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Mid-Day Wrapup: “Loud Music” Murder Trial, Day Four

Mid-Day Wrapup: “Loud Music” Murder Trial, Day Four

Medical Examiner presents graphic testimony, indicates Davis leaning away from fire when struck; State rests

This morning saw testimony from two FDLE evidence technicians, and more interestingly from the medical examiner who conducted Jordan Davis’ autopsy.  She concluded it was most likely that Davis was leaning away from the source of gun fire when he was struck by three bullets, one mortally.  After the medical examiner’s testimony, State Attorney Angela Corey informed the court that the State rested.

Sukain Warf, Biologist, FDLE

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 9.09.01 AM

(Sukain Warf, biologist, FDLE.)

The first State’s witness of the morning was Sukain Warf, a biologist with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).  State Assistant Attorney John Guy led the direct examination.

Warf was tasked for analyzing swabs taken from shell casings at the scene for DNA evidence.  No DNA matches was possible.  On cross Stolla sought to diminish the credibility of her testimony by suggesting that there additional types of DNA that could have been tested for but those tests were not done, by noting that Warf possessed an MA but no higher degree.  Not much here, really.

Maria Pagan, firearms examiner, FDLE

(Maria Pagan, firearms examiner, FDLE.)

(Maria Pagan, firearms examiner, FDLE.)

Next up was Maria Pagan (pronounced “peh-GAHN”), a firearms examiner for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Angela Corey led on direct.

(State Attorney Angela Corey.)

(State Attorney Angela Corey.)

Corey had Pagan explain some firearms fundamentals, including the difference between revolvers and semi-automatics, the design of bullets, how semi-autos typically eject their rounds, and so forth.

She then moved on to some of the practical aspects of matching bullets to firearms, particularly with respect to complications that can arise if a bullet has been damaged in flight.  Pagan noted that a bullet can readily be too damaged to allow matching, particular when there are only small fragments of lead or copper jacket.

(Maria Pagan shows bullet fragments to jury.)

(Maria Pagan shows bullet fragments to jury.)

Pagan also noted that even if the bullet recovered is pristine, some guns simply do not mark bullets very well upon firing.  This, she noted was the case with Dunn’s Taurus pistol.  Even full-metal jacket 9mm rounds followed into FDLE’s water tank–a pristine way of obtaining rifling marks on a bullet–failed to produce much useable marking on the bullets.

Bottom line, Pagan was unable to definitely match the bullets recovered from the scene or autopsy with the samples fired in her lab. She did note, however, that both the evidence and test bullets exhibited the six-groove, right-hand twist rifling found in the barrel of the Taurus.

Pagan also examined the four brass cases found under the windshield wipers of Dunn’s Volkswagen as well as the case found on the driver’s side floor of the car. These were matched successfully to the Taurus.

Pagan also displayed the Taurus pistol itself, as well as Dunn’s right-hand, inside the waistband holster, before the jury.  Corey noted that the holster lacked any kind of retention device (another gun knowledge point for Corey, who also asked Pagan to clarify that the proper name for a “clip” was a “magazine”).

(Dunn's Taurus pistol and holster.)

(Dunn’s Taurus pistol and holster.)

On cross, Strolla engaged in asking questions he almost certainly knew Pagan would not have the answers to, either because they were not relevant or not her job.

For example, he asked her about the manufacturer’s claimed trigger weight of the gun.  Pagan indicated that she did not know, but in any case the manufacturer’s figure for trigger weight was typically incorrect, and in any case trigger weight can change through use, parts replacement, or other factors.  Asked by Pagan if she had dismantled the gun to determine if it had been modified, Pagan said she had only field-stripped the pistol for safety inspection.

Strolla also noted that Pagan had told Corey the purpose of the safety on the pistol was to prevent an accidental shooting, and got snarky with her. “Isn’t it true, there’s no such thing as an accidental shooting, the technical term is negligent discharge?” Pagan shrugged it off.

Pagan did note on cross that she did not test fire the ammo found with the pistol, nor similar hollow-point ammo, but instead used full-metal jacket ammo to try to ensure a pristine bullet sample for testing.

Strolla did get into a strange area of questioning, asking if if different guns with different ammo might sound differently from each other when fired.  This seemed a senseless line of questioning until Strolla asked if a shogun would sound different than a 9mm handgun when fired. Pagan indicated that it likely would.

The only potential purpose that comes to mind from this line of questioning is that the surveillance audio clearly indicates 10 rounds fired, but there are only 9 bullet strikes on the vehicle. Perhaps Strolla has a witness who will testify that one of the shouts sounded different from the others, and that this differently sounding shot was a shotgun blast fired from the SUV? Speculative, of course.

Lucia McBath was seen attending this portion of the trial.

(Lucia McBath, Jordan Davis' mother.)

(Lucia McBath, Jordan Davis’ mother.)

