Quantcast

Michael Dunn is found guilty, but not for murdering Jordan Davis

By Sunny Hostin and Greg Botelho CNN | 2/15/2014, 7:19 p.m.
Outside the Duval County Courthouse Friday, February 14, 2014, as the jury deliberates the fate of Michael Dunn. Photo by martinsavidge/CNN Instagram.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A jury on Saturday night convicted a Florida man on four charges related to his shooting into an SUV full of teenagers during an argument over loud music, but could not decide on the most serious charge -- murder.

Michael Dunn was found guilty on four charges, including three of attempted second-degree murder, which could land him behind bars for decades. Yet there was no verdict on the first-degree murder charge tied to the death of 17-year-old Marietta-teen Jordan Davis.

As the jury's decisions became clear about 7 p.m. Saturday, Dunn looked ahead solemnly with a frown but no tears. His lawyer, Cory Strolla, told reporters later that his client was "in disbelief."

"Even as he sat next to me, he asked, how is this happening," Strolla said. "... It has not set in. I don't think it will set in anytime soon."

The incomplete finale to this hot-button trial -- emotionally charged partly because of the fact Dunn is white and the teenagers who were shot at, including Davis, are black -- echoed George Zimmerman's trial for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin about 120 miles down the road in Sanford, Florida. While the state's "stand your ground" law wasn't used by Dunn, his lawyers did argue that he fired in self-defense.

Given the partially hung jury, State Attorney Angela Corey said prosecutors would press for a new trial in Duval County on the murder charge.

"Justice for Jordan Davis is as important as it is for any victim," said Corey, whose office also handled the Zimmerman case.

Even without a final decision on the murder count -- and pending defense appeals -- the 47-year-old Dunn is looking at a lengthy prison term.

Prosecutor Erin Wolfson explained Saturday night that each attempted second-degree murder conviction carries a minimum sentence of at least 20 years. There's also a 15-year sentence possible on the conviction for shooting into the teenagers' vehicle.

"You are looking basically at life in prison," Strolla said, even as he vowed to challenge the convictions. "At 47 years old, that's a life sentence regardless of count one."

A CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, said in most cases prosecutors will take some time after a mistrial to reflect on the case before planning the next steps.

"If he winds up with 60 or 75 years in jail, from a pragmatic standpoint it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to retry the case," he said Sunday, which would have been Davis' 19th birthday. "On the other hand if you're the parents of Jordan Davis and you believe, as well you should, that your son's reputation has been besmirched by this self-defense claim, the family (might) want a retrial, and that's something that a prosecutor has to consider carefully.

"Hopefully (Corey will) look carefully at the pluses and minuses of doing a retrial."

The decision to convict on these counts, and not on murder, didn't come easily for a jury that had deliberated for about 30 hours since getting the case late Wednesday.