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“Loud Music” Murder Trial: Jury Selection Underway, Media Excluded from Voir Dire

“Loud Music” Murder Trial: Jury Selection Underway, Media Excluded from Voir Dire

Media fumes over audio-only access to jury voir dire

Jury selection continues for the second day in the murder trial of Michael Dunn, as the media has grounds for new cries of suppression following Judge Healey’s decision to exclude them from the courtroom, as reported by WJCT news in Florida.  Also in court yesterday, Michael Dunn formally pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Dunn, a 47-year-old white man, is charged with 1st degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. State prosecutors and Davis supporters claim that Dunn killed Davis, and shot his three companions, because the young men were playing their music too loud. Dunn claims he was verbally threatened, then spotted what appeared to be a weapon, prompting him to present his licensed sidearm and fire reasonable self-defense.

Ridiculously, after the shooting Dunn left the scene, returned home, and ordered pizza. Police found him at home after identifying his vehicle, and hence his identity, from surveillance video and witness statements at the scene of the shooting.

Judge Healey has set a goal of 16 jurors, consisting of 12 primary jurors and 4 alternates. As some may recall from the Zimmerman 2nd degree murder trial, Florida requires only 6 jurors for most felony criminal trials, but 1st degree murder is the exception, requiring the more traditional 12 jurors.

Judge Russell Healey, presiding over the "loud music" 1st degree murder trial of Michael Dunn in shooting death of Jordan Davis

Judge Russell Healey

Between yesterday and today twin pools of 100 jurors each have been winnowed down to 62–those eliminated consisted primarily of people claiming extended sequestration would be a hardship or who claimed to have already formed an opinion on the case, according to reporting by WOKV.  These 62 will now be subject to more rigorous voir dire, in which the prosecution and defense will each have a limited number of strikes through which they can eliminate a particular prospective juror without giving cause, as well as argue why a specific juror should be dismissed for some particular cause.  

Judge Healey anticipates that the jury selection process will continue through Wednesday, and the trial could begin as soon as Wednesday afternoon or Thursday.  Once the trial proper begins, it is anticipated that both audio and video coverage will be available through selected local media.

Those who followed along with us on the Zimmerman trial will soon be presented with a familiar visage: Assistant State Attorney John Guy is “in the house”, he of the infamously and repetitively shouted “f*cking punks!” from last year’s most notable self-defense trial.  Guy will be the leading prosecutor on this case.

Assistant State Prosecutor John Guy, the lead prosecutor in the "loud music" 1st degree murder trial of Michael Dunn in shooting death of Jordan Davis

Assistant State Prosecutor John Guy

The parties worked through an initial pool of 100 prospective jurors yesterday, and plan to do so again today. A substantial number of prospective jurors are expected to be dismissed because of the hardship that sequestration would impose upon them. Yesterday Judge Healey ruled that the empanelled jury would be sequestered for the duration of the trial.

The media is once again objecting to Healey’s treatment of them, this time for excluding them and their cameras from the court room during jury voir dire. The media’s only access to the jury selection process is via an audio feed into a separate room. The media have, consistent with past practice, promptly taken their grievance to the 1st District Court of Appeals.

The “emergency hearing” called for this past Friday by the 1st District Court of Appeals to straighten out the kerfuffle over media access to Dunn’s jailhouse telephone recordings, is expected to take place later this week.

On a positive note, there are indications that this trial may hold more genuine entertainment value than did the Zimmerman trial.

First, today someone in the courthouse thought it would be a good idea to position their toaster adjacent to a heat sensor for the building’s fire detection system. The inevitable hilarity ensued, with the courthouse having to be completely emptied when the alarm system was triggered.

Second, a source of entertainment likely to have more legs than an errant toaster comes to our attention from this report by The Florida Times Union:

By Monday afternoon, three members of the New Black Panther Party’s Jacksonville branch had shown up outside the courthouse, as leader Mikhail Muhammad kept up a microphone-aided broadside that criticized the stand-your-ground law, white people, black cops, State Attorney Angela Corey and the state of Israel. During a water break, he said Jacksonville as well as Dunn is on trial. He vowed to stay at the courthouse throughout the trial, and said New Black Panther members from other cities will soon be joining him.

