New York Times
JACKSONVILLE - A Florida man who fatally shot an unarmed teenager during a dispute over loud music was convicted of first-degree murder Wednesday after a jury rejected his claim that he fired his gun repeatedly in self-defense.
Under Florida law, Michael Dunn, 47, will spend the rest of his life in prison, without the possibility of parole.
This was the second time that Dunn, a software developer, had faced a jury in the death of Jordan Davis, 17, a high school junior who was killed as he sat in a friend's car in a convenience store parking lot. In February, Dunn was convicted of three counts of second-degree attempted murder - one for each of the surviving teenagers who were with Davis - and of firing deadly missiles.
But that jury could not unanimously agree whether Dunn killed Davis in self-defense or, as prosecutors argued, in a fit of rage on Nov. 23, 2012. Dunn had said that Davis, who sat in a Dodge Durango parked next to Dunn's car, pointed a shotgun in his direction and tried to get out of the car with it. The police never found a firearm, and witnesses never saw one.
The verdict was reached Wednesday after more than five hours of deliberation, and Dunn showed no emotion as it was read. Davis' parents, who had waited nearly two years for a resolution in the case, wept in the courtroom.
From the start, the Dunn case was infused with racial overtones, renewing the national debate over racial profiling and its possible consequences. Dunn is white, and the teenagers black.
With Davis' death only months after the killing of another unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, Davis' shooting brought renewed focus to Florida's so-called Stand Your Ground law. The 2005 law makes it easier for people to claim self-defense if they have a reasonable belief that their lives are threatened, whether the threat proves real or not. George Zimmerman was ultimately acquitted of murder in Martin's death.
"We're very grateful that justice has been served, not only for Jordan, but justice for Trayvon and justice for all the nameless faces and children and people who will never have a voice," Lucia McBath, Davis' mother, said after the verdict.
Self-defense was at the core of this trial in Duval County Court, where Dunn faced a less diverse jury the second time; there were 10 whites and two blacks on the panel, a makeup that raised concerns among some of Davis' supporters.
Ron Davis, Davis' father, said Wednesday that he hoped the verdict would serve as a clarion call. "Hopefully this is the start where we don't have to look at the makeup of the jury," he said.
The jury found that Dunn intended to kill Davis and acted with premeditation as he reached into his glove compartment for his gun and fired 10 times at Davis and the Durango, even as it pulled away to evade the gunfire. Three bullets hit Davis.
Prosecutors had argued that Dunn grew enraged when Davis cursed and disrespected him after he asked the teenagers to turn down the rap music blasting from the car. In a fit of anger, Dunn reached for his gun and fired three separate volleys.
"The defendant didn't shoot Jordan Davis to save his life," John Guy, one of the prosecutors, told the jury. "He murdered him to preserve his pride."
This time, prosecutors focused more forcefully on Dunn's actions after the shooting, behavior that they said cloaked him in guilt. Dunn fled the scene and never called the police, not even after he learned that someone had died. Instead, he and his then-fiancee drove to their hotel, where he walked the dog, poured himself a rum and Coke, and ordered a pizza.
The next day he drove 21/2 hours back to his house in Satellite Beach, where the police, who by then had his license plate number, arrested him.
Dunn told jurors on Tuesday that he shot Davis again and again because Davis called him a "cracker," threatened to kill him, pointed a shotgun his way and then tried to scramble out of the car.
Prosecutors damaged his credibility by putting Rhonda Rouer, Dunn's former fiancee, on the stand. In tearful testimony, Rouer, who was inside the store when the shooting took place, said Dunn complained about "thug" music, but in the night and day after the shootingnever mentioned that a teenager had pulled out a firearm.