Strolla also asked repeatedly whether bullets could make left or right turns, turn up or down, presumably he plans to impeach some of the forensics evidence on this basis.

On re-direct, Corey asked Pagan, Is there anything about defense counsel’s questions that would prevent this gun when pointed at someone and fired from killing them? No, Pagan replied.

Dr. Stacey Simons, Medical Examiner

(Dr. Stacey Simons, Medical Examiner.)

(Dr. Stacey Simons, Medical Examiner.)

The next witness was Dr. Stacey Simons, the Medical Examiner who conducted the autopsy of Jordan Davis. (Dr. Simons has since resigned her position with the ME’s office.  Corey handled the direct examination of Dr. Simons.

Prior to Dr. Simons testimony and before the jury had returned to the court room following the mid-morning break, Judge Healey informed the court that some graphic testimony would be coming, and that if they did not feel they could prevent themselves from emotional outbursts they should excuse themselves from the court room.

Defendant Michael Dunn was attentive throughout Dr. Simon’s testimony.

(Defendant Michael Dunn.)

(Defendant Michael Dunn.)

There was indeed some graphic images shown, though many were clearly not broadcast out of the court room.

Perhaps the most informative image shown by Dr. Simons was the thoracic x-ray.  This shows the entry point of the bullet by the yellow mark in the lower left-hand corner of the x-ray, and it’s resting point around Davis’ armpit by the circle in the upper left.  The bullet track took the bullet through the diaphragm, through the liver, through the diaphragm again, through the right lung, between the heart and the spine where it cut the aorta, through the left lung, and to its final resting place.

(Thoracic x-ray of Jordan Davis body..)

(Thoracic x-ray of Jordan Davis body..)

Another key part of Dr. Simons testimony is where she used both her own person, standing before the jury, and a moveable mannikin with dowels illustrating the bullet impacts and tracks to show that Jordan Davis was almost certainly leaning away from the source of gun fire when struck by the bullets.

(ME Dr. Stacey Simon with mannikin.)

(ME Dr. Stacey Simon with mannikin.)

Corey also made use of the trajectory dowel evidence to further press this point.

(Trajectory dowels showing entry of bullets to Jordan Davis' seat..)

(Trajectory dowels showing entry of bullets to Jordan Davis’ seat..)

The gunshot wounds to Davis’ legs were also discussed, but neither of these would have been fatal, and so received somewhat less attention except to further support the notion that Davis was likely leaning away from the gunfire when struck.

("Lollipop" shows path and end of left leg bullet.)

(“Lollipop” shows path and end of left leg bullet.)

On cross, Strolla thought to suggest that perhaps Davis was climbing back into the vehicle when struck, claiming this could have yielded a similar wound track.  Of course, there is no evidence Davis was ever out of the vehicle.  Strolla was also pointedly offensive with Dr. Simons, even more than he usually is with State’s witnesses.

State Rests

Following Dr. Simon’s cross-examination, Corey announced that the State rested it’s case.

Judge Healey announced the court in recess until 1:30PM US EST.  When court resumes, it is presumed the defense will begin to present it’s side to the jury.

OK, that’s it for the mid-day, as I’m out of time.  Back to live coverage of the trial:

LIVE COVERAGE: “Loud Music” Murder Trial, Day 4

–Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

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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Dunn interrogation tape was just played on CNN during the trial lunch break (not in evidence yet ! ??? )

When does it come in ??? – I’m guessing maybe the D is going to call Dunn to the stand, the P will wait for him to use all the rope he brings with him on himself, and then bring it in to impeach ? I’m guessing neither Dunn nor Strolla is even close to smart enough to limit their direct enough to keep it out ?

All Dunn has to say is ‘they threatened me’, and the tape comes in. “Mr Dunn, you told the police your window was up and you couldn’t hear what they were saying ? WTF ?”

“My window was up, I couldn’t hear what they were saying”

then, Dunn says ‘There was a whole bunch of FU and such, and ‘kill him now’ etc

“Then I rolled my window down and said ‘are you talking to me ?”

get the issue here ? His window was up, ‘I couldn’t hear what they were saying”, then “They were saying this and that”. Huh ?

Dunn says he “ his gun out …Quicker than a flash”. “Shot four times” “In my mind they got a gun” (not ‘I saw a gun’ ). Then shot some more as they were pulling away “…to keep their heads down”.

‘In my mind they got a gun …’???? Every time I walk down the street, I make that assumption subconsciously, automatically. It leads me to be polite, and cautious in my words and actions, not to whip out a piece and start blasting everyone in sight !

But that’s just me ……

Branca, care to comment on the jury?

Do you think the defense has a shot, or are they pretty much done at this point?

They are clearly Dunn 🙂

Another little typo clarification –

She did not, however, that both the evidence and test bullets exhibited the six-groove, right-hand twist rifling

Slightly mysterious with note morphed into not.

