JACKSONVILLE — Jurors in the trial of a white man charged with first- degree murder for shooting a 17-year-old black male in a dispute over loud music were hopelessly deadlocked after only an hour into deliberations because of the issue of self-defense.
So said the first juror to speak after a hung jury led the judge presiding over the first-degree murder trial of Michael Dunn to declare a mistrial Saturday. Race did not play a role in the deliberations, she said.
In a Tuesday night interview with ABC News, the woman said only two jurors initially believed Michael Dunn, 47, was justified in the 2012 shooting outside a Jacksonville convenience store. Dunn is white; his victim, Jordan Davis, then 17, of Marietta, Ga., was black.
The November 2012 incident started when Dunn pulled up next to the parked SUV carrying Jordan and his friends, with loud music playing. Prosecutors contended that Dunn opened fire because he felt disrespected by Jordan. The teen made his friend turn the music back up after they initially turned it down at Dunn’s request. One person walking out of the convenience store said he heard Dunn say, “You are not going to talk to me like that.”
Dunn testified he heard someone in the SUV shouting expletives and the word “cracker,” a derogatory term for white people. He had described the music to his fiancée, who accompanied him in his car, as “thug music.” He claimed he acted in self-defense, testifying in court that he thought he saw a firearm pointed at him from the SUV as the argument escalated. No weapon was found in the vehicle.
The juror, No. 4, who is white, single and a homecare administrator in Arlington, appeared on camera. She asked to be identified only as Valerie; jurors’ names have not been released. She said a deadlock left jurors unable to reach a decision because of the jury instructions which contained language about the state’s “stand your ground” law. They voted to convict Dunn on three counts of attempted murder for shooting at Jordan’s friends who were also in the SUV with the music playing.
Each attempted second-degree murder charge carries up to 30 years in prison, while the fourth charge he was convicted on carries a maximum of 15. A sentencing date will be set later.
Valerie said the original vote to convict Dunn was 10-2 on first-degree murder, with the two dissenting jurors believing he was justified firing 10 bullets into the SUV occupied by the four boys. The final vote was 9-3.
In the exclusive interview with ABC News, Valerie said she believed Dunn got away with murder. She said he had other options besides firing at the SUV and all jurors agreed that he escalated the confrontation by shooting at the other three occupants.
But she said the first thing the jurors did when they started deliberating was to refer to page 25 in the jury instructions containing the question: “Do you believe that Michael Dunn was justified or unjustified in the murder of Jordan Davis?”
She continued: “It said if he believed that he had an imminent threat to himself or his fiancée, so that was a thing and those two folks believed he was frightened and there was no option for him in regards to Mr. Davis. The rest of us were 100 percent sure – you didn’t have to react [with gunfire], you could have another option.”
Jordan’s father, Ron Davis, said he believed the jury instructions confused the jurors. He called for a retrial, which State Attorney Angela Corey said she will pursue.
Material from the Associated Press, the Florida Times- Union and ABC News was used in this report.
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Jacob Black ducks his head behind a sign he holds for his mom Jacqueline Black outside the Duval County Courthouse as the jury entered the fourth day of deliberations in the murder trial of Michael Dunn Saturday in Jacksonville in the fatal shooting of teenager Jordan Davis and attempted murder charges.