom in the balance, referring to what prosecutors described as inconsistences in Dunn’s testimony compared to what he told investigators.
"It's not your job to make up for their case," he said, pointing out what he claimed were inconsistencies in the testimony of several prosecution witnesses, including the three teens who were in the car with Davis at the time of the shooting.
Strolla also contested the prosecution’s argument that there was no gun in the car. He paused for three minutes, announcing the passage of each minute, to demonstrate how long it took for the teens to return to the scene of the shooting after fleeing to an adjacent shopping plaza.
"Why didn't you secure the plaza, because now we've got two crime scenes, don't we?" Strolla said.
"They knew they messed up they knew a defense attorney was coming," he said, noting that law enforcement didn’t canvas the plaza until several days after the shooting.
Strolla also questioned the testimony of medical examiner Dr. Stacey Simons with regards to whether Davis had exited the vehicle before the shooting.
"They bring in a medical examiner to talk about firearms and bullets," he said, adding that the trajectory of the bullets “defy the law of physics” based on the state’s case that Davis was ducking for cover.
"Bad facts in is a bad opinion out,” he said. “And why, because the state knows you can't defy the laws of physics and you can't hide the truth."
Strolla stressed that under Florida law if jurors have any question of whether Dunn felt reasonably threatened that he was in mortal danger, they are legally obligated to find him not guilty.
Prosecutors will offer a brief rebuttal to Strolla’s statement, followed by jury instructions and the start of deliberation.
PREVIOUS UPDATE (2/12 - 12:50 p.m.) POSTED BELOW
Prosecutors say Michael Dunn fired “round after round after round” with the intent to kill Jordan Davis.
“It was target practice,” Assistant State Attorney Erin Wolfson told jurors Wednesday morning.
The jury will decide whether Dunn is guilty of first-degree murder for the killing of 17-year-old Davis at a Southside Jacksonville gas station on Nov. 23, 2012. Dunn is also charged with the attempted murder of three other teens who were in the car with Davis at the time of the shooting.
Wolfson’s two-hour closing statement focused Dunn’s actions immediately before, during, and following the shooting, which she said proves that the killing was premeditated.
While he is charged with first-degree murder, the jury will have to decide whether he could be convicted on the lesser charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter.
“When he pulled up next to that SUV, his blood started to boil,” she said of Dunn. “It bothered him so much that he took it upon himself to interject himself into their lives.”
“This defendant went crazy,” she continued.
Wolfson also repeated the testimony of local contractor Steve Smith, who was at the gas station at the time of the shooting, and testified he heard Dunn tell Davis “You're not going to talk to me that way” immediately before the shooting.
“This defendant was disrespected by a 17-year-old teenager, and he lost it,” Wolfson said, noting that took Dunn about 10 separate actions, from removing the pistol from his glove compartment to pulling the trigger, to complete the shooting.
Wolfson also called Dunn’s conduct immediately following the shooting into question, comparing his testimony with that of his fiancé, Rhonda Rouer.
"He left the scene where he shot and killed a 17-year-old. I don’t care if it’s a mile, two miles, three miles, he left the scene," she said. “He shouldn’t get credit for the fact that he stayed in Jacksonville that night.”
Dunn testified Tuesday that he told Rouer he saw Davis with what be believed to be a gun as the two drove back to Brevard County.
Rouer later testified as a rebuttal witness that Dunn never mentioned seeing Davis brandish a gun.
Wolfson also countered Dunn's testimony that he called a friend in law enforcement the day after the shooting, saying the friend in question is actually a government agriculture employee.
“This defendant suffered no injuries," she said. "If he was in such fear of a car full of gangsters, wouldn't he have called the police?"
Wolfson repeated “there was no gun” several times during her statement, countering the assertion made by defense attorney Cory Strolla that police didn’t find a gun because it was hidden following the shooting.
“The fear that (Michael Dunn) had of that shotgun wasn't reasonable because there was no shotgun," she said. “Michael Dunn doesn't just get to assume Jordan Davis had a shotgun.”
Most of the final 30 minutes of the state's closing statement were spent pointing out what Wolfson described as inconsistences in Dunn’s testimony compared to what he told investigators, including whether he saw Jordan Davis step out of his car.
"This is real life, this isn't television, it's not a crime show"," Wolfson said, pointing to testimony she said proves Davis was ducking for cover when he was shot.
A recess for lunch was taken at noon with court set to resume at 1 p.m. for the defense’s closing statement.
You can follow Patrick Donges on Twitter @patrickhdonges.