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“Loud music” Murder Defendant Guilty of 1st Degree Murder

“Loud music” Murder Defendant Guilty of 1st Degree Murder

Last February’s trial convicted Michael Dunn of attempted 2nd degree murder, but hung on 1st degree murder charge

Michael Dunn has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of black 17-year-old Jordan Davis on November 23, 2012.

This “loud music” murder case arose from the violent interaction between Michael Dunn and Jordan Davis and three of his teenaged friends while parked beside each other at a Florida gas station.  Dunn would fire three bursts of 9mm bullets at the red SUV in which the teenagers were sitting, mortally wounding Davis in the first burst of fire. Dunn fled the scene, and was captured by the police the following morning because a witness had noted Dunn’s license plate number.  Dunn would go on to claim that he fired in self-defense, that Davis had threatened to kill him, had pointed a shotgun-like object at him, and was exiting the car when Dunn retrieved his pistol and began firing at them.

The initial burst of three rounds penetrated the SUV’s rear passenger door and mortally wounded Davis, who would die within minutes.  Three bullets of a second burst of four rounds penetrated the exterior of the front passenger door, but did not enter the vehicle interior (these were recovered inside the door; the fourth round fired was presumably a miss).  The final burst of three rounds was fired into the rear of the SUV as it fled the scene.

Dunn’s first trial in February resulted in his conviction on three counts of attempted second-degree murder and of throwing missiles, most likely on the basis that the last burst of fire as the SUV fled could not be justified as lawful self-defense.  Dunn faces 60 years in prison for those convictions alone.

That jury, however, had hung on the first-degree murder charge.  Interviews with jurors afterwards revealed that three of the 12 had remained unconvinced that prosecutors had disproved self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt for the first burst of fire which killed Davis, the legal threshold that must be met for a legal claim of self-defense to be defeated in Florida (and every other state, except Ohio).

I covered the first Dunn trial verdict specifically here, GUILTY! Dunn Guilty of Most Charges, But Not Murder, and my collective posts on the case can be found at this link.

Prosecutors at the time immediately vowed to re-try Dunn, and that re-trial has now resulted in a first-degree murder conviction, which carries a life sentence. (Dunn’s sentencing on the earlier convictions had been delayed until the outcome of this re-trial, although he has been kept in custody during the interval.)

–-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 (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.

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Comments

Sometimes, discretion really is the better part of valor.
Especially when you’re a CCL holder.

#teachablemoment

    Deodorant in reply to Amy in FL. | October 1, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Valor? Discretion? Dunn had neither. No brains either. He did have a chip on his shoulder. A big one.

      That was my point. And that’s why he’ll be spending the rest of his life in prison — a state of affairs that needn’t have happened if he had conducted himself as a rational thinking adult and exercised a bit of discretion here.

        tom swift in reply to Amy in FL. | October 2, 2014 at 9:55 am

        Discretion would have been of no use to him if he was really threatened by a shotgun.

        If he wasn’t really threatened by a shotgun but merely thought he was, then his problem isn’t discretion, it’s an overactive imagination, one perhaps bordering on paranoia.

        And if the whole shotgun story is rubbish, then the problem is that he deliberately fired ten shots into a car full of people who were merely annoying. Which again isn’t a discretion problem, but one of behavior somewhere between the inexplicably bizarre and the genuinely psychotic.

          If he had exercised discretion, as a responsible adult, and not engaged the teens at all, none of this would have happened and he wouldn’t be facing life in prison.

          Insisting that someone else’s children turn down their music in a gas station parking lot so that you can have a few minutes’ peace while your girlfriend runs in for wine and chips does not seem like a battle that a 45-year-old grown man actually needs to fight, let alone win.

His actions did not appear to meet the immanence or reasonableness thresholds, from where I’m sitting.

    Well, the circumstances DID meet the imminence and reasonableness elements–IF YOU BELIEVED HIS STORY.

    I mean, some dude threatens to kill you, shows a shotgun, starts to get out of his car–that’s an imminent deadly threat, and a deadly force defense would be reasonable.

    The only problem is the only person who ever saw any of that was Dunn. And Dunn crushed his credibility with his post-event “consciousness of guilt” conduct.

    Remember, folks, it’s not about what ACTUALLY happened, and it’s not about TRUTH.

    None of the people judging your conduct know what ACTUALLY happened, and none of them can ever arrive at the TRUTH.

    It’s about competing narratives and thresholds of proof.

    Here, the state had overwhelmingly the more compelling narrative of guilt, and the jury took little time to decide they’d proven it by the requisite amount of proof.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      guyjones in reply to Andrew Branca. | October 2, 2014 at 11:09 am

      Fleeing the scene after the shooting also did little to bolster the credibility of Dunn’s “I saw a shotgun” defense. That act undermined the credibility of his entire self-defense posture.

        Fleeing if you still think you’re in danger is okay by me. Either dialing 911 or asking Siri where the nearest police station is and letting her navigate you there as you’re doing so might be a good move too.

