Michael Dunn's Ex-Girlfriend Testifies, Juror Removed On Day Three Of Testimony
Tears streamed down Rhonda Rouer’s face and her voice shook as she recounted before jurors for a second time the day Michael Dunn shot a Jacksonville teen.
Rouer, Dunn's former girlfriend, was the fifth witness to take the stand in the third day of testimony of the murder retrial.
Dunn is accused of fatally shooting 17-year-old Jordan Davis at a Southside Gate gas station during a confrontation over loud music on Nov. 23, 2012.
Rouer testified Saturday that she and Dunn, who reside in Satellite Beach, Fla., were in Jacksonville that day to attend the wedding of Dunn’s son in Orange Park.
“We were very happy,” Rouer told the court, her voice cracking.
The couple left the afternoon wedding early to see about their seventh-month-old puppy Charlie, Rouer said. They’d had a few drinks while at the wedding. Rouer said she had a glass of red wine and about three rum and cokes as well as champagne. Dunn had had “three or four” rum and cokes, and a few sips of champagne, she said.
On their way back to their hotel, Rouer said the two stopped at the Gate gas station on Southside Boulevard to purchase wine and chips. They pulled by a red SUV blasting rap music, she said.
Once parked, Rouer said Dunn told her “I hate that thug music.” Rouer went into the store to purchase the items and shortly after the gunshots rang out.
“I asked what was that,” she recalled, after hearing the shots. “Then, I heard another ‘pop,pop,pop.’"
Rouer said she went to the entrance to see what was happening and saw Dunn facing the driver's side window. He ordered her in the car and the two sped away, heading to their hotel. The two remained there until the following morning, when they left for Brevard County at Rouer’s prodding, she testified.
Rouer broke into tears several times during her testimony, as she had in the first trial. Davis’s parents, Ron Davis and Lucia McBath, were also visibly emotional in the audience.
However, unlike the prior trial, Rouer is no longer with Dunn. The two had been engaged and living together at the time of the shooting. When questioned Saturday, Rouer said they were no longer engaged or in a relationship.
She also wasn’t questioned this time around about whether Dunn ever mentioned to her that he thought Davis had a gun. In the last trial, Rouer testified that he initially didn’t make any mention of a weapon to her.
Jurors heard from six other witnesses throughout the day, including two officers from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office who responded after Dunn was contacted by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and contacted a neighbor in law enforcement the following morning. They also heard from the lead detective in the case with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and several forensics experts.
But there was one less juror to hear testimony Saturday.
The day began with early morning controversy over disparaging remarks reportedly made by a juror about State Attorney Angela Corey.
Circuit Judge Russell Healey and attorneys on both sides spent more than an hour discussing and questioning the juror, mentioned in a Folio Weekly column published Friday.
In the article, a potential juror Richard David Smith, who happens to be a freelancer for Folio, spoke about his experience being screened for the trial. While Smith was not selected for the trial, he cites comments from another juror who did make the panel.
At one point, the juror--described as a “400-pound white school teacher”--reportedly stated that Corey “would have a hard time proving to a court that I am fat; there would still be reasonable doubt.’”
That juror was eventually dismissed by the judge Saturday. However, Healey later said the juror claimed he did not make the remarks as Smith claimed.
However, the courtroom conversation between attorneys and the juror in question was conducted in a sidebar, preventing media or other members of the audience from hearing it. That led to a legal challenge later in the day by the Florida Times-Union for the release of transcripts from the conversation.
Healey said he was concerned about protecting the identity of the juror.
"I don't want anybody figuring out who this guy is," Healey said.
During the previous trial, the Times-Union was among several media agencies to challenge Healey for the release of public records including several jailhouse calls made by Dunn.
Gabel cautioned Healey that "the mistake" being made Saturday was "the same one made in the first trial."
Healey eventually agreed to have the transcripts emailed to Gabel for review.
Meanwhile, the trial of Michael Dunn resumes 9 a.m. Monday.
Follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.