So the prosecution didn’t enter the interview recording, then? Probably smart.

As some have learned to their detriment, anything you say to the police can be used against you, but exculpatory statements CANNOT be used for you. They are hearsay, not evidence. The reason they can use your statements against you is that “statements against penal interest” are an exception to the hearsay rule.

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to Estragon. | February 10, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Actually I don’t believe an interview recording is hearsay. Hearsay is what someone told you, a recording is what you say. There are other reasons for keeping out recordins.

    And I think sometimes self serving statements can be let in. Omarasaid after the trial that there parts of the Zimmerman tapes the prosecution wanted to leave out but couldn’t because of something called the “rule of completeness” — you have to admit complete statements. I guess it’s the opposite of the MSM.

      MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to MouseTheLuckyDog. | February 10, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      Here it is, from Professor Jacobson’s stomping ground:

      Doctrine of Completeness

      Under Rule 106 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, when part of a writing or recorded statement is introduced, an adverse party may require introduction of any other part or any other writing or recorded statement which ought in fairness to be considered contemporaneously with the writing or recorded statement originally introduced. This additional evidence is called explanatory evidence, and its purpose is to qualify, explain or put in context the original piece of introduced evidence.

      The explanatory writing does not have to be part of same writing or recording. Additionally, even otherwise inadmissible evidence, such as hearsay, can be admissible under this rule if it is necessary to correct any confusion or wrongful impression created by the admission of the original evidence.

      Mouse: Hearsay: “Testimony about out of court statements that are involving someone other than the person that is testifying. It is inadmissible because it cannot be cross examined.”

      Law Dictionary:

      As Hearsay, Dunn’s out of court statements in his interview are classic Heresay. Now, go do some research and tell us which exception to the Heresay Rule may allow the interview to be played.

respect in young adults | February 13, 2014 at 5:37 am

Dunn trail- does anyone know if the SUV with the four young male adults was traveling behind the out of town lic plate/Vehicle, prior to the Dunn car pulling into the gate station? A night out for fun? Did any of the boys even go into the gate station to make A purchase? If so what did they purchase? Where were these boys the night of the prior to this incident? Where were they coming from? Did any of the investigators check for drugs or parafinalia in the SUV, beside the gun that Dunn saw? What was the purpose of them going to the gate station?
What this really comes down to is the society we live in, most kids don’t have RESPECT for their elders. Whatever type of music was being played that night and any day for that matter whether it be country, jazz, rock n roll or rap. Most kids with respect would kindly turn the volume down. What the purpose of listening to this music so loud. Are they trying to make a statement w the profanity. What is this showing our small children with the harsh vulgarity blasting out of the windows and into our privacy. Is this not a nuisance law. Loud thumping music. How are we to hear if an emergency vehicle is coming along beside us to know to pull over when we cant hear anything but thumping and rude messages being sent out. Has a physiologist indicate d what the harshness of this profanity does to ones irritability and un comfortable situation to a side car traveling or parked next to this? I’m sure these nasty vulgar words aren’t making any person warm and fuzzy inside. In fact giving us anxiety. The words are profound and ugly & not teaching good examples. Why didn’t the kids young adults respect the mans wishes and just turn down the volume and why would they then start a trife with more vulgarity w words towards a man who was reflecting his beautiful day and simply waiting on his lady friend. ” this is going down” sounds like a gangster term to me. Is this what our society has become? with mankind in fear to go to the movies, school, road rage (with people throwing rocks )at cars, all for fun? Or is the violence of music causing the outrageous behavior in young adults. Parenting skills must be tweaked. Has any one of the young adults parents been asked if they hold a gun permit or own a gun? Have local vendors of gun sales been asked if any of the young men purchased a fun from their stores. Is there any records showing that any of these young men have a gun? No they most likely pick them up on the streets. Why didn’t the young men call 911 when they saw Mr Dunn had a gun and was protecting himself? Better yet why did they drive off after the shots were fired? If someone was hurt with trama, why didn’t they call an ambulance. Did they drive off in fear or I suspect they drove off to ditch any weapons and any drugs related products in their vehicle. Time to get rid of their evidence. As a person who works on the road most of the day myself, the only “loud music” I encounter is this gangster rap,thumping car shaking music. Not a very pleasant experience. And never a good message. I don’t wish to hear the nasty lyrics. Not an art-
Another topic: did anyone else in the store that night hear this loud music blaring out? Or just the gun shots being fired off. Can the music be heard on the survalience video-.Fact was they probably did hear the loud thumping, but its such a norm around here people tend to ignore. It’s a sad day when kids aren’t brought up to be respectful.

…”Why didn’t the young men call 911 when they saw Mr Dunn had a gun and was protecting himself? Better yet why did they drive off after the shots were fired?”

Well, people tend to run away if someone is shooting at them. I imagine they were in a functional car they would drive away.