The jury in the murder trial of Michael Dunn, accused of shooting an unarmed teenager to death during a dispute over loud music, has reached verdicts on four charges but said on Saturday it could not agree on the top count of first-degree murder.
The jury, which is in the fourth day of weighing Dunn’s fate, announced its status in a note to Judge Russell L. Healey late Saturday afternoon. The judge read the jury the so-called dynamite charge, urging them to return to their deliberations and try to resolve their differences.
The judge then left the Jacksonville, Fla., courtroom while the jurors were taken back to the room where they have been meeting for more than 28 hours. The jury did not say what verdicts they had reached on the four charges.
Healey indicated that if the jury remained deadlocked, he would accept the four verdicts and declare a mistrial on the fifth charge. The state could then choose to retry Dunn.
Dunn, 47, who is white, is accused of firing 10 shots and killing Jordan Davis, 17, who was black, during an expletive-laden confrontation on Nov. 23, 2012, over the volume of rap music coming from an SUV at a Jacksonville convenience store and gas station. Three of Davis' friends were also in the SUV and were uninjured.
Dunn has argued that he shot in self-defense because he felt his life was in danger and that he saw what he thought was a shotgun barrel.
No weapon was found.
Dunn was charged with first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and one count of firing into a vehicle. If convicted of first-degree murder, Dunn could spend the rest of his life in prison. The other charges carry substantial penalties and if convicted and sentenced to serve those consecutively, Dunn could face as much as 75 years in prison.
The jury can also consider lesser charges such as second-degree murder or manslaughter.
No one knows what has been going on during the deliberations but earlier Saturday, jurors sent out their latest questions, indicating that they were wrestling with the questions about self-defense and how to separate the shooting of Davis from the other events.
The jurors asked the judge: “Is the defense of self-defense separate for each person and each count?” The judge replied yes.
“Are we determining if deadly force is justified against each person in each count?” Again, Healey said yes.
“If we determine deadly force is justified against one person, is it justified for the others?”
“No,” the judge replied as he read the questions in open court. “Self-defense and use of justifiable deadly force applies separately to each count.”
“They're struggling, obviously, but it's not for want of trying to reconcile all of this,” Healey told the courtroom and those watching the televised proceedings. "I think we've got some analytical people in there who are trying to do just that -- trying to analyze this from every possible angle."
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times