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September 26, 2014

5 Myths About the Michael Dunn Trial for the Murder of Jordan Davis

by John Phillips

Myth #5.  The trial is a waste of taxpayer money because Dunn is already going to serve life in prison.

Michael Dunn was convicted by a jury of three counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting into a occupied vehicle.  Upon sentencing, Dunn faces a POTENTIAL minimum of 60 years in prison.  However, these convictions are fully subject to an appeal.  Michael Dunn’s appellate clock starts only after Dunn is sentenced and the judgment becomes final.  Cory Strolla has indicated a desire to appeal the prior trial based on certain evidentiary and procedural rulings.  No verdict is appellate proof- especially in criminal prosecutions, as the right of the criminal defendant to a fair trial, and whether that happened, is something the courts scrutinize.  Further, there were some key rulings in the first trial excluding or allowing witnesses and evidence which could be given a secondary look.lucia

If Dunn is found guilty in a separate proceeding, defended by a separate lawyer, the odds that at least one of the two guilty verdicts is upheld drastically increase, which completely eliminates losing one judgment to appeal and Dunn going free. This trial is significant.

Myth #4.  Stand Your Ground has “NOTHING” to do with this trial.

People like to say “Stand Your Ground” has “NOTHING” to do with this trial. They are referring strictly to the immunity statute, which allows a Defendant to affirmatively seek immunity in cases of self defense.

The ability to “Stand Your Ground” isn’t just an immunity statute.  Section 776.012, Florida Statutes, states:

539125_231512700343096_401100344_nA person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.

(2) A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.

In addition to that, an immunity provision was added.  Section 776.032, Florida Statutes, holds:

A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.

The enactment of Stand Your Ground laws did more than merely add immunity from prosecution.  It took away a duty to retreat in public and empowered one’s subjective fear to entitle lethal action to be taken.

Make no mistake, Stand Your Ground empowered Dunn and gave him the right to kill- if only in his own mind.  He did not have to retreat and could use irrational and unreasonable facts to support use of lethal force.  Stand Your Ground laws caused Jordan’s murder.

Further, the jury instructions carry Stand Your Ground’s entitlement to kill all the way through a trial to verdict.  Before deliberations, a jury is read:

1456083_234219183405781_951061128_nIf (Defendant) was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

This is far different from the jury instruction read to Florida juries BEFORE the legislature’s enactment of Stand Your Ground:

The defendant cannot justify the use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless he used every reasonable means within his power and consistent with his own safety to avoid the danger before resorting to that force. The fact that the defendant was wrongfully attacked cannot justify his use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm if by retreating he could have avoided the need to use that force.

Let’s not pretend that this law does not devalue human life.  It took away the requirement to use the “reasonable means within his power and consistent with his own safety to avoid the danger.”  It encourages confrontation and a dead person cannot refute the shooter’s reasonable, subjective belief.  The law never required one to “turn their back and run” if a person was unsafe which some Stand Your Ground advocates claimed.  However, now it’s a dangerous entitlement to kill first and potentially figure out the reason why later.

Myth #3.  Jordan Davis was out of the vehicle

6140301Not one single person saw Jordan out of the vehicle that night, except Michael Dunn, despite several witnesses who looked towards the car.  The evidence is clear based on the trajectory of the bullets that Jordan Davis never left the vehicle.  The lack of property damage to either vehicle entirely contradicts Davis was out of the vehicle.  The trajectory of the bullet holes are consistent with the testimony that Jordan was fully in the vehicle.  Steve Smith, the contractor, never saw Jordan outside of the vehicle. Dunn said, “You aren’t going to TALK to me that way,” not you aren’t going to come at me or threaten me.

For Jordan to have ever have gotten out of the vehicle, you would have to disbelieve:

  1. 1411680985000-met-11DunnTrialThursday092514The testimony of independent witness Steve Smith;
  2. The testimony of independent witness Shawn Atkins;
  3. The testimony of other independent witnesses;
  4. The testimony of witness Tevin Thompson;
  5. The testimony of witness Leland Brunson;
  6. The testimony of witness Tommie Stornes;
  7. The forensic evidence;
  8. The fact Dunn never mentioned this or mentioned Jordan had a gun to his fiance;
  9. And More.

And would have to believe:

  1. Michael Dunn after he had time to think about it, after his police interview and after he hired a lawyer, as this “fact” was different than his other accounts.

ALL of this evidence is completely inconsistent with Davis being out of the vehicle except one version of Michael Dunn’s story.

Myth #2.  The Davis vehicle left the scene for a prolonged period of time.

Michael Dunn fired 3 shots while the Dodge Durango was stationary, killing Jordan.  Dunn fired three shots while the vehicle was backing up, just missing Tevin.  Dunn missed the vehicle and then got out of his vehicle and landed three more shots into the back of the fleeing vehicle, just missing the driver’s head. He was intending to kill everyone in that car.  If the occupants had stayed there, they would all have been killed at close range.

The Durango drove approximately 100 yards and was stopped for a matter of seconds to a few minutes while the front seat occupants got out to check on the rear occupants.  At all times, witnesses around the area on the busy Black Friday observed the boys.  There was a cop in the immediate area doing a DUI stop.  The boys immediately also called 911 from the parking lot.

They never left the immediate area and only left the gas station to avoid getting shot and killed. Despite this, some want to characterize the boys as having left the overall scene.  Let’s not forget that it was Dunn who never called police, fled the scene and was only found because a good Samaritan captured his tag number.

Myth #1.  Michael Dunn cannot be convicted of murder in the first degree / Angela Corey overcharged Michael Dunn.

There are two ways in which a person may be convicted of first degree murder.  One is known as premeditated murder and the other is known as felony murder.

1293050_260170567477309_690040298_oTo prove the crime of First Degree Premeditated Murder, the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Jordan Davis is dead. (UNDISPUTED)
  2. The death was caused by the criminal act of Michael Dunn.  (UNDISPUTED)
  3. There was a premeditated killing of Jordan Davis.

So, let’s look at the word, “premeditated.”  According to the Standard Jury instructions which are the law of Florida:

“Killing with premeditation” is killing after consciously deciding to do so.  The decision must be present in the mind at the time of the killing.  The law does not fix the exact period of time that must pass between the formation of the premeditated intent to kill and the killing.  The period of time must be long enough to allow reflection by the defendant.  The premeditated intent to kill must be formed before the killing.

The question of premeditation is a question of fact to be determined by you from the evidence.  It will be sufficient proof of premeditation if the circumstances of the killing and the conduct of the accused convince you beyond a reasonable doubt of the existence of premeditation at the time of the killing.

Michael Dunn said, “you are not going to talk to me that way,” reached 4-5 feet for his gun, opened his glove box, pulled out his gun, took his gun out of its holster, likely racked a round, pointed it directly at the center mass of Jordan Davis and fired it three times, then fired it four more times, then got out of his car and fired it three more times.  There was an intent to kill Jordan Davis and Dunn’s expression plus his actions gave time for forethought enough for a jury to decide whether this was 1st Degree Murder or a lesser charge.

A grand jury indicted Michael Dunn for first degree murder.  As such, this was not merely Angela Corey deciding to charge Dunn 1st Degree Murder.  A panel of Duval County citizens decided first degree murder was appropriate in this case.

CONCLUSION: Justice has not yet been done.

Michael Dunn still has a chance to appeal the prior verdict, he was merely found guilty of attempted murder (not murder) despite actually ending Jordan Davis’ life that night and Jordan Davis’ life mattered.  Jordan Davis was murdered.  Justice has not yet been done.

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