"Loud Music" Murder Trial: Dunn a "gentle man," friend says

Randy Berry, a family friend of Michael Dunn, testifies at Dunn's murder trial in Jacksonville, Fla., Monday, Feb. 10, 2014.
Bob Mack, AP

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Friends described accused killer Michael Dunn as “gentle” and a “calming influence” as they testified for the defense in his Florida murder trial Monday.

Dunn is accused of opening fire at a Jacksonville gas station into a Dodge Durango in which 17-year-old Jordan Davis was riding with three friends the night of Nov. 23, 2012. Dunn, 47, allegedly fatally shot the teen  after an argument over loud music.

Davis’ friend testified last week that Dunn said “Are you talking to me?” before opening fire. Dunn claims he shot in self-defense.

The prosecution rested its case early Monday afternoon following the testimony of associate medical examiner Stacey Simons, who detailed the multiple gunshot wounds that killed Davis.

The first witness to testify for the defense was Randy Berry, a friend of Dunn's. He said he never knew Dunn to be violent. Berry's wife, Beverly Berry, also testified that she had never seen Dunn with anything but a calm demeanor.

Randy Berry was a flight instructor who trained Dunn to be a private pilot, and the two were part of the same aviation group, he said.

“I’ve always thought he was a gentle man,” Randy Berry said.

When asked whether the shooting was a “shock” to her, Beverly Berry replied, “Oh, absolutely.”

The defense also called to the stand Dunn’s 24-year-old son, Christopher, and Michael Dunn’s ex-wife, Phyllis Molinaro. Both were with Dunn before the shooting as they attended Christopher’s wedding and said that Dunn wasn’t drinking heavily and appeared to be in good spirits.

On cross-examination, however, Christopher Dunn admitted that before the wedding, he had seen his father three times in the past 15 years.

The defendant appeared to dab at his eyes as family members described his demeanor the night of his son’s wedding.

Another friend, Don Moes, said Dunn was a “calming influence” when he worked with him in Jacksonville.

Defense attorney Cory Strolla  also called Jordan Davis' father to ask him what he recalled in the days after the shooting. Davis said he was “devastated” by his son’s death.

"I think I said at the time that I was shocked that my son was killed," Ronald Davis said.

In emotional testimony, Ronald Davis described the demeanor of Davis’ friends who had been riding with him in the Durango when they came to visit the elder Davis at his home following Jordan’s death.

Davis said his son’s friend Leland Brunson, 18, was crying and “going back and forth between the living room to Jordan’s room.”

He said,  “Pop, there’s nothing I could have done,” Davis said, recounting Brunson’s words.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Detective Andrew Kipple testified Saturday that the location of nine bullet holes in the SUV showed that the Durango's driver and his front-seat passenger barely escaped being shot.

Authorities say Davis was parked in the Durango with three friends outside the gas station's convenience store. Michael Dunn and his fiancée had just left his son’s wedding reception and were heading home when they stopped at the store and pulled up next to the SUV.

An argument began after Dunn told them to turn the music down, police said. One of Davis' friends lowered the volume, but Davis then told him to turn it back up.

According to authorities, Dunn became enraged and he and Davis began arguing. One person walking out of the convenience store said he heard Dunn say, "You are not going to talk to me like that."

Dunn, who had a concealed weapons permit, pulled a 9 mm handgun from the glove compartment, according to an affidavit, and fired multiple shots, striking Davis. No gun was found in the SUV.

At the end of the day Monday, Strolla told the judge he expected to call only one or two more witnesses on Tuesday before wrapping up the defense presentation.