Jury deliberates for fourth day in Florida loud music murder trial

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 15, 2014 10:48 AM

By Susan Cooper Eastman

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Reuters) - A north Florida jury began a fourth day of deliberations on Saturday in the trial of a middle-aged man accused of murder after he shot and killed a teenager in a gas station parking lot during an argument over blaring rap music.

Michael Dunn, 47, a white software engineer, fired 10 rounds at an SUV carrying four teens in Jacksonville in November 2012, killing 17-year-old black teen Jordan Davis.

The trial has drawn international attention because of racial overtones and Dunn's claims of self-defense. Dunn testified earlier this week that he began 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.

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

Legal analysts said questions asked by the 12-member jury in recent days indicated they may be deadlocked on at least one of the five charges, which include one count of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of firing a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle.

Early on Saturday, jurors posed several more questions seeking clarification on legal points about self-defense and the use of deadly force.

In response to a question on Friday, Judge Russell Healey told jurors they were allowed to reach a partial verdict, agreeing to some counts but not all.

"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 on the main count, perhaps second-degree murder or manslaughter," said David Weinstein, a former prosecutor in Miami now in private practice.

Weinstein said if convicted on the four lesser counts, Dunn would still be looking at up to 60 years in prison due to strict sentencing guidelines in Florida for crimes committed with a gun.

(Additional reporting by David Adams; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Marguerita Choy)