          Gunstar1 in reply to Amy in FL. | October 2, 2014 at 11:58 am

          If you have fired your gun at someone, you should call the police. To flee and not call the police, but letting them find you based on someone getting your license plate number is just asking to be convicted.

Yeah, this trial was lost during the opening.

The State hooked it well, went WAY over the line for an opening argument, and never drew a murmur of objection from the defense.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to Ragspierre. | October 2, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    This one was lost the moment he pulled the trigger. I want to believe that he was actually in fear, however, that fear must be reasonable and there is no evidence to that fact.

This one was kind of a foregone conclusion. I still say this guy has some serious mental problems. I pray now that all parties can get some closure. I am sure there will be an appeal but,I doubt it will go anywhere.

    You see grounds for appeal? I mean substantive grounds?

    I guess it’s possible.

    It’s a pretty fact-dense case. And the fact-finding’s been done.

    The law stuff looks pretty solid.

    Really either the jury was going to believe the “self-defense fact” side of the narrative, or they weren’t. They didn’t.

    Appeal isn’t going to touch that.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      platypus in reply to Andrew Branca. | October 1, 2014 at 7:44 pm

      True but there will be an appeal, by a public defense appellate firm. In WA state, they have a special motion where the PD tells the court that he finds no reasonable basis for the appeal, and they let him withdraw. From that point on, it’s pretty much a sheer cliff looking up for the defendant.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to Andrew Branca. | October 2, 2014 at 12:12 am

      Oh, no I don’t see any grounds for appeal, but I just figure there will be at least and attempt at one.

      I would like to know why the defense did not focus on the tripod that was found underneath the seat when no weapon was found?
      A tripod leg, minus the end cap or foot, would certainly look like the barrel of a shotgun.

        There was testimony from several witnesses that the tripod could not have been removed from it’s position under the seat without the door being fully opened, and that was inconsistent with both Dunn’s testimony and that of other witnesses, who testified the vehicles were too close to allow the door to open sufficiently for that purpose.

        For whatever reason the defense thought this an avenue of argument not worth pursuing.

        –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

          Thank you for the reply.
          Yes. I understand it may not have been an avenue they wished to pursue. That doesn’t tell me why though.

          To your reply. Not saying it is not true, but I do not recall that specific testimony.

          Davis’s friends were out of the vehicle, doors open and what looked like to be rummaging around in the vehicle after they had drove into the adjacent parking lot.

          That surely was ample opportunity to put it under the seat.

          “That surely was ample opportunity to put it under the seat.”

          If there’s no testimony to that effect, it’s nothing more than speculation.

          Anything “COULD” have happened.

          An interstellar unicorn COULD have killed Jordan Davis.

          But juries are instructed to come to a verdict based on the evidence, NOT on speculation.

          There was ZERO evidence that the tripod was ever removed from under the seat, absent Dunn’s claim of something being pointed at him, and he destroyed his credibility as a witness when he fled the scene.

          And that’s the way THAT cookie crumbles.

          –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

          You appear to be getting hostile, condescending and silly for no reason.
          So like I said; Thank you for your response.
          You obviously don’t know any more than I do.

          Btw, no it is not possible that “An interstellar unicorn COULD have killed Jordan Davis”. We already know the bullets that Dunn fired killed him.

          Haha, right. So maybe the unicorns threatened Dunn with the shotgun. Or the tripod. Or whatever.

          The point is, we’ll never know. Because Dunn fled. He didn’t call 911. The teenagers int he SUV DID call 911. They were accordingly treated as crime victims. Dunn was accordingly treated as someone who fled after committing a shooting.

          Shocked at the outcome? I’m not.

          –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

          “The teenagers in the SUV did call 911.”
          It’s like I am speaking with someone who doesn’t even know what occurred.
          No, the teenagers did not call 911.
          One of the teenager’s did, and only did so AFTER returning from the other parking lot, Tevin Thompson.

          The Driver, Thomas Stornes, a criminal on probation, attempted to make such a call while in the other parking lot, but for some odd reason immediately hung up and never completed it, and in it’s stead oddly called his aunt and cousin who live in the immediate area.

          Did you not understand that “the teenagers” was used collectively to reference the group? You know, the group that Dunn shot at? The group that stayed on scene? The group that engaged with and talked to the responding officers? And, yes, the group that called 911?

          By your way of thinking, “The baseball team scored six runs” is an incorrect statement unless each and every member of the team scored six runs?

          In any case, you miss the point (color me shocked), which is that DUNN did NOT call 911.

          Not from the scene, not from his place of safety at his hotel, not on the 2-hour-plus ride home, not once home.

          Not. Ever.

          THAT’S no way to sell self-defense to a jury. As he’s now learned.

          –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

          Gremlin1974 in reply to Andrew Branca. | October 6, 2014 at 10:05 am

          Why is it, or at least it seems to me, that when someone says “Thank you for your reply”, that just seems to be an indicator that they are going to begin a pointless argument?

