Last February, Michael Dunn was tried for the murder of Jordan Davis and attempted murder of three other teenagers. “All four teenagers were in a Dodge Durango parked at a Southside gas station when Dunn opened fire in November 2012 during a dispute over their jarring music. Dunn testified Davis tried to kill him before he opened fire, but no weapon was found or seen by anyone else.” After a long trial, “a jury in Jacksonville found Dunn guilty of attempting to kill teenagers Tevin Thompson, Tommie Stornes and Leland Brunson and for firing bullets into a vehicle. But the jury deadlocked on whether Dunn, 47, was guilty of the first-degree murder of Davis.” (Jacksonville.com)
The Duval County State Attorney’s Office is trying to “send Michael Dunn to prison on three attempted-murder convictions before he is retried for the shooting of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.” His sentencing should have occurred last March. Instead, the judge presiding over his case “granted a defense request for a delay until after he is retried on the first-degree murder charge.” The retrial was set to occur in May. The retrial did not occur, because Dunn has new attorneys representing him in the retrial. Corey Strolla represented Dunn in the original trial. Jacksonville criminal attorneys from the Florida Office of Conflict Counsel are now representing him. The trial “has since been indefinitely delayed after new attorneys for Dunn said they wouldn’t be ready by then and requested more time.”
The argument from the defense is that “having a sentencing hearing before the retrial would be unfair because [the defendant] cannot properly prepare a statement for a pre-sentencing report or testify at the sentencing hearing because it would place him ‘in a very precarious legal dilemma regarding his 5th-Amendment right against self-incrimination.’” The Duval County State Attorney disagrees. Assistant State Attorney John Guy filed a motion for reconsideration. “Florida’s rules of criminal procedure state that a sentencing should occur ‘as soon as practicable after the determination of guilt,’ Guy said in his motion, while also adding that the law does not provide for a delay in sentencing because a defendant is facing more criminal charges.”
Dunn is facing a severe prison sentence due to Florida’s 10-20-Life law which applies to crimes committed using a firearm. Under this Florida gun law, “the judge has to sentence Dunn to at least 20 years in prison for each attempted-murder conviction.” Dunn will be facing a much worse sentence if he is convicted of murder in the first degree of Jordan Davis. First-degree murder carries a minimum mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Most Jacksonville criminal attorneys would request to delay the sentencing until after the second trial. There is no need to sentence Dunn at this time. While the victims and their families want closure, it does not create an undue burden on the state or the victims to delay the proceedings. It does create a problem for the defense, and it could lead to a violation of Dunn’s constitutional rights. It is normally best for the judge to err on the side of caution and delay the sentencing.