Wayne Davis, the jury foreman in the Michael Dunn re-trial that found Dunn guilty of the first-degree murder of Jordan Davis, was interviewed for the first time this past week by News4Jax.
Remember Dunn? He’s the one charged with 1st degree murder for the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. The State believed Dunn shot Jordan out of anger over Jordan’s loud music, whereas Dunn claimed he shot in lawful self-defense. The State’s argument won out, raising questions about lawful self-defense vs. premeditation standards in modern criminal law.
You can read a transcript, and watch a video of the interview (also embedded at the bottom of this post), here.
What particularly caught my eye from this interview was the considerable weight the jurors placed on the many physical steps Michael Dunn took in retrieving, preparing, and brandishing his handgun, and how the jury concluded as a result that Dunn acted with premeditation. This finding of premeditation was necessary in order for the jury to unanimously find Dunn guilty of first-degree murder, as opposed to second-degree murder or manslaughter.
As Wayne Davis, jury foreman, put it in the interview:
We got instructions from the judge on what premeditation was, and we included, in some of the other ones, we never knew there was no time limit on premeditation, it can be three weeks or it can be three seconds. And from that, from the judges instructions, how to determine it was premeditated murder. . . . From the judge’s instructions of what premeditation was, it really came down to the all the steps he had to take to get to the gun, turn around and shoot that gun. They said there was no time limit for it, so we as a jury actually counted the amount of steps to get to that gun. One, reach for the glove box. Two, open the glove box. Three, reach in. Four, pull it out. Five, pull it out of the holster. Six, cock it. Seven, turn around and shoot. All that is premeditation. Pretty much from that I had to render first degree. That’s the law, whether I agree or not, whether I believe that or not, that is our law. I gave a promise that I would come back with a judgement according to the law. (emphasis added)
The emphasis placed on these many steps is mirrored in arguments made to them by Assistant Prosecutor John Guy, as I noted in Legal Insurrection’s coverage of Dunn’s trial:
Consistent with the state going for 1st degree murder, and barring that 2nd degree murder, Guy emphasized the several concrete steps Dunn had to take in order to bring fire upon the Durango — open glove compartment, remove pistol, chamber a round, grip the gun with both hands, fire, fire again, fire again, etc. — all presumably to set the hook for premeditation and first degree murder. In addition, he emphasized Dunn’s angry use of deadly force violence in response to being, as Guy put it, merely disrespected, to set the hook for malice necessary for second degree murder. (emphasis added)
I leave for after-class discussion whether this suggests that certain tactical options (e.g., already having a round chambered) may mitigate against this sort of legal attack.
You can watch the full interview here:
UPDATE [2/17/15]: I can see from the comments that there’s some misunderstanding about the role of premeditation in the Dunn case (perhaps fostered by my “trick question” for the “class). The issue of premeditation is relevant only insofar as it controls what level of unlawful killing in which Dunn engaged (first degree murder, second degree murder, manslaughter). It has nothing whatever to do with whether he acted in lawful self-defense. Had the jury believed Dunn acted in lawful self-defense, then his premeditation in acting in lawful self-defense would itself have been entirely lawful, and they would have acquitted him. In order to get to a guilty verdict on any degree of unlawful killing, the jury first had to conclude that Dunn’s claim of self-defense had been disproven beyond a reasonable doubt. That analysis is independent of premeditation–indeed, as commenter sequester notes, self-defense is an inherently deliberate act that necessarily requires premeditation.
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