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Cases laid out, witnesses testify on 1st day of Michael Dunn trial

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Both sides gave their opening salvos Thursday in the closely watched retrial of Michael Dunn on a first-degree murder charge in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

Prosecutors want to show Dunn had reckless disregard for the teens as he opened fire, while the defense wants to convince the jury that Dunn believed he saw the teens show a weapon.

Prosecutors began the day illustrating a number of things, including the size of Davis compared to Dunn.

"Jordan Davis was 5-11, 145 pounds. Wait till you see the pants he was wearing and how small they are," Assistant State Attorney John Guy said to the jury. 

Guy said Dunn fired three shots out his car window into an SUV with teenagers inside after exchanging words over loud music, then got out, into a crouch and fired another seven shots as the Dodge Durango pulled away.

Guy said Davis was not armed and not a threat to the much larger Dunn.

"Jordan Russell Davis was just that -- a kid," Guy said. "When Jordan Davis was shot and murdered, he was leaning to his left, away from defendant, who was on his right, and Jordan Davis had nothing in his hands."

UNCUT OPENING STATEMENTS: Prosecution | Defense
OPENING DAY IMAGES:  Trial begins, first witnesses

Guy told the jurors Davis did curse and was disrespecting Dunn, but it was no reason to shoot, especially not nine times, as is heard on surveillance video from inside the gas station.

Guy said after the shooting, Dunn told his fiancee to get in the car and they drove to a hotel, where he poured himself a drink, walked their dog, ordered a pizza, watched some TV and went to bed.

"In the morning, when he found out the boy in the car next to him was dead, he packed his bags, and he drove home to Satellite Beach, Florida, as if nothing had happened," Guy said.

In her opening statement, defense attorney Waffa Hanania told jurors that Dunn acted instinctively to protect himself from an angry young man who he believed pointed a shotgun out the window of the SUV.

She claimed Davis was responsible for his own death.

"It was a little thing just to turn down the music, but for some reason he got really angry about it," Hanania said of Davis. "If not for Davis' actions after the music was turned down, we would not be here today." 

Hanania told the jury that Dunn truly believed Davis had a gun and was going to use it. She said Dunn was never disrespectful and only pulled the trigger as a last resort -- for protection.

"Afraid for his life, having never left his car, he reached for the gun, and he got the gun that he was legally entitled to have with him, that he owned for years but had never used before in defense of himself, and fired to protect his life," Hanania said. "There was nothing slow or methodical about those shots. ... There is no time to think. They all came on top of each other in response to the threat for his life."

Many legal experts have told News4Jax that a centerpiece of Dunn's defense will be trying to convince the jury that Dunn believed the teens in the SUV appeared to have a weapon, so he was acting in self defense.

"Mr. Dunn was confronted by an angry young man that was yelling at him, cursing at him, and that he believed was brandishing a gun," Hanania said.

After opening statements, prosecutors began calling witnesses. Among them was Mariah Grimes, who was working at the Gate gas station when the shooting happened.

"I saw him shoot," Grimes said. "After the first three shots, I looked out and I saw him fire again. And that's when I dropped down."

Police and paramedics who responded to the scene also testified Thursday.

Officer Robert Holmes testified the other teens in the car with Davis that night were simply stunned by the events.

Police never found a gun in or near the SUV Davis was in.

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The last prosecution witness of the day was to be Davis' girlfriend, Aliyah Harris, but she did not show up at the courthouse and officers sent to her home said she was not there. Her deposition was read aloud in the courtroom.

Judge Healey dismissed the jury just before 5 p.m. with instructions that court would resume at 9 a.m. Friday.

FULL COVERAGE: State vs. Michael Dunn
 
Latest coverage, video/evidence from first trial

In February, a jury convicted Dunn, 47, of three counts of attempted murder and firing into an occupied vehicle, but deadlocked on the murder charge. He faces at least 60 years in prison on the previous convictions. If convicted in the murder charge, he would also face a life sentence.

In his second trial, eight of the jurors are men and four are women. Ten of the jurors are white and two are black. Among the four alternates are two white women, one black woman and one white man.

The jurors and alternates will be sequestered -- kept isolated in the courthouse and spend the rest of their days at a hotel or in supervised activities.

Anyone interested in attending the proceedings may obtain an application for general public seating at the trial by visiting michaeldunntrial.com. A lottery-style drawing will be held each afternoon for the next day's proceedings. Those selected will be notified by phone.

Completed applications must be turned in no later than 4:30 p.m. the day before the requested date to attend the trial. The location to turn in applications or obtain a blank application is the Prime Osborn Convention Center at 1000 Water Street. Use the north entrance on Bay Street.