Retrial begins in Florida in loud music shooting

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 22, 2014 1:24 PM

By Susan Cooper Eastman

JACKSONVILLE Fla. (Reuters) - Jury selection began on Monday in the retrial of a middle-aged white man charged with killing an unarmed black teenager during a dispute over loud rap music.

With protesters gathered outside the courthouse, screening started for the first 100 jurors out of 489 summoned for the case in Jacksonville, where a jury previously deadlocked on a charge of first-degree murder for Michael Dunn, who claimed to have shot in self-defense.

Dunn, 47, a software engineer, fired 10 rounds at an SUV carrying four black teens listening to music in a Jacksonville gas station parking lot in November 2012, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

The trial, followed internationally, drew comparisons to the case of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder in Florida last year in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, another unarmed, black 17-year-old.

Martin's mother, Sabrina Fulton, joined Davis' mother as the retrial started. Outside the courthouse, some two dozen protesters held signs in support of the Davis family.

In February, a jury convicted Dunn on three lesser counts of attempted murder for firing at the three teens who survived in the vehicle, which was parked next to Dunn’s. His sentencing on those charges was postponed until after his retrial on the outstanding charge.

The defense sought a change of venue for the retrial due to publicity surrounding the case. Circuit Judge Russell Healey ruled earlier this month he would attempt to seat an impartial jury before ruling on the defense request.

Dunn testified at his original trial that 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.

Prosecutors said Davis used foul language when confronting Dunn but that no guns were found in Davis' vehicle and that he died in a defensive position. In the first trial Dunn's attorney said the teens had time to discard any weapon before police arrived.

Mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines in Florida for crimes committed with a gun mean that Dunn faces at least 60 years in jail.

(Writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by David Adams and Bill Trott)