Florida jurors continue deliberations Saturday in loud-music murder trial – CNN
(CNN) — Michael Dunn will have to wait another day — at least — to learn his fate.
He is charged with first-degree murder in the November 2012 death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, one of four black teenagers who were in an SUV shot by Dunn — who is white — in violence that flared from an argument over loud music.
The Jacksonsville, Florida, jury in Dunn’s case deliberated all day Friday, only to send a message to the judge shortly before 7 p.m. that they had “reached a wall for the evening.” In other words, for the second straight day they hadn’t reached a decision.
With that, Judge Russell Healey gave them the OK to head back to their hotel so that they could return for deliberations around 9 a.m. Saturday.
“This is one admirable group,” Healey told the court shortly before dismissing the jury. “They are clearly taking this thing as seriously as they should. And I couldn’t be more proud of them for how hard they are working.”
This announcement capped a relatively uneventful day Friday, after what had been an emotional and eventful trial.
The closest thing to news came shortly before 5 p.m., when Judge Healey answered a question from the jury: Is it possible to not reach a verdict on one count and reach a verdict on other counts?
To which Healey responded: Yes.
Prosecutors contend that Dunn’s firing into the SUV equates to an act of murder. In addition to that count, Dunn also has been charged with three counts of attempted murder. If found guilty, he faces up to life in prison.
A “comprehensive public safety plan” has been established ahead of a verdict in the case, according to the Duval County joint information center handling the Dunn trial.
“All contingencies have been planned for,” the Duval County statement said. “We will not discuss the specifics of any security plan. We will continue to protect the rights of those who choose to peaceably demonstrate.”
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The Dunn case has drawn parallels to the trial of George Zimmerman in the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin, which like the current trial had racial overtones and claims of self-defense.
Dunn defense attorney Cory Strolla told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Friday that the Zimmerman and Dunn cases aren’t so similar in his mind.
There was a physical confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin, and police gave Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt about defending himself, Strolla said.
“My client did not wait to become that victim; my client did not wait to either get assaulted by a weapon or have someone potentially pull a trigger,” he said.
Unlike the Zimmerman case, police rushed to charge Dunn with murder, the defense attorney said.
“They already made up their mind before they even had the evidence basically looked at and put together,” he said.
Even though a weapon was never found, Strolla maintains the youths could have had one. Dunn felt threatened and acted to defend himself, he said.
“Now, does it sound irrational? Of course it sounds irrational. But have you ever been in that situation?” Strolla said.
Jurors on Thursday asked to see surveillance video from the gas station where Dunn shot Davis.
The video contains 20 minutes of footage from multiple angles, though a shorter version showing only one angle was slated to be shown in court.
In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors said inconsistencies between Dunn’s words and actions undermined his assertion he acted in self-defense when he fatally shot the teen.
His attorney countered the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt his client was guilty. He pleaded with jurors to find Dunn not guilty.
In testimony Tuesday, Dunn said he fired in self-defense after the teen threatened him with a gun.
“My intent was to stop the attack, not necessarily end a life,” he said. “It just worked out that way.”
‘There was no gun’
But Assistant State Attorney Erin Wolfson said Wednesday that Dunn’s claims don’t add up.
She noted that Dunn fired 10 shots at the SUV, three of them while the car was fleeing.
He never took cover — but instead opened his car door — even though he would later tell detectives he had seen a weapon, she said.
“There was no gun,” Wolfson told jurors.
In addition, she said, he did not tell his fiancee, Rhonda Rouer, that he had seen a weapon until more than a month later.
Dunn also left the scene of the shooting, went back to a hotel where they were staying and walked his dog, she said.
And he returned the next day to his house — more than two hours away — all without calling 911, Wolfson said.
Dunn has testified he described the music to his fiancee as “rap crap.”
In the parking lot, as the music blared, “his blood started to boil; he didn’t like the music that was coming out of the car next to him; he got angrier and angrier,” Wolfson said.
Dunn rolled down his window and asked the youths to turn it down, which they did, but then turned it back up, Wolfson said.
“He got angry at the fact that a 17-year-old kid decided not to listen to him,” she said, adding that Dunn then pulled a 9 mm gun out of his glove box and shot “systematically and methodically” at the SUV. “Nobody denied that Jordan was talking back. But this defendant took it upon himself to silence Jordan Davis forever.”
Dunn testified Tuesday that he saw Davis reach down and pick something up, and that he saw about “4 inches of a barrel” from a 12- or 20-gauge shotgun above the window.
‘You’re not going to kill me’
He muttered aloud to himself, ” ‘You’re not going to kill me, you son of a bitch,’ ” as he opened the glove compartment, grabbed his pistol, dropped the holster at his feet, chambered a round and began firing, he said.
Nine of the 10 rounds hit the car, and three of them struck Davis, one of them cutting through his liver, his lung and his aorta.
Wolfson rejected Dunn’s assertion he had been trying to de-escalate the situation and he feared for his life.
Strolla, the defense attorney, noted that no witnesses had accused Dunn of using any hate words and testified that his client had just come from a wedding, where his ex-wife said he had appeared to be in a good mood.
Strolla noted that the SUV departed the gas station after the shooting and was gone for three minutes before it returned, enough time for the youths to have dumped a gun.
Detectives did not search the area for days after the shooting, he said.
The court has decided not to release the identifications of the jurors, fearing they could be the subject of threats, but a court document shows the jury is made up of four white females, two black females, four white males, an Asian female and a Hispanic male, plus four alternates.
CNN’s Tom Watkins and John Couwels contributed to this report.