Conviction upheld in high-profile teen shooting death
By Jim Saunders
The News Service of Florida
Rejecting self-defense arguments in a case that drew national attention, an appeals court Thursday upheld the first-degree murder conviction of a man who fatally shot a teen in the parking lot of a Jacksonville convenience store.
A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said prosecutors presented sufficient evidence to rebut Michael Dunn’s claims of self-defense in the 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.
The racially tinged case drew national media coverage and came amid increased scrutiny of the deaths of young Black men. Dunn is White, while Davis was Black.
The shooting incident came after Davis and three friends stopped at a Gate convenience store and Dunn pulled in to an adjacent parking space. The teens were listening to loud music, and Dunn asked them to turn it down. Ultimately, Dunn and Davis exchanged words, and Dunn fired repeatedly into the Dodge Durango that carried the teens.
After two trials, Dunn was convicted on the murder charge and sentenced to life in prison. He also was convicted on three counts of attempted second-degree murder — convictions that also were upheld Thursday.
During arguments in June before the appeals court, Dunn’s attorney, Terry Roberts, focused on whether Dunn acted justifiably in self-defense. Dunn sought acquittal based on self-defense.
But the three-judge panel, in a six-page decision Thursday, outlined the circumstances involved in the Nov. 23, 2012, shooting and concluded that prosecutors had adequately rebutted the self-defense claim.
“Here, the disputed facts created a jury question as to Dunn’s claim of self-defense,” said the ruling by judges Joseph Lewis, Ross Bilbrey and Thomas Winokur. “The nature of the verbal exchange between Dunn and Davis, whether Davis had a weapon, and whether Davis exited the Durango towards Dunn were all controverted. A gas station patron testified that he heard Dunn say, ‘You’re not going to talk to me that way,’ but did not hear anyone in the Durango say anything back. The passengers of the Durango testified that Davis did not leave the Durango and testified that there were no weapons in the vehicle. Additionally, a witness testified that there was no weapon in the Durango, but that they could see Dunn’s gun.”
Dunn, a Brevard County resident, had stopped at the convenience store after attending a wedding reception with his then-fiancee. After the shooting, Dunn went to his hotel room and returned home the following day to Brevard County, where he was ultimately arrested.
Davis’ death was one of a series of cases that focused national attention on the shooting deaths of young Black men. As an example, it came about nine months after Black teen Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by George Zimmerman in Sanford.