Mikhail Muhammad, leader of the New Black Panther's Jacksonville, FL branch

Mikhail Muhammad, leader of the New Black Panthers’ Jacksonville, FL branch

Mikhail Muhammad appears to be an interesting fellow. In May of 2013 News4Jax reported that he had been arrested for resisting arrest without violence. The charge stemmed from his refusal to allow police to gather up his wife’s property after she told the officers that she wanted to leave him, but that he would not allow her to leave the house and that she was deathly afraid of him.

A police report filed earlier that month noted an incident in which Muhammad’s wife was screaming out an open window to get the attention of people walking down the street, stating that Muhammad was keeping the doors and windows shut at all times.


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, (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.


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” . . . after the shooting Dunn left the scene, returned home, and ordered pizza.”

I think he should have called the police before he called Pappa John’s.

Jury verdicts sometimes turn on the most insignificant of factual occurrences. Ordering pizza after emptying your weapon into a car full of human beings does not sound good for the defendant.

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to Redneck Law. | February 4, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Actually I find his actions very consistent with someone who was threatened by a gun, retrieved his gun and chased away the attacker by firing.

    I expect under any circumstances a person who actually shot someone, would either wait for the police or outright flee. If he had shot someone but did so because he was in real fear, then I would expect him to just wait for the police.

    If he knew he shot someone but simply did it because of anger, I would expect him to run away with more urgency. Especially go past the state line before slowing down. Either that or hang around and try to tough it out.

    He acted about the way I would expect someone who had some sort of nasty event happen, and that they were very lucky to get out without any kind of long term ill effects, and to just put it as far behind you as you can.

      Mouse: “actions very consistent with someone who was threatened by a gun, retrieved his gun and chased away the attacker by firing.”

      A couple of problems with your assessment. I don’t see an “attack” by the black yoots. At most, one of the teens may have ‘brandished’ a weapon, but this is a self-defense issue. Once Dunn returned to his car, it would not be reasonable for him to be in fear for his life, especially if the yoots stayed in the van. If there was an ‘attack’ in this case, it was Dunn returning to the van with his 9mm, and unloading on the teens. If you look at the facts of this case and apply the law of self-defense, Dunn had retreated to a position of safety. When he returned to the van, he unlawfully (IMHO) escalated the situation to the point that he lost his right of self-defense by using deadly force.

        MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to Redneck Law. | February 5, 2014 at 2:08 pm

        If you give my post even a cursory read, it’s clear that the actions I refer to are the actions after the shooting. If you really want to be credible you should pay attention at least a little.

        As an aside:
        “I don’t see an “attack” by the black yoots. At most, one of the teens may have ‘brandished’ a weapon, …”

        While you may not see an attack, brandishing a weapon is generally considered more then enough to constitute an attack.

          Mouse, my friend. Legally speaking, an “attack” must be either an assault or a battery. We know that none of the teens committed a battery (offensive ‘touching’), so let’s go with the legal definition of an ‘assault’: “An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm.”

          Your turn: Now explain your position.

          And don’t be too condescending to me. Snark is ok, but let’s back up that tone with some wisdom and insight.

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to Redneck Law. | February 4, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    OK. “returned home” is wrong.
    Dunn and his girlfriend were attending a long distance wedding.
    After the incident Dunn proceeded to drive hom, but they stopped at a motel for the night. He ordered the pizza there.

“Ridiculously, after the shooting Dunn left the scene, returned home, and ordered pizza.”

That fact will doom him. Obviously the jury has to hear all the evidence and not prejudge him…but that is a pretty damning thing. George Zimmerman this is not.

Redneck Law, great line you made there. Spot on.

Oh, wow. He shot someone four times, then went home and ordered pizza ?

That HAS to add to ‘depraved mind’. And it WILL come in to court, I would think, being contemporaneous to the shooting.

I don’t care HOW justified you believe you are, you don’t shoot someone four times at a gas station and then go home and order pizza like it never happened. You stick around (assuming safety), identify your name to the police, and inform them you want a lawyer before you say another word beyond that. None of that includes saying ‘extra cheese’.

Glad to hear the NBP’s are in town. Always good for a laugh. Did the Rev Al show up yet ?

