In wake of Dunn mistrial, misgivings about Florida law

By Tom Watkins CNN | 2/20/2014, 12:12 p.m.
Florida's laws about self-defense need to be changed.
A jury on Saturday night, February 15, 2014, convicted Michael Dunn 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. POOL photo.

Florida's laws about self-defense need to be changed.

That's the conclusion of the parents of Marietta-teen Jordan Davis, the 17-year-old who was fatally shot in 2012 after a dispute over loud music, and of the prosecutor in the case against the killer.

"We're going to go to Tallahassee, the state capital, and we're going to try to get the 'stand your ground' law rewritten," Ron Davis, Jordan's father, told CNN's "New Day" on Thursday.

"That's our mission -- to make sure that we bring to light and expose all the laws in our nation that are not effective in keeping our citizens safe," said the dead teenager's mother, Lucia McBath.

Florida law says the use of deadly force is justifiable if someone reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. Its law also says people have no "duty" to retreat from a would-be attacker, as do laws in 21 other states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A Florida jury on Saturday convicted Michael Dunn, 47, on three charges of attempted second-degree murder for shooting into an SUV holding four teenagers, after arguing with Jordan Davis about the volume of their music. The shots continued even as the SUV was fleeing, and Dunn was also convicted of one count of shooting into the vehicle.

But a first-degree murder charge for Davis' death resulted in a hung jury. Dunn's attorneys did not use the "stand your ground" defense, but prosecutor Angela Corey told CNN on Wednesday that the laws need to revert to what they were before "stand your ground" was enacted, in 2005.

"I believe prosecutors and the sheriffs association are in favor of the former laws that we had on use of deadly force, and we do believe that, before someone should engage in a physical altercation, or especially an altercation where deadly force is used, we do believe there should be a duty to retreat," she said.

Ron Davis said the jurors who deliberated for four days whether his son's killer committed premeditated murder in the first degree faced another hurdle in not being able to use their "common sense," as prosecutor John Guy had urged them to do in his closing-argument rebuttal. "Common sense and the law is not the same thing, unfortunately," Davis said. "To the layman, premeditation is if you go home to get a gun or you go in your car separately to get a gun or you plan something -- to us, that's premeditation. But to the law, it could be three seconds."

Despite his assertion that the current law was responsible for the hung jury, Davis said he supported Corey's decision to retry Dunn on the murder charge. "The world needs to know that Jordan Davis did nothing wrong and that this man is guilty of killing our son, of murdering our son," he said.

Zimmerman lawyer: 'Stand your ground' does not apply

Attorney Mark O'Mara -- who successfully defended George Zimmerman after he fatally shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida -- said neither Zimmerman's case nor Dunn's was a "stand your ground" case, and a change to that law would not have made a difference.