Florida loud music murder trial enters third day of jury deliberation

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 14, 2014 10:03 AM

By Susan Cooper Eastman

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Reuters) - A north Florida jury began a third day of deliberations on Friday in the trial of a middle-aged man who shot and killed a black teenager in an argument over rap music blaring from the youth's car.

Defense attorneys have said Michael Dunn, 47, who is white, acted in self-defense when he fired 10 rounds at an SUV carrying four teens, killing Jordan Davis, 17, while it was parked in a Jacksonville gas station.

So far jurors have deliberated for more than 12 hours over three days.

As the Davis family left the courthouse on Thursday after jurors were sent home, the teen's father, Ron Davis, said he remained confident in the outcome.

"They're working hard, trying to make a just decision," he told local TV station, First Coast News WJXX. "And no matter what, some family is going to smile and some family if going to cry."

"I hope the reaction would be respectful of each other's feelings," he added.

The trial has drawn international attention because of racial overtones and claims of self-defense.

Dunn is charged with first-degree murder and three charges of attempted murder in the November 2012 shooting.

If found guilty, Dunn, a software engineer who has been in custody since the incident, faces up to life in prison. Prosecutors have said they would not seek the death penalty.

The jury of 8 whites, 2 blacks, one Asian and one Hispanic is being sequestered during deliberations.

Legal analysts say a lengthy deliberation usually means good news for the defense. "It does sound like that the defense has raised enough reasonable doubt to keep the jury out deliberating for a while, and maybe even come back with a lesser charge, perhaps even second degree murder or manslaughter," said David Weinstein, a former prosecutor in Miami now in private practice.

On Thursday the jury reviewed security camera video from inside the gas station that captures the reaction of the clerks to the sound of the gunfire, as well as Dunn's fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, who had gone into the store to buy wine.

The five men, seven women jury also wanted to know the date of a letter Dunn sent to his family and friends describing his recollection of events the night of the shooting.

During the trial prosecutors sought to highlight inconsistencies in Dunn's version of events that night, suggesting he changed his story.

Davis, who had no arrest record, was out on the town with friends when the argument broke out. Prosecutors said Davis used foul language when confronting Dunn, but that Davis was unarmed and never posed a physical threat.

"This case is not about self-defense. It's about self-denial," Assistant State Attorney John Guy told the jury on Wednesday in closing arguments.

The case has drawn comparisons to the self-defense trial of George Zimmerman, the former central Florida neighborhood watchman who was acquitted last year of murder in the shooting of an unarmed black 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin.

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Dunn, who has a concealed weapons permit, has no prior convictions.

Dunn's attorney Cory Strolla denied at a press conference on Thursday that racism had anything to do with his client's decision to shoot into a carful of black teenagers playing what he referred to on the stand as "crap rap."

Dunn testified in his own defense on Tuesday and told the jury he started shooting in a state of panic after he thought he saw the barrel of a gun in the back window as Davis started to get out of the car.

Police said they found no weapon in the teens' Durango after the shooting, and prosecutors say forensic evidence show Davis never left the car.

In what some analysts have said was key testimony during the trial, Rouer told the jury that on the night of the shooting Dunn never mentioned to her seeing a gun in the teens' car, despite later telling police that was why he opened fire.

(Writing by David Adams; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)