A juror from the “loud music” murder trial of Michael Dunn for the shooting death of Jordan Davis became the first to speak with the press, on this evening’s episode of Nightline. (Video of this interview is embedded at the bottom of this post.)
The juror in question was juror #4, previously anonymously profiled by journalist Stephanie Brown of WOKV as:
To refresh our recollection, the jury consisted of eight whites, two blacks, one hispanic, and one asian.
The hubbub about the verdicts in this case has, of course, centered on the failure of the jury to agree on a verdict one way or the other on the killing of Jordan Davis. Dunn had been charged in the indictment with first degree murder, and this by law also covered the automatically lesser included charges of second degree murder and manslaughter.
Because the jury could not agree on either a particular charge or an acquittal. observers were left speculating as to the specific cause of the hung jury on the Davis charge. Were they merely unable to agree on the specific degree of intent or guilt among first degree murder, second degree murder, and manslaughter? Or was the issue not one of degree, but of fundamental principle–did at least one juror believe that the State had failed to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt with respect to the initial three shots that had killed Jordan Davis.
We at Legal Insurrection had predicted from the day of the verdicts that it was far more likely that the failure to achieve a verdict on the killing of Davis was based on some jurors believing the State had failed to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, and not on merely a disagreement involving degree of guilt. When jurors merely disagree on degree of guilt, four days of deliberations almost invariably leads to a compromise. When one or more jurors disbelieves guilt, however, compromise is far more difficult.
In this case, juror #4 tells us that the initial polling amongst the jury on the Davis charges was 10 to 2. Ten jurors believed Dunn guilty of the murder of Jordan Davis, and two were unconvinced. Interestingly, after four days of deliberations, this vote had changed to 9 to 3–now three jurors believed self-defense had not been disproved beyond a reasonable doubt, rather than just two. Given this trend, it is no wonder that the jury agreed to ultimately give up on the issue of the killing of Jordan Davis.
A key portion of the trial, the juror said, was when Dunn insistently believed that he was in danger–“I thought I was going to be killed”–followed by Strolla’s urging that they start with “page 25” of the jury instructions, the section that defined the justified use of deadly force in self-defense.
The juror interviewed also conceded that at times the deliberations were so heated that people were shouting and cursing at each other. Several times during deliberations Judge Russell Healey raised concerns that those in the court room might be able to hear the jurors deliberating. It seems clear now that what might have been heard was not moderate discussion, but screams and curses.
The juror also was adamant that race never became an issue at any time of their deliberations. They considered it a matter of some teens who got out of control, and Dunn who got out of control, as generally a bad situation.
Amongst the jurors who would have found Dunn guilty of the murder of Jordan Davis, most believed that Dunn had had a way out other than the use of deadly force.
This juror also placed some emphasis on Dunn’s denial of the use of the phrase “thug music,” when the jury was able to hear him use the term “thug” repeatedly in his interview with homicide detectives.
The juror was asked specifically how they could vote to convict on the attempted murder charges, but not on the murder of Jordan Davis charges.
Exactly as predicted here at Legal Insurrection, the juror explained that the minority on the jury felt that the first few shots at Jordan Davis might have been justified, but that the later shots when Dunn got out of the car and kept shooting was stepping over the line, and not justified.
When the juror was asked whether she believed Dunn had options other than firing at Jordan Davis and the others in the SUV, she stated that she did. Dunn, she said, could have rolled his windows back up, ignored the taunting, put his car in reverse and backed out of the parking spot, moved over to a different parking spot . . . “that’s my feeling,” she answered.
Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog, Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.