Jury in Michael Dunn 'loud music' murder trial resumes deliberations

Dunn's attorney spoke Thursday as jury deliberated

By Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The jury in Michael Dunn's trial on Friday resumed deliberations, trying to reach a verdict as to whether he committed murder or was defending himself when he shot 17-year-old Jordan Davis in November 2012.

[VIDEO: Local 6 report | PICS: Protesters outside courtroom]

Judge Russell Healey on Friday said spectators and lawyers will no longer be able to wait in the courtroom for a verdict since there was concern that jurors could hear muffled sounds coming from the courtroom.

The 12 jurors spent about eight and a half hours Thursday deliberating, viewing surveillance video inside the Gate convenience store as Dunn fired 10 shots at a SUV carrying Davis and three other teenagers.  The jury also made several other requests during the day.

As the jury deliberated the first-degree murder and other charges, Dunn's defense attorney took questions from the media in a courtroom next door.

"We are hoping that we have a brave jury," Cory Strolla said. "They have a hard job, but we hope they make the right decision."

Defense attorney Strolla said Dunn was in good spirits as he waits for a verdict.

"He is sitting behind a courtroom in a jail cell waiting for the jury," Stroll said of his client. "This is the hard part. It's out of our hands. There's nothing we can do. He's in good spirits; he's holding up. It's in the jury's hands and I have to respect that."

The defense attorney said the state resorted heavily on emotion, not on facts.

"I think it was an overcharge -- there was no premeditation," Stolla said. "This was a clear-cut case of self-defense."

Strolla said the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office did not investigate this case as well as it should have because it had the attitude that this was just another shooting in the murder capital of Florida.

The attorney added that this case should not have drawn the attention it has.

"I personally believe there's a lot vested in the outcome of this case politically," Cory Strolla said. "Had we never heard about George Zimmerman, I don't think you or I would be standing in this courtroom talking about Mr. Dunn."

John Phillips, attorney for Davis' parents, said the family remains positive despite Strolla and and Dunn painting Jordan as a bad kid who was brandishing a shotgun.

"They're doing OK, but they're reliving the most tragic night of their lives, and it's hard," Phillips said, adding that family remains hopeful. "Anything that puts this man in jail for the rest of his life is justice."

Prosecutors have repeatedly said they will not make any comment until after the jury makes its decision.

A day of deliberations, questions

The seven women and five men charged with determining whether Michael Dunn is guilty of murder and four other charges went back to work about 9:35 a.m. Thursday. First up, they viewed surveillance video from inside the Gate convenience store the night Michael Dunn fired 10 shots at an SUV containing 17-year-old Jordan Davis and three other teens. 

Four alternate jurors were kept sequestered overnight as well, but Judge Russell Healey said Thursday morning that one or more of them might be released by the end of the day.

Dunn, who has pleaded not guilty, faces life in prison if convicted of murder.

To conclude that the killing was justifiable, jurors must believe it occurred while resisting an attempt to murder or commit a felony against Dunn, Healey told jurors as they were charged late Wednesday afternoon.

Besides first-degree murder, jurors could also consider the lesser crimes of second-degree murder or manslaughter, according to the jury instructions. Dunn also is charged with attempted murder for shots fired at Davis' three friends.

Just after lunch Thursday, the jury asked if they could see "the dummy with sticks" -- a mannequin that the prosecution showed while the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy testified.

While neither the state nor defense objected, Judge Healey researched case law and said use of "demonstrative evidence" shown during jury deliberations was grounds for appeal in other Florida murder cases. He therefore told the jury they could not see the exhibit he nicknamed "Bendy."

Less than an hour later, the jury ask for a dry-erase easel and for 10 missing pages from the set of the written jury instructions they were provided. The judge agreed.

"Do whatever you need to do to make that work," Healey told prosecutors, handing over his set of jury instructions to be provided to the jury.

At 4:30 p.m. Thursday, the jury set out another question, this inquiring on the date of one of Michael Dunn's letters written from jail. (Answer: June 2013.)

While addressing that question, Healey said that the jury would continue to deliberate through 6:15 p.m. before being released for dinner, "Unless they reach a verdict before then."

Healey also made the decision to keep all four alternate jurors sequestered another night in case any of them was needed to step in for one of the 12 jurors currently in deliberations.

The court administration announced Thursday that the media will be given at least 30 minutes notice when and if a verdict is reached before it will be announced.

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