Florida resident Michael Dunn accused of shooting dead an unarmed teenager in an argument over loud rap music was convicted tonight of lesser counts after the jury failed to come to an agreement on a first-degree murder charge against him.
Michael Dunn, a 47-year-old software engineer, fired 10 rounds at a vehicle carrying four teens in a Jacksonville gas station parking lot in November 2012, killing black teen Jordan Davis.
Three friends of Davis who were also in the vehicle were uninjured in the shooting, which came after Dunn asked them to turn down the volume on their rap music. Dunn contended he acted in self-defense, while prosecutors suggested that Dunn was angry because he was being disrespected by a young black man.
Dunn, who had no prior convictions, 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, had used foul language when confronting Dunn after the argument broke out, but was unarmed and never posed a physical threat.
In a note to Judge Russell L. Healey the jury said that they were having trouble reaching agreement on the murder charge. He asked them to continue their work, and they went back to the deliberation room for two more hours.
“I’ve never seen a case where deliberations have gone on for this length of time …’ Healey said after the verdict. ‘They’ve embraced their civic duty and they are to be commended for that.”
Judge Russell L. Healey of Duval County declared a mistrial on the count of first-degree murder, which applied only in the death of Mr. Davis. The jury also failed to reach agreement on lesser charges that are automatically included in jury instructions. Those were second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter. On the attempted murder convictions, he could be sentenced to 60 years in prison.
The state attorney for Jacksonville, Angela Corey, said immediately after the verdict that she planned to retry Mr. Dunn on first-degree murder. Ms. Corey said she hoped jurors would explain why they could not agree on that charge, which could help her team in the new trial, says The NY Times.
Attorney Cory Strolla said Dunn and his family are devastated by the four guilty verdicts. “He never saw it coming, not one bit,” Strolla said.
“There were no winners; everybody lost,” Mr. Strolla said. “It’s hard to call it a victory.”
The case comes just seven months after another high-profile Florida case in which white suspect George Zimmerman was found not guilty of gunning down 17 year-old African-American Treyvon Martin during an argument in a residential neighborhood.
The two cases raise questions about race relations in the United States and Florida’s so-called “stand your ground” law. The law gives people the right to use deadly force to defend themselves instead of making an attempt to run away from a dangerous situation, such as a heated argument.