Florida man faces 60 years in prison for shooting teens over loud music

No verdict on first-degree murder, but defendant faces 60 years in prison

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 10:41am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 February, 2014, 6:30am

A Florida jury has convicted a white, middle-aged man on three counts of attempted murder for opening fire on a car of black teenagers during an argument over loud rap music, but could not agree on a murder charge for the killing of a 17-year-old in the car.

Michael Dunn, 47, a software engineer, fired 10 rounds at a SUV carrying four teens at a Jacksonville petrol station in November 2012, killing Jordan Davis.

The jury said it was deadlocked on the charge of first-degree murder against Dunn, forcing judge Russell Healey to declare a mistrial on that count.

The failure to reach a verdict was a blow for the prosecution and the Davis family, but Dunn still faced at least 60 years in jail for the attempted murder convictions against the three other teens in the vehicle, legal analysts said.

After the verdicts, prosecutors said they planned to retry Dunn on the first-degree murder charge. The jury also found Dunn guilty on a fifth count of firing into an occupied vehicle.

The trial has drawn international attention because of racial overtones and Dunn's claims of self-defence.

The case has drawn comparisons to the trial of George Zimmerman, the former Florida neighbourhood-watch volunteer who was acquitted last year of murder in the shooting of unarmed black , Trayvon Martin, 17.

In a sign of displeasure with the hung jury in the murder charge, protesters left a letter at the office of Florida state attorney Angela Corey calling on her to resign, according to Jacksonville TV station WJXT.

Michael Dunn's lawyer Cory Strolla said Dunn and his family were "devastated" by the guilty verdicts. "He never saw it coming, not one bit," Strolla said.

Dunn, who had no prior convictions, testified last week that he began shooting in panic after he thought he saw a gun in the back window as Davis started to get out of the car.

Prosecutors said Davis had used foul language when confronting Dunn after the argument broke out, but was unarmed and never posed a physical threat.

Even though the jury could only agree on a lesser charge of attempted second degree murder, rather than the attempted first-degree murder the state was asking for, mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines in Florida for crimes committed with a gun mean that Dunn faces 20 years for each of the three counts.

"Though he was convicted for attempted murder and shooting into the car, the value of Jordan Davis' life was not addressed in this verdict," said civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network.

"The mis-trial further sends a chilling effect to parents in the 23 states that have the Stand Your Ground law or laws similar," he said.

"It requires the civil rights community to head into Florida, which is now ground zero for a national fight to change that law."

Florida's Stand Your Ground law allows persons who believe they are in imminent fear of serious bodily injury to use deadly force to defend themselves, even if no real threat exists.

The sequestered jury of eight whites, two blacks, one Asian and one Hispanic, began deliberating on Wednesday afternoon after a week of testimony and spent more than 30 hours trying to reach a verdict.