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Jurors get case in "loud music" murder trial

Michael Dunn is seen during a recess in his trial in Jacksonville, Fla., Feb. 10, 2014. AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Bob Mack

Jurors deliberated for about three hours Wednesday but went home for the night without reaching a verdict in the murder trial of a Florida man who killed a 17-year-old after an argument over loud music.

Michael Dunn, 47, says he shot Jordan Davis in self-defense, but in closing arguments, prosecutor Erin Wolfson said, "The threat was only in his imagination."

Dunn is charged with first-degree murder in Davis' death, although the jury could also consider the lesser charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Dunn also faces three counts of attempted first-degree murder for shooting into a car carrying teenagers at the Gate gas station and convenience store in Jacksonville on Nov. 23, 2012.

Before the jury recessed for the night, they asked to see a convenience store security video that captured the sound of the gunshots when they resume deliberations Thursday.

Dunn took the stand Tuesday and testified that he was "fighting for his life" when he opened fire on the red Dodge Durango whose loud music had initially sparked his ire. He told jurors that inside the SUV he saw two teens with "menacing expressions" and what he thought was the barrel of a gun sticking up above the back passenger windowsill where Davis was sitting, as the two exchanged words.

The two teens in the car with Davis when the argument began testified that during the one minute and 38 seconds between when Dunn rolled down his window to ask the teens to turn down their music and when he started shooting, Davis became increasingly agitated, cursing at Dunn and said he didn’t want to be told what to do. They admitted that, before he grabbed his gun, Dunn seemed calm, and did not curse.

Dunn testified that Davis cracked open the door and said, "You're dead, b***h" and that he thought, "My death is imminent."

Prosecutors called the medical examiner, who testified that the angle of the bullets that hit Davis and the SUV indicated that Davis was sitting when he was shot, and that the door was closed when the shooting began.

"The defendant intended to kill any and all of them," said prosecutor Wolfson. "He wasn't shooting just to scare them off, he was shooting to kill."

In her closing, Wolfson pointed out that although Dunn testified that Davis threatened him with statements like "this s**t is going down now," Dunn did not tell detectives that. She also made much of Dunn's girlfriend’s testimony that Dunn never mentioned to her that he thought he had seen a gun in the Durango.

"There was no gun in that Durango," said Wolfson. "What was in that Durango were four teenage boys."

Wolfson also pointed out that Dunn left the scene after the shooting and, even after he saw on the news that he had killed someone, did not contact police. He and his girlfriend ordered a pizza, walked their dog, and the next morning began driving home.

"Those are not the actions of somebody who shot in self-defense," said Wolfson.

Dunn’s defense attorney, Cory Strolla, raised questions about the investigation, focusing on the fact that it was more than five days before police searched the parking lot the Durango escaped to after the shooting.

Strolla has raised the possibility that the teens threw a weapon out of the car in the three minutes between leaving the gas station and coming back for help. No gun or weapon was ever found and all three surviving teens testified that there was no weapon in the car. Witnesses from the gas station said the Durango was gone for less than three minutes.

Strolla said that the state's contention that Dunn became so angry so quickly over something as trivial as loud music was unbelievable.

"This man's got a reputation for peacefulness," said Strolla. "But now his blood's gonna boil because a teenager tells him 'f- you'? Does that make sense? A man who's never pulled his gun in 40-plus years?"

Strolla read to the jury from Florida's self-defense statute, saying that Dunn would have been justified in killing Davis "to prevent an attempted murder … or an attempted assault."

"The danger facing Mr. Dunn need not have been actual," he said. "That's the standard that's our law and whether you like the law or don't like the law, you have to use the law."

Prosecutor John Guy got the last word, telling the jury: "That defendant didn’t shoot into a car full of kids to save his life, he shot into it to preserve his pride."

Florida defense attorney and former prosecutor Mitch Stone told CBS News' Crimesider that while he thinks the prosecution may have overcharged the case in trying for first-degree murder, the fact that Dunn left the scene of the shooting and never called police undermines his claim of self-defense.

"The difference between George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn is that Zimmerman stayed at the scene and started explaining himself immediately," said Stone. "Had Dunn stayed at the gas station and waited for police ... I think he would be in much better shape."

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla.,  shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012. He said he feared the unarmed teen was going to kill him. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder but was acquitted last July.


  • Julia Dahl

    Julia Dahl writes about crime and justice for CBSNews.com

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