After almost 31 hours of deliberation, jurors in the Michael Dunn case have convicted him of four out of the five counts he was faced with. Jurors spent most of the time Saturday afternoon deciding on the verdict of the final count, first degree murder. After hours of dialogue the jury could not reach a decision on the first degree murder charge. They had the option to find him guilty of a lesser charge, such as manslaughter, but could not come to agreement on that either.
This case began on a typical November night in Jacksonville Florida. Dunn pulled in to a gas station where he was irritated by a red SUV playing loud rap music. Exactly what happened next was what the jurors had to decide. What is indisputable was that Dunn fired 10 shots in to the SUV, killing Jordan Davis. Dunn claimed that the four young African American men in the SUV had a shotgun, and he fired at them in fear of his life. Police never found a weapon in the SUV, and the boys denied there ever being one. According to Dunn’s attorney, there was ample time for the SUV to leave the scene and ditch the weapon before police arrived. Apparently the jurors were not convinced that Dunn deserved a first degree murder charge because the evidence was not clear enough to convict.
However, the evidence on the other four counts was enough to find Dunn guilty of all of them. He was convicted on three counts of attempted second degree murder, one for each of the survivors in the SUV. Individually, a second degree murder conviction carries a 20 year prison term. These three convictions alone will put Dunn in jail for the rest of his life. The fourth count Dunn was convicted of was shooting the gun in to the SUV, which also carries a 15 year sentence on its own.
On Friday, jurors had apparently settled on all counts except the one for first degree murder. They inquired to the judge about the possibility of not reaching a verdict. They were concerned that one unsettled verdict would cause a mistrial. However, they were informed that the counts would be considered separately, and that one decision did not affect the other. After the mistrial was declared concerning the unsettled charge, Florida prosecutors made it very clear that they would retry Dunn for first degree murder.
Racial tension concerning the case was a big factor in the courtroom during the trial. Dunn was a white man who fired at four young black men. The Dunn case was far too similar to the recent George Zimmerman case and a general concern over racial violence has begun to spread over the state. Zimmerman, who shot young African American Trayvon Martin, was found not guilty of murder based on self defense. Dunn and his attorney tried for a similar verdict. Jurors could not see a man firing ten times in to an SUV as an act of self defense. Obviously, they could not see it as a cold blooded murder, either.
Regardless of the decision, young Jordan Davis is gone. His parents are preparing to celebrate his birthday Sunday. Though they did not receive the conviction they wanted, they are pleased with the jury’s decision to convict Dunn on four of the counts he was charged with. It does bring them some closer, but can never bring back their son.
By Chris Chisam