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Judge: Court will try to pick jury in Jacksonville

Michael Dunn accused of murdering 17-year-old in 2012 over loud music

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After hearing arguments Thursday on whether Michael Dunn's retrial will be held in Jacksonville or moved somewhere else in Florida, Judge Russell Healey deferred a decision and said the court will try to pick an untainted jury in Jacksonville, as is required by law.

If that proves undoable, the retrial could be moved or a jury could be picked in another county and brought to Jacksonville to hear the case.

It doesn't have to be a jury that's never heard of the case. It just has to be a jury that hasn't formed a fixed opinion about the case and is able to stay open-minded and render a verdict based on the testimony and evidence and not be influenced by outside factors.

Healey also heard other motions Thursday. He granted a motion that prohibits attorneys from referring to Davis as a victim in court. He also granted a motion that prohibits spectators from wearing items that depict support for either side.

Another hearing is scheduled for Monday. Jury selection is set for Sept. 22.

In February, jurors deadlocked on whether Dunn was guilty of murdering 17-year-old Jordan Davis, but convicted him on three counts of attempted murder for shooting at three other teens in the SUV Davis was riding in.

In the motion filed last week, defense attorney Waffa Hanania said the reason for her change of venue request was because of "a tremendous amount of pretrial publicity ... some of which has been erroneous and misleading, and all of which has been extremely prejudicial to the defendant."

Davis' father said Jordan was a typical high school junior who was about to leave his part-time job at Winn-Dixie to work at McDonald's, looking forward to buying his first car and turning 18. He had a "million-dollar smile" and liked music, listening to mostly rap but also the sounds of his dad's generation, including James Brown and The Temptations.

"I refuse to not speak out about it. I refuse to not let people connect with Jordan," Ron Davis, Jordan Davis' father, said of the change of venue motion. "The kids are on the ground with holes in their chest, holes in their back, they can't speak for themselves. And what I want to do as a parent is let other parents know, don't sit at home and suffer; come out and let people know who your child was and speak for your child, because you're the only one for them."

Attorney Randy Reep, who is not connected to the case, said even though Dunn's attorney is doing the right thing, he believes the trial will stay in Duval County.

"I don't know if I understand the tactic, because the same jury problems for Michael Dunn and the publicity of this case are going to exist in any county in Florida that is similar to Duval County," said Reep.

Dunn is accused of killing Davis when he fired into an SUV full of teenagers during a dispute over loud music at a Southside gas station in November 2012. Davis' mother, Lucy McBath, told News4Jax on Monday she's been focused on prayer and meditation before a judge hears arguments on the seven motions, including the change of venue and doesn't believe that's necessary.

"It's out of our hands. There's nothing we can do about it. All we can do is hope and pray for the best and continue to believe that everything will happen here in Duval County as we expected it will," said McBath.

Reep said he doesn't believe it's a good idea for Dunn to testify at this trial, mainly because he's already been found guilty of three attempted murder charges.

"If I'm trying to make it so he sees the outside of a jail cell, which I think is a long shot -- he still gets sentenced on these other charges -- this is very dangerous for him to testify, especially if it's not a contrite, apologetic view," said Reep.

Ron Davis described how he wants his son to be remembered: "Just like that sunshine that's out here today. That's how Jordan was -- what happens when you have your coffee in the morning, you have your breakfast and you come outdoors in Jacksonville, Florida, and you open your door to go to work, to go to school, and the first thing that hits you in the face is, what? Sunshine. I want you to remember Jordan, just like the Sunshine State, he was a sunshine in our lives, and I want him to be a sunshine in your life."