Michael Dunn found guilty of three counts of attempted murder in the second degree, throwing missiles, but jury hangs on first degree murder of Jordan Davis
Moments ago the jury returned a guilty verdict on many of the charges brought against Michael Dunn in his ‘loud music” murder trial. Dunn was tried in the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.
Davis family made brief comments to press, happy some closure, that Dunn will see serious jail time, that young people shouldn’t have to fear can just be gunned down for loud music.
State Attorney Angela Corey absolutely determined to re-try Dunn on the hung first degree murder charge.
ASA Erin Wolfson indicates Dunn faces 20 years on each attempted murder 2 conviction, and 15 years on the throwing missiles charge. Most likely these will be served concurrently, although sentencing judge has discretion to order they be run consecutively.
Corey unwilling to say police made a mistake not searching the Plaza parking lot, praises Sheriff’s and detectives.
Corey notes it still has to be a reasonable person standard to justify deadly force in self-defense.
Some Pastor thanks Corey for doing a great job on behalf of young black men in Jacksonville.
Corey: “There’s nothing political in what we do, we file on the facts and on the law.”
Corey: “This was Erin’s first call-out on a homicide.”
Corey: “Nothing political about my participation in this case, do it for the love of it.”
Why not the death penalty? Corey: “One of the things we weighed, decided 1st degree but not death penalty.”
Strolla: Severely disappointed. Pretty much knew Corey was going to re-try on the murder.
Strolla: Ran this on a shoe-string budget, big difference between a $300,000 defense and not even 1/10th of that. Hate to say it, but it’s true.
Strolla: He COULD be sentenced to 60 years. If so, really looking at life sentence, he’s 40 years old.
Jury Unable to Come to Verdict on Charge of Murder of Jordan Davis
The jury was unable to agree on a verdict on the first count of murder in the first degree for the shooting death of Jordan Davis. As a result, this count is “hung,” and the State is free to try Dunn again on this charge at their discretion.
Detailed Charges on Which Dunn Found Guilty
Among the charges of which he has been found guilty are:
Three counts of attempted murder in the second degree (FL §782.051) for shooting at Kevin Thompson, Leland Brunson, and Tommy Storns, the three friends with Jordan Davis in Storns’ SUV
Throwing a missile into an occupied vehicle (FL §790.19) for firing into the SUV in which the boys were riding.
Finally, because these felonies were committed with the use of a firearm, Dunn is also subject to Florida’s “10-20-Life” mandatory minimum sentencing law (FL §775.087), made infamous by the case of Marissa Alexander.
Under the mandatory minimum sentencing scheme, Dunn faces mandatory minimum sentences of 20 years on each of the three counts of attempted murder and 15 years on the charge of throwing of missiles (because a gun was used Florida’s “10-20-Life” statute bumps what would normally be a 2nd degree felony to a 1st degree felony)
Because all the charges stem from a single set of acts, the sentences would likely be served concurrently, rather than consecutively, meaning in effect that Dunn would be sentenced to 20 years, the Florida norm. The sentencing judge has the discretion, however, to make the sentences consecutive, in which case Dunn would be looking at 75 years–effectively a life sentence for a ~40 year old. His sentencing may take place immediately, or at a separate sentencing hearing.
Dunn’s Claim of Self-Defense Remains a Factor in Murder Charge
Dunn had claimed self-defense as justification for his use of force, based upon Florida statutes §776.012, §776.013, §782.02, amongst others, and as captured in Florida jury instruction 3.6(f) Justifiable use of deadly force.
Once Dunn had met his burden of production in getting self-defense submitted to the jury–which he managed to do only by taking the stand to testify on his own behalf–the State carried the burden of disproving self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Apparently at least one juror believed that the State had not met this burden with respect to the first count, the murder charge for the shooting death of Jordan Davis. This will remain an issue if the State elects to re-try Dunn on that charge.
Sentencing Scheduled for Week of March 24
Dunn sent back to Sheriff’s for custody, sentencing tentatively scheduled for week of March 24, 2014, pre-sentencing report to be developed in the mean time.
If sentences run concurrently, as is the norm in Florida, Dunn will face mandatory minimum of 20 years. If sentences run consecutively he could face 60 to 80 years.
Implications for Self-Defense Immunity
Had Dunn been acquitted he would also have been free to seek self-defense immunity from civil suit under the relevant Florida statute, §776.032. Whether he would have chosen to do so is questionable. First, news reports indicate that he (or, more accurately, his insurers) settled all civil suits prior to his criminal trial. Further, he is currently destitute–even his lawyer is not currently being paid–and so not much of a law suit target.
Perhaps most important, however, is that it seems unlikely he would have emerged a winner from a self-defense immunity hearing, despite his acquittal. An acquittal in a self-defense case does not automatically result in self-defense immunity. In his criminal trial he need only sustain a reasonable doubt to prevent the State from overcoming his claim of self-defense. At a self-defense immunity hearing he must convince the judge of self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence, a much higher threshold it seems unlikely he could meet.
Had Dunn been acquitted it would have raised some interesting questions in the realm of the law of self-defense. Can it be possible that one can kill another person, flee the scene, never report the matter to police until captured on a felony warrant, have no evidence of necessary self-defense other than one’s own self-serving statements, and be acquitted of the criminal taking of another life?
So far, at least, it appears not.
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.