Juror removed from Florida retrial after questioning ability of prosecutor

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 27, 2014 3:37 PM

By Susan Cooper Eastman

JACKSONVILLE Fla. (Reuters) - A juror was removed on the third day of the Florida trial of a middle-aged white man accused of murdering an unarmed black teen after the juror reportedly questioned the competence of the state attorney handling the racially-charged case.

Judge Russell Healey decided to remove the juror shortly before testimony began on Saturday in the retrial of software engineer Michael Dunn, 47, who is charged with the first degree murder of Jordan Davis, 17, during a gas station dispute over loud rap music.

The juror's comment was cited in an article that appeared in a northeast Florida publication, Folio Weekly, recounting the experience of a Jacksonville journalist, Richard David Smith, who was called for jury duty but not picked to serve during Dunn's retrial.

Smith said one of the jurors chosen for the retrial, whom he described as an obese, male school teacher, told him State Attorney Angela Corey "would have a hard time proving to a court that I am fat; there would still be reasonable doubt."

The Dunn case has drawn comparisons to that of another Florida man, George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder last year in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old.

Corey was appointed by Florida Governor Rick Scott as special prosecutor in the Zimmerman case, and came under fire for losing it.

Dunn fired 10 rounds at an SUV carrying Davis and his three friends at a Jacksonville gas station in November 2012. Prosecutors say Dunn over-reacted after Davis insulted him for asking the teenagers to lower the volume of the music.

Dunn's lawyers say he acted in self-defense because of a "perceived threat" that his life was in danger.

In an earlier trial in February, a jury could not reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charge but convicted Dunn on three lesser counts of attempted murder for firing at the three teens who survived in the vehicle.

Dunn could face 60 years in prison for the February convictions. Sentencing has been postponed until after his retrial on the outstanding charge.

On Saturday Corey had each juror hold the gun that Dunn fired, a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, so they could "feel the weight of it."

Dunn's former fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, who was in car on the night of the shooting, also took the stand. Between sobs, she described what happened.

(Writing by David Adams)