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Thu February 6, 2014
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Another Florida Case Puts 'Stand Your Ground' Back In Court

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 7:55 pm

They're events that took just several minutes, but in a courtroom in Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday, prosecutors and the defense laid out different versions of how Michael Dunn, who is white, came to shoot and kill Jordan Davis, a black teen.

It was in 2012, the day after Thanksgiving, that Davis, 17, and three friends stopped at a gas station and convenience store in Jacksonville. They were in an SUV and were playing their music — loud.

Dunn and his girlfriend pulled into the parking space next to them. Dunn, 47, asked them to turn down their music, and at first they did. But then, they turned it back up. And prosecutor John Guy said Davis and Dunn began — in his words — "jawing at each other."

"The defendant rolled down his window again and said, 'Are you talking to me?' And Jordan Davis looked at him and said, 'Yeah, I'm talking to you,' " Guy told the court. "And then [Dunn] said, 'You're not going to talk to me like that.' "

That's when Dunn took a gun from his glove box and fired three shots into Davis' car door. All three hit Davis, killing him.

Dunn's defense attorney Cory Strolla described a different scenario. When his client pulled into the gas station, Strolla said, music coming from the SUV was so loud it was rattling Dunn's windows and mirror. And Davis, Strolla said, directly threatened Dunn.

"And his words to Michael Dunn were, 'I'm going to f - - - ing kill you. I should kill you right now.' See, that's what Mr. Guy didn't tell you," Strolla said.

The prosecution says the two exchanged angry words but deny that Davis ever threatened Dunn. The point may be important, because under Florida's self-defense law, sometimes called "stand your ground," a person who feels he's in danger may be justified in the use of deadly force.

Dunn told police he believed Davis had a shotgun and was starting to get out of the SUV. Prosecutor Guy said that forensic evidence and witness testimony show that was not the case.

"When that defendant opened fire, Jordan Davis was sitting in his car seat ... with nothing in his hands," he said. "And he was leaning over, away from the gunfire."

Strolla told the jury he believes the three others in the SUV with Davis coordinated their stories, hid some facts and that the police didn't question them vigorously enough to determine the real truth. He had a different account of what happened in the moments before Dunn pulled his firearm.

"Jordan Davis threatened Michael Dunn ... with a shotgun barrel sticking out of the window or a lead pipe," Strolla said. "Whatever it was, that's a deadly weapon."

Police found no evidence Davis or anyone in the car had a gun or other weapon that they used to threaten Dunn. Strolla said there are enough inconsistencies in the witnesses' stories and investigation to suggest Davis' friends had time to dispose of a weapon before the police arrived.

Since the shooting occurred, it's attracted national attention because of the similarity to the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin case. Outside the courthouse, Cece Littlejohn held a sign reading: "Justice for Jordan."

"Trayvon died because of the clothes he wore," she said. "Jordan died because of the music he liked."

The judge expects the case to move quickly and go to the jury next week.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Florida's controversial stand-your-ground law is back in the courtroom after another fatal shooting. In Jacksonville, today, attorneys gave opening statements in the murder trial of Michael Dunn. He's a 47-year-old software designer charged with shooting teenager Jordan Davis in a dispute over loud music.

BLOCK: In some key ways, the case echoes last year's trial of George Zimmerman. Dunn is white and says he acted in self-defense after being threatened by Davis. Like Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis was 17 years old and black. NPR's Greg Allen reports from Jacksonville.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: They're events that took just several minutes. But in a courtroom in Jacksonville, prosecutors and the defense laid out different versions of how Michael Dunn came to shoot and kill Jordan Davis. It was in 2012, the day after Thanksgiving, that Davis and three friends stopped at a gas station and convenience store in Jacksonville. They were in an SUV and were playing their music loud.

Michael Dunn and his girlfriend pulled into the parking space next to them. Dunn asked them to turn down their music. And at first they did, but then they turned it back up. And prosecutor John Guy said Davis and Dunn began, in his words, jawing at each other.

JOHN GUY: The defendant rolled down his window again and said: Are you talking to me? And Jordan Davis looked out and said: Yeah, I'm talking to you. And then the defendant said: You're not going to talk to me like that.

ALLEN: That's when Dunn took a gun from his glove box and fired three shots into Davis' car door. All three hit Davis, killing him. Dunn's defense attorney, Cory Strolla, described a different scenario. When his client pulled into the gas station, Strolla said, music coming from the SUV was so loud it was rattling Dunn's windows and mirror. And Davis, Strolla said, directly threatened Dunn.

CORY STROLLA: And his words to Michael Dunn were: I'm going to (bleep) kill you. I should kill you right now. See, that's what Mr. Guy didn't tell you, the facts that are going to come out prior to any gunshots being fired.

ALLEN: The prosecution says the two exchanged angry words but deny that Davis ever threatened Dunn. The point may be important because under Florida's self-defense law, sometimes called stand-your-ground, a person who feels he's in danger may be justified in the use of deadly force. Dunn told police he believed Davis had a shotgun and was starting to get out of the SUV. Prosecutor Guy said forensic evidence and witness testimony shows that's not the case.

GUY: When that defendant opened fire, Jordan Davis was sitting in his car seat with the door closed with nothing in his hands. And he was leaning over, away from the gunfire.

ALLEN: Strolla told the jury he believes the three others in the SUV with Davis coordinated their stories, hid some facts and that the police didn't question them vigorously enough to determine the real truth. He had a different account of what happened in the moments before Dunn pulled his firearm.

STROLLA: That Jordan Davis threatened Michael Dunn: You're dead, (bleep). This is going down now. With a shotgun barrel sticking out of the window or a lead pipe - whatever it was, it's a deadly weapon.

ALLEN: Police found no evidence Davis or anyone in the car had a gun or other weapon they used to threaten Dunn. Strolla said there are enough inconsistencies in the witness stories and investigation to suggest Davis' friends had time to dispose of a weapon before the police arrived. Since the shooting occurred, it's attracted national attention because of the similarity to the Zimmerman case. Outside the courthouse today, Cece Littlejohn(ph) held a sign reading: Justice for Jordan.

CECE LITTLEJOHN: Trayvon died because of the clothes he wore. Jordan Davis died because of the music he liked.

ALLEN: The judge expects the case to move quickly and go to the jury next week. Greg Allen, NPR News, Jacksonville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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