Judge Russell Healey held Michael Dunn’s final pretrial hearing today in preparation for the retrial which is set to begin on Monday. Most Duval County residents know of the Michael Dunn case. Dunn was arrested for the murder of Jordan Davis in 2012. Dunn killed Davis by firing at an SUV holding Davis and three other teenagers. Dunn argued that he acted in self-defense under Florida law. He was tried early this year for Davis’ murder and the attempted murders of the three other teenagers. While the jurors returned a guilty verdict for the attempted murders, they could not come to a decision as to the murder charge. This is why the murder count is being retried next week.
Next week, Dunn’s Jacksonville criminal lawyers and the Duval County State Attorney will try to pick a new jury for this case. They will need a large jury pool to choose from due to the publicity that has surrounded this criminal case in Duval County. This makes it harder to find fair and impartial jurors that have not already made up their minds about the defendant. In a criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty by the prosecution. The state attorney must prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt based on the evidence presented at the trial. If the jurors have been exposed to information that will not be presented at trial or if the jurors already have an opinion, this creates a problem. In cases like this, Jacksonville criminal lawyers will often request a change of venue, so they will have an impartial jury, and that is exactly what Dunn’s attorney did. She filed a motion for change of venue to move the case to another county in Florida. While Judge Healey heard arguments from both sides last week, he did not make a ruling. Instead, “he deferred a decision and said the court will try to pick an untainted jury in Jacksonville, as is required by law. If that proves undoable, the retrial could be moved or a jury could be picked in another county and brought to Jacksonville to hear the case.” They are not necessarily looking for jurors that have no knowledge about this case. Instead, they are looking for “a jury that hasn’t formed a fixed opinion about the case and is able to stay open-minded and render a verdict based on the testimony and evidence and not be influenced by outside factors.”
Today, Judge Healey did make rulings on several pretrial motions. Reporters for News4jax.com attended the hearing and stated, “At the hearing, both sides discussed evidence photos, and the judge decided most will be allowed. He dismissed some that he said were not relevant. Both sides also discussed whether part of the medical examiner’s testimony would be allowed, and the judge took the arguments under advisement.”