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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.

"When you hear 'stand your ground,' think 'no duty to retreat,'" O'Mara wrote in a column published Wednesday on CNN.com. "For centuries, traditional self-defense implied a duty to retreat, meaning when someone finds himself in a threatening situation, he has a duty to exhaust all viable options to retreat before resorting to deadly force.

"The problem with the duty to retreat is that, in the cold light of day, jurors may have a better perspective on a person's options to retreat than the person had during his life-threatening encounter.

"Because of concern over this Monday morning quarterbacking -- and with the thought that we were sending people to jail who were otherwise justified in using deadly force -- legislatures in many states modified their justifiable use of force laws to say that people who have a reasonable fear of imminent great bodily harm or death very affirmatively DO NOT have a duty to retreat."

But where the possibility of harm is imminent and retreat is not possible, as allegedly was the case with Zimmerman and Dunn, "stand your ground" does not apply, he said.

"Michael Dunn, if we are to believe his story, thought Jordan Davis had a shotgun; there is no retreating from a shotgun at short range, and therefore it was, arguably, not 'stand your ground.'

"If we repealed 'stand your ground' laws tomorrow -- if we reinstated the duty to retreat -- George Zimmerman still gets an acquittal, and the Dunn jury still hangs."

The problem is not in the legislation, but "it's in our collective hearts," he said. "We have a system that is still, without question, the best in the world, but it's far from perfect."

Jury split over self-defense issue, one juror says

Details of the rift in the jury room were revealed Wednesday, when one of the jurors told ABC News' "Nightline" that Dunn should have been convicted of first-degree murder.

"I believed he was guilty," said Valerie, who was identified during the trial as Juror No. 4 and who asked that her full name not be divulged.

In its deliberations on the murder charge, Valerie said, the jury split over the issue of self-defense.

In his testimony, Dunn insisted that Davis threatened him and that he saw a gun. Police never recovered a weapon.

Valerie said the jury's first vote was 10-2 in favor of a murder conviction. Over nearly 30 hours of deliberations, the vote became 9-3.

Valerie said all the jurors felt Dunn crossed a line when he continued to fire at the SUV as it fled the scene, that any threat Dunn may have felt earlier had passed.

"We all believed that there was another way out, another option," she said.

But for Valerie, it never should have happened at all; Dunn could have chosen another path.

"Roll your window up, ignore the taunting, put your car in reverse ... move a parking spot over. That's my feeling."

'Rap crap'

The incident occurred November 23, 2012, when Dunn pulled into a gas station in Jacksonville, parking next to a red Dodge Durango with four teenagers inside.