Prosecutors in the case against a Florida man found guilty Saturday of firing 10 bullets at a vehicle occupied by a group of teenagers say they are planning to retry him on the most serious charge: first-degree murder.
The mixed verdict also is reviving criticism of Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense law, and prompting debate over Florida State Attorney Angela Corey’s handling of two high-profile trials, each involving a white man who said he fatally shot a black, unarmed teenager in self-defense and was not convicted of murder.
A 12-member jury, which deliberated for nearly 32 hours over four days, deadlocked on a first-degree murder charge brought against Michael David Dunn, 47, accused of shooting at a sport utility vehicle on Nov. 23, 2012 in which Jordan Davis was a passenger. Three of the nine bullets that hit the SUV struck Davis, who was 17 when he died and would have turned 19 Sunday. The gunfire missed the other three teens.
The jury found Dunn guilty Saturday of three counts of second-degree attempted murder, and one count of firing into an occupied car. He could face 60 years in prison. Attorneys will meet next month with the judge to schedule a sentencing date Defense lawyer Cory Strolla, said he plans to appeal the guilty verdicts. During the trial, Strolla, called Dunn’s actions a clear case of self-defense. Dunn testified that he thought he saw a weapon, a shotgun, in the SUV. Police found no weapon.
The trial came six months after George Zimmerman was acquitted of any crime in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. Corey prosecuted both trials.
Strolla told reporters before the verdict that he believed there was political pressure on the prosecutors and an excess of media attention because of Zimmerman’s acquittal.
“I believe there is a lot vested in this case, politically,” Strolla said. “The case, on the heels of not guilty in George Zimmerman, just escalated that political pressure.”
Vincent Southerland, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said on Sunday that Saturday’s verdict “reaffirms a lot of what we already know” about U.S. race relations. “When Michael Dunn saw Jordan Davis, he didn’t see an innocent, unarmed 17-year-old boy in a car with friends. He immediately saw a threat.”
Dunn’s jury was composed of four white men, four white women, two black women, one Asian female and one Hispanic man.
Saturday night, dozens of demonstrators marched outside the Duval County Courthouse here, shouting “Murder is a crime! Michael Dunn should do the time!” and other chants. They carried colorful signs bearing slogans such as “Our Black Youth Are Beautiful,” “Justice For Jordan,” and “The Only One With A Gun Was Dunn.”
The outrage continued online Sunday. “In the state of Florida, the standard has been set,” Leslie Wimes, of Palm Beach, Fla., wrote on the website for her company, Women on the Move. “If you are a non-black, you can legally shoot and kill any Black Male you see, as long as you say you feared for your life.”
Shortly after the verdict was announced, Corey said she expects to seek a retrial on the murder charge. “When you’re seeking justice for four different victims, and you get a verdict that speaks to justice for three of those victims, it makes you more determined to seek justice again for that fourth victim,” she said.
Davis’s mother, Lucy McBath, who spoke against stand your ground legislation during a U.S. Senate hearing last fall, said after Saturday’s verdict that she “will pray for Dunn” and was “so grateful for the truth.”
She added, “We will continue to stand and we will continue to wait for justice.”
Davis’ father, Ron, said his son was a good kid.
“Michael Dunn has got minimums of 20 years on one count. Another 20 years on another count. Another minimum 20 years on another count,” Ron Davis said.
“So he’s going to learn that he must be remorseful for the killing of my son.”
Courtesy of USA Today