          Collectively? Do you really think that your intent wasn’t known?
          Stop deflecting.
          Their being together doesn’t make them a collective anything, especially in comparison to a team sport.
          They are individuals who all did, and saw, things differently.

          Their individual account contradict each others as well support Dunn’s.
          And collectively they did not call. One did, and only after they fled, did something suspicious, and then returned.

          Your trying to pass it off as having been the right thing in comparison to Dunn, is ridiculous. Davis lay dying in the back seat. Someone obviously had to call, and yet Thompson didn’t bother to complete a 911 call, and in it’s stead, made two calls to people in the immediate area.

          Suuuurrrre! A guy is dying in your back seat of your Durango and instead of calling 911, you make other calls. Sorry, but that is suspicious and wasn’t the right thing to do.
          Had no one been shot it is likely that they never would have called 911, but instead got the heck out of there as well.
          And yes I agree that Dunn fleeing casts a shadow on his account. But it is believable, because most folks do not know what it is like to actually have their life credibly threatened.

          If you remember from the first trial, one of the Jurors who wanted to convict stated it was because she believed he had other choices, like rolling up his window or moving to another spot.
          All of those are before the actions for which the jury is tasked to find reasonableness or not, and would therefore be a miscarriage of justice had he been found guilty then.
          If any of the Jurors this time around found him guilty for the same reason, it would also be a miscarriage.

          “Stop deflecting.”

          The guy posting under a pseudonym says I’M deflecting.

          You got me, dude. That’s my style. Indirect.

          Oofah. 🙂

          –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

        Gremlin1974 in reply to LeBe. | October 6, 2014 at 10:03 am

        Yes, it could look like the barrel of a shotgun, so could a length of pipe, or a night stick, even a length of black pvc pipe, or the barrel of a Mossberg Persuader. Also all of those things could have been hidden in the bushes where the teens ran to for a moment, and done so very quickly.

        You know the cops might have even searched that area that very night, you know if maybe someone had been around to let them know that they needed to look for a weapon or something that could have been seen as a weapon? Now, who could have done that? I know who it should have been, but alas that is not the case.

        Not that I think Self Defense would have flown in the end anyway, even if Dunn hadn’t “run”.

        Frankly I think that Dunn has some serious mental issues, just from his leaving the scene. “Running” to me is not going about your evening as if nothing happened, which is pretty much what Dunn did. These are not the actions of a reasonable person, much like firing at a fleeing vehicle is not reasonable. Frankly I think he should have made an insanity plea, it would have been a lot easier to accept than Self Defense.

          Yes they may have if Dunn would have hung around the place where he didn’t know if the thug was going to return or not.
          Not really a wise thing to do.
          And yes if Davis’s friends had been honest and told the police.

          But unlikely on both counts as Thompson, instead of completing a call to 911 made two other calls from that parking lot, one to his aunt and to his cousin who both live in the area and immediately came to the scene after being called.

          And btw, saying thank you for the reply, means thank you for the reply, as he is not required to respond. It is polite to do so and should indicate to anyone that I was not being hostile in challenging what has been said.
          But as he has already shown, that is what he wants to be.

waiting on a$$wipe BFTG to weigh in saying you should do more here.

dunn dunn got what he deserved. IMO justice was served.

Richard Aubrey | October 1, 2014 at 10:29 pm

Road rage is when the rude and clueless meet the unbalanced and stupid.
The R&S will we have always with us. Being polite and attentive when driving takes away one of the ingredients necessary to road rage.
The violent and unbalanced (Dunn) we will always have with us. The in-your-face buttheads can choose not to try to annoy other people just for grins and take away one of the ingredients for issues such as this. Or not. Putting Dunn away doesn’t bring back the dead. He’s still dead, so this doesn’t exactly accomplish much. Going on about the freedom of young buttheads to crank up the woofer to piss off the public is fine, but that doesn’t bring back the dead butthead, either.

I would have figured he was guilty too, if I was sitting on the jury. Almost exclusively because he left the scene and didn’t immediately call the police. He damned himself good by doing that.

Dunn had imbibed alcoholic drinks prior to the incident. That obviously impaired his judgment. Further, his jailhouse correspondence reveal an embittered, racist outlook. No way around that fact. Remarking to his girlfriend that he hated “That thug music” betrayed a man in a dour disposition who was agitated over behavior that, however irritating it may have been, 99% of people who have ignored with detachment. And, if the youth had, in fact, cursed him back and raised the music volume higher after first lowering it, so what? Most people of intelligence and common sense would have dismissed them as discourteous idiots and simply have moved on, not escalated the confrontation by producing a firearm. Fleeing the scene was the final nail in the coffin, and spoke to Dunn’s guilty mindset. A person who has used a firearm in justifiable self-defense waits for the authorities, or, contacts them.

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