Monday, February 17, 2014


This story first appeared in USA Today.

JACKSONVILLE — Jurors reviewing the fate of a Florida man charged with killing a teen in a dispute over rap music have recessed for the night.

At 6:50 p.m. Friday, after nearly 22 hours of deliberations, jurors told Circuit Judge Russell Healey that they had "reached a wall" in deliberating over the fate of Michael David Dunn, charged in the Nov. 2012 shooting death of Jordan Davis, 17.

Jurors are expected to return at 9 a.m. Saturday or perhaps a little earlier.

A couple of hours earlier, Healey announced that the jury had a question: Is it possible to not reach a verdict on one count and reach a verdict on other counts?

"The answer to that is yes," Healey said.

Dunn faces charges of first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree attempted murder, and one count of shooting or throwing a deadly missile in the incident. Jurors also can consider lesser charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter, second-degree attempted murder and attempted manslaughter.

If jurors deadlock on a count, for example, Healey said jurors could publish verdicts on the other four counts. A mistrial would be declared on the deadlocked count. Prosecutors could later retry Dunn on that count, at their discretion.

Earlier, when jurors asked for a break and opted to order food in to the courfthouse, Healey said that if jurors got tired,they would be sent to their hotel to resume talks Saturday.

Based on his research, Healey said it appears that jury deliberations can continue on Sunday, if necessary.

"That might be subject to argument from the attorneys, but hopefully we're not going to get to that point. Sounds like they're close. And so, we'll just hope for the best and be in recess until we hear more from the jurors," he said.

Including meal breaks, the jury deliberated about three hours Wednesday and nearly nine hours Thursday and their running total including Friday's talks was 19.5 hours as of early Friday evening.

Shortly after 4:20 p.m. Friday, John Phillips, the lawyer representing the family of Jordan Davis, tweeted that jurors have chosen to eat at the courthouse rather than their hotel and have ordered in dinner.

"It won't be romantic or candle lit, but may be significant of a decision tonight. #JusticeForJordanDavis," Phillips tweeted.

The jury is composed of four white men, four white women, two black women, one Asian female and one Hispanic man.

Dunn, a 47-year-old software engineer, says he feared for his life and was acting in self-defense on Nov. 23, 2012, when he fatally shot Davis in a gas station parking lot.

Dunn testified that music coming from the Dodge Durango where Davis sat with three friends, all black, was "obnoxious," and said he fired 10 shots at the SUV. Davis was hit three times and died a short time later. Dunn faces charges of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and shooting or throwing a deadly missile.

The case has been compared to the racially charged Trayvon Martin case, in which neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman said he killed the Florida teen in self-defense during a February 2012 altercation. Zimmerman was later acquitted of second-degree murder.

Dunn testified in court this week that he felt threatened as Davis hurled insults at him from the SUV. Dunn also testified that Jordan reached down, picked something up and slammed it against a rear passenger door of the Dodge Durango where he sat.

Assistant State Attorney General John Guy said that Davis never was a threat and that a weapon was not found in the Durango.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, accompanied Jordan Davis's mother, Lucy McBath, on Friday at the Duval County Courthouse awaiting the jury's verdict.

McBath is now the national spokeswoman for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Last October, she lobbied against stand your ground legislation during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing.

Brown's Washington, D.C., office released a statement calling to revoke Florida's "misused" Stand Your Ground law.

"I would like to wipe it out. But if nothing else, it needs to be narrowly tailored," Brown said during an interview in a courthouse conference room.

Brown said she supports "castle doctrine" legislation that allows homeowners to use firearms against intruders. But she cited the Dunn case, Zimmerman's acquittal, Marissa Alexander's 20-year sentence as evidence that the Sunshine State's law is flawed.

Alexander, who is awaiting a new trial in a stand your ground case, was sentenced for firing what she says was a warning shot to scare off her allegedly abusive husband during a dispute.

Friday afternoon, as deliberations passed the 18-hour mark in Dunn's trial, going past the length of deliberations during Central Florida's Casey Anthony and Zimmerman trials.

Journalists and spectators passed time on the fourth floor of the Duval County Courthouse by chatting, looking at their phones and taking brief walks to stretch their legs. Shortly after 2 p.m., a dozen couples got married on the staircase in the courthouse lobby. The Valentine's Day ceremony attracting dozens of onlookers.

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