On November 27, 2012, Michael Dunn was arrested for first-degree murder and attempted murder in Jacksonville FL. Read Southside Jacksonville Florida Shooting Murder Charges on Jacksonville Lawyers website for background on the case. Michael Dunn is claiming that he acted under Florida self defense laws. The case came shortly on the heels of the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman case, so it has attracted some attention. This case has also attracted the attention of Jacksonville criminal lawyers. Judge Charles Arnold was the Duval County Circuit Court Judge that was originally assigned to the case. He retired at the end of 2012. Suzanne Bass won the 2012 election and took the bench in 2013. She took over Judge Arnold’s criminal division. She inherited Dunn’s case.
On May 10, 2013, Dunn’s attorney filed a motion to recuse Judge Bass from presiding over the case. This was based upon allegations from his defense attorney that the judge showed bias. Channel 4 News reported:
“Among the grounds in the motion on Dunn’s behalf was that Davis’ father ‘made inappropriate remarks and a verbal outburst during my pretrial hearing in which Judge Bass ignored and acted as if it did not occur, nor did the judge admonish the father’s improper and unprovoked behavior inside the courtroom while my hearing was taking place. Several in court deputies had to rush over to Mr. Davis, the father of the alleged victim, to ensure the safety and sanctity of the courtroom.’ The motion also says that on April 29, during a motion of indigence and costs, Bass asked Strolla and the assistant state attorney to approach the bench. ‘She was right in the middle of saying, ‘Don’t hold your breath that these are going to get granted,’ Strolla said. ‘And I think at that point she even understood that she overstepped her judicial bounds and what she did was improper.’ The motion goes on to say that at the same hearing, Bass refused to allow a Justice Administrative Commission attorney to testify in court, a witness Dunn’s attorney says supported his argument. Instead, Strolla said, Bass contacted the witness before the hearing. ‘The conversation she had with him, I don’t know, but she didn’t disclose that she didn’t have ex parte communications either,’ Strolla said. “It was my conversation with Mr. Lake when he informed me that the judge called him from I believe her cellphone.’ Bass signed off on the motion, finding the allegations legally sufficient for recusal, but she but made no comment on their truthfulness. Now Strolla is planning to have previous motions Bass denied reheard, including a motion for bond. It’s unclear if the change in judges will push back Dunn’s trial.”
Channel 4 News further reported that the Duval County State Attorney’s Office informed that the Judge Mallory Cooper will preside over Dunn’s case. However, it appears that the case will no longer be in Judge Cooper’s criminal division. Judge Cooper recused herself from the case on July 1, 2013. Judge Donald Moran is the chief judge in Duval County. He reassigned the case to Russell Healey. “The state attorney’s office said judge recusals are nothing unusual and happen routinely in cases.” While this is true, I do find it unusual that two judges recused themselves within six weeks.