Jury gets case in Florida loud music murder trial

Posted at 3:45 PM, Feb 12, 2014
By Tom Watkins and Eliott McLaughlin


(CNN) — Michael Dunn’s fate now rests with the jury.

The case moved Wednesday after a prosecutor said in closing arguments that inconsistencies between the words and actions of Dunn have undermined his claim that he was acting in self defense when he fatally shot a teenager at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida.

Dunn was in his ninth day of trial on a murder charge and three counts of attempted murder stemming from a November 2012 incident in which he opened fire on an SUV full of teenagers after an altercation over loud music. Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old high school student, was killed. The 47-year-old defendant faces a fifth charge of shooting or throwing deadly missiles.

Dunn’s lawyer countered that the state had failed in its quest to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his client was guilty and pleaded with jurors to find him not guilty.

In testimony on Tuesday, Dunn said he fired in self-defense after Davis threatened him with a gun. “My intent was to stop the attack, not necessarily end a life,” he said. “It just worked out that way.”

But Assistant State Attorney Erin Wolfson said Wednesday that his claims don’t add up.

She noted that Dunn fired 10 shots at the SUV, three of them while the car was fleeing; that he never took cover — but instead opened his car door — even though he would later tell detectives that he had seen a weapon; that he did not tell his fiancee, Rhonda Rouer, that he had seen a weapon until more than a month later; that he left the scene of the shooting, went back to a hotel where they were staying and walked his dog and returned the next day to his house — more than two hours away — all without calling 911.

She also rejected Dunn’s assertion that Davis was carrying a gun.

“There was no gun,” she told jurors.

“This defendant didn’t tell anyone because he thought he had gotten away with murder,” she said, adding that Dunn had no idea that a witness had taken down his tag number.

The teens had simply been “riding around listening to music, going to the town center, trying to meet girls,” Wolfson said. “What any normal teenagers would do.”

But what happened when Dunn pulled up next to the youths’ SUV, from which music was blaring, was not normal. “Two worlds collided,” Wolfson said.

Dunn has testified that he described the music to Rouer as “rap crap;” Rouer has testified that he referred to it as “thug music.”

Whatever the semantics, one of the youths went inside to buy gum and cigarettes at about the same time that Rouer also went inside for white wine and chips, according to testimony.

The first shot was fired less than two minutes after Rouer entered the gas station, enough time for Dunn to commit murder in the first degree, Wolfson said.

In the parking lot, as the music blared, “his blood started to boil; he didn’t like the music that was coming out of the car next to him; he got angrier and angrier,” Wolfson said.

Dunn rolled down his window and asked the youths in the car next to him to turn it down, which they did, but then turned it back up, Wolfson said.

A witness, Steve Smith, has testified he heard Dunn say, “You’re not going to talk to me that way.”

“This defendant was disrespected by a 17-year-old teenager, and he lost it,” Wolfson said.

“He got angry at the fact that a 17-year-old kid decided not to listen to him,” she said, adding that Dunn then pulled a 9 mm. gun out of his glove box and shot “systematically and methodically” at the SUV. “Nobody denied that Jordan was talking back. But this defendant took it upon himself to silence Jordan Davis forever.”

Dunn testified Tuesday that he saw Davis reach down and pick something up, and that he saw about “4 inches of a barrel” from a 12- or 20-gauge shotgun above the window.

Davis then answered his question, saying, “Yeah, I’m going to f***ing kill you,” Dunn recounted, saying he was stunned and “in fear for my life,” but that his pistol remained holstered in the glove compartment.

Davis then told him, “You’re dead, bitch,” Dunn testified, and “I became even more fearful at that point. I thought I was going to be killed.”

Then, Davis’ door opened, “and this young man gets out and as his head clears the door frame, he said, ‘This s**t’s going down now,’ ” said Dunn, who added that he thought, “He’s coming to kill me.”

Dunn said aloud to himself, “You’re not going to kill me, you son of a bitch,” as he opened the glove compartment, grabbed his pistol, dropped the holster at his feet, chambered a round and began firing, he said.

Nine of the 10 rounds hit the car, three of them striking Davis, one of them cutting through his liver, his lung and his aorta.

Though the incident may have occurred quickly, “there’s no certain amount of time that’s required” for a defendant to form an intent to kill, Wolfson said.

She rejected Dunn’s assertion that he had been trying to de-escalate the situation. “Every action he took was a conscious decision that he made to escalate the situation and ultimately kill Jordan Davis,” she said.

She also rejected his assertion that he feared for his life.

“He had steady hands when he was shooting at Jordan’s door,” she said, referring to a picture that showed the SUV passenger door struck by bullets that had hit close together.

Defense lawyer Cory Strolla noted that no witnesses had accused Dunn of using any words of hate and testified that his client had just come from a wedding, where his ex-wife said he had appeared to be in a good mood.

Strolla noted that the SUV departed the gas station after the shooting and was gone for three minutes before it returned, enough time for the youths to have dumped a gun.

Detectives did not search the area for days after the shooting, he said.

Strolla cited testimony from another passenger in the car with Davis who acknowledged that he may not have heard all the conversation between the two men.

Though witnesses had testified that child locks on the SUV were engaged, and that Davis — who was seated in the rear — could not have gotten out of the back seat to threaten Dunn, Strolla said the teenager could simply have opened the door by putting his hand out the window, which was open.

“You have lack of evidence, conflicts of evidence and reasonable doubt,” he told the jurors.

On rebuttal, Assistant State Attorney John Guy appealed to the jurors’ “common sense.”

“That defendant didn’t shoot into a car full of kids to save his life,” he said. “He shot into it to preserve his pride. Period. That’s why we’re here.”

Though Davis may have had a big mouth, he had no weapon, Guy said. Though he acknowledged minor inconsistencies in witness accounts, he said that was to be expected. “It’s not like television,” he said. “In real life, there are inconsistencies.”

If Dunn is found guilty, he faces up to life in prison.

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