This asswipe Dunn, as I recall, actually turned around, went inside his car, got his gun, came back, and THEN starting blasting. No self defense is credible. He could have reached for the ignition and left instead of reaching for the gun.

Is ‘I was hungry’ a defense ? I forget ….

    “Oh, wow. He shot someone four times”

    Four people were hit, but Dunn fired a LOT more than four rounds, from many angles, all down the length of Davis’ SUV–almost as damning as the pizza. See forensics photos at my blog, here:

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      Damn. And Dunn was shooting a 9 ?

      So, he was just plain unloading the m’fr, even while the vehicle was trying to escape ? Figure a typical 15-17 round mag for a 9mm, he just kept ‘getting it’ until ‘it’ went ‘click’ instead of ‘bang’ ?

      The shells caught under the wipers are especially interesting.

      And he had some other ‘paranoid shit’ in his car ? ‘Chucks, etc.

      MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to Andrew Branca. | February 4, 2014 at 10:33 pm

      Where did you hear that 4 were hit?
      The reports I read only said that Davis was killed.
      The charges as I understand are the murder of Davis, and three counts of attempted murder. If he hit someone else wouldn’t there be additional assault charges?

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to pjm. | February 4, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    “Oh, wow. He shot someone four times, then went home and ordered pizza ?”

    Actually he couldn’t know for certain if he hit someone. They drove away when he started firing.

    I’m actually surprised that a 9mm went through two pieces of sheet metal. New cars must be made of thinner materials then in my day.

I hope he ordered one without anchovies.

Looking back at the role MSM played during the Zimmerman trial, I think it is a good idea to kick them out of the courtroom.

We don’t have responsible media outlets anymore.

He vowed to stay at the courthouse throughout the trial…

Does he(they) have a job?

MouseTheLuckyDog | February 4, 2014 at 10:52 pm

Ok. I just saw some of the letters at HLN. AN excerpt from one:
“This gangster-rap, ghetto talking thug ‘culture’ that certain segments of society flock to is intolerable.”
which some lawyer claims shows prejudice.

Sounds to me like many of the posters at the conservative tree house.
I didn’t see anything like f***** n****** in the statements.

Is Dunn being Zimmermaned?

Up till now, I’ve believed them when they said that the guys in the SUV didn’t have much of a chance to ditch a gun. I think the main question for the jury is whether that is indeed the case.

Leaving the scene and not calling police even when in a safe place tends to indicate a consciousness of guilt, but he may argue since the others fled he had no proof of self-defense and may have been charged for firing the weapon.

Emptying the whole clip could be someone really scared, or really enraged.

I don’t understand why live audio isn’t enough for the public/media during voir dire, given the notoriety of the case it might be desirable to minimize the exposure of the prospective jurors’ faces. But Florida law often leans toward full openness, which is overall a good thing, so maybe Healey is just once again showing disdain for public access.

If Dunn’s car was identified via video and witness statements, that would give police his home address, but it wouldn’t tell them which motel he was in. So how did they locate his “hideout”?

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to tom swift. | February 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    It’s called police work. They draw a line from the gas station to his home, They ask witness which way he went. They call hotels and motels along the route.

    Phillep Harding in reply to tom swift. | February 5, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Hotels and motels now require listing the license plate number of your car when you check in.

I would like to live in a society where an older man could ask a car full of teenagers to turn their music down and not expect a violent reaction, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect as much. This seems like a road rage incident, and I assume Dunn was trying to bully the teens by telling them to turn the music down, then asking if they’re talking to him after they started yelling. It is hard to imagine anyone so socially inept that they would hold this exchange in a calm, benevolent tone. It seems likelier that Dunn yelled at them, knowing he’d make them mad, and then gave a Taxi Driver style “You talking to me?” before opening fire. Of course this is speculation on my part, but Dunn’s version of events just seems so unrealistic I am led to speculate.

MouseTheLuckyDog | February 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm

I’m sorry but I can’t re4sist asking. Have opening arguments started yet? How many times has Guy screamed “f****** punks”?

Phillep Harding | February 5, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Those who wish to get rid of Stand Your Ground laws support blacks entering a “whites only” neighborhood being beaten or killed, without being able to defend themselves.