Jury selection began today in the Michael Dunn murder trial. This Jacksonville criminal case made national headlines in November of 2012. Michael Dunn is 47-years-old. He has been accused of committing first-degree murder for the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. If convicted of first-degree murder in Florida, Dunn will be facing life in prison. NBC News reported about the case stating:
“The white, middle-aged software engineer opened fire on a car with four black teenage boys inside that was parked next to him in the parking lot of a Jacksonville gas station convenience store in northeast Florida. Dunn has said he feared for his life…. Dunn said he had asked the teenagers to turn down the volume of their music. From the back passenger seat, Davis refused and the two exchanged words. Dunn says he opened fire because he saw the barrel of a gun pointed out the back window at him, though police found no weapon.”
There have been comparisons drawn between Dunn’s case and the George Zimmerman case. Read Jacksonville Dunn and Davis Shooting Compared to Florida Zimmerman Case. Like the Zimmerman case, the defendant is arguing that he acted properly under Florida’s self defense laws. Florida’s stand your ground law has also been in the national spot light since the Trayon Martin and Jordan Davis shootings. NBC reported on the Davis family’s opinion of Florida’s stand your ground law:
“Since their son’s death, Davis and McBath have become advocates for gun control and for changing Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which allows people in fear of serious injury to use deadly force to defend themselves rather than retreat. They have testified before the Florida state legislature and the United States Congress. Both have appeared on national television, talking about the case and about their son. After the trial, Davis said he will continue to work to have the state Stand Your Ground law revised to include a duty to retreat. If someone is threatened in public, Davis said, the law should require that he or she try to defuse the situation rather than use deadly force.”
As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I am very interested to see the evidence that will be admitted at trial. Dunn’s criminal attorney “has filed motions asking the judge not to allow references in the trial to comments Dunn made in jailhouse letters or phone calls where he referred to Davis and to some inmates as ‘thugs’, and made other ‘alleged racial comments,’ according to court documents.” The letters are not hearsay as they are admissions by a party opponent, the defendant. However, the letters must be relevant to prove or disprove something in the case. They cannot be admitted just to make Dunn look like a “bad guy.” Sometimes, evidence may seem irrelevant on its face, but can become relevant as the trial unfolds.
With all criminal trials, the Duval County State Attorney’s Office will present Florida’s case in chief. This is because the State of Florida has the burden of proof. The State Attorney will present evidence first. Then, the Jacksonville criminal lawyer defending the case will have the opportunity to present evidence on the defendant’s behalf. Dunn’s criminal case will be no different.