Sunday, February 9, 2014

'Stand your ground' under the spotlight in Florida, again

Stand your ground is once again in the spotlight in Florida, reported the New York Times. Michael D. Dunn, 47, a white software developer who said he killed Jordan Davis, a black teenager, in a November 2012 confrontation about loud music, the trial appears likely to focus less on race and more on the mechanics of Florida’s self-defense laws and how juries apply them.
In their opening statements on Thursday at the Duval County Courthouse, a prosecutor and a defense lawyer presented divergent theories about the motive for what took place at a convenience store on Southside Boulevard after Mr. Dunn stopped with his fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, for wine and potato chips.Assistant State Attorney John Guy, who was part of the team that prosecuted Mr. Zimmerman last year, portrayed Mr. Dunn as “fueled by anger and intent” after hearing what he described to his fiancée as “thug music.”
“When that defendant opened fire, Jordan Davis was sitting in his car seat with the door closed with nothing in his hands,” said Mr. Guy, who told the court that Mr. Dunn had fired 10 shots, three of which struck Mr. Davis, after an exchange laden with “words of intent, words of hate, words that he cannot take back.”
Not long after Mr. Dunn fired his weapon, Mr. Guy said, the teenagers in the red Dodge Durango in which Mr. Davis was a passenger, who had been out for an evening of “mall hopping and girl shopping,” began what the prosecutor called “an ominous roll call” to check that everyone was O.K.
“Everyone responded to the sound of their name except Jordan Davis,” Mr. Guy said, as the youth’s parents sat in the courtroom. The trial will include testimony from the three people who were with Mr. Davis.
Mr. Dunn, who had been in Jacksonville to celebrate his son’s wedding, left and went to a nearby hotel before driving the next day to his home about 170 miles southeast of Jacksonville.
“He didn’t call the police,” Mr. Guy said. “He went to his hotel with his girlfriend, and he called the pizza deliveryman and ordered pizza.”
Cory C. Strolla, Mr. Dunn’s lawyer, said that Mr. Dunn had been compelled to act and pulled a handgun from the glove compartment of his car only after he felt endangered.
“Jordan Davis threatened Michael Dunn,” Mr. Strolla told the sequestered group of 16 jurors, four of whom are alternates.
Mr. Strolla added: “He was getting out of the car with a weapon after telling Michael Dunn, ‘You’re dead.’ ” According to Mr. Strolla, Mr. Davis, 17, also used an expletive during that exchange.
Mr. Dunn’s contention that he was targeted with a weapon — he identified it as a shotgun in an interview with the authorities — will be a focal point of the trial, which is expected to stretch well into next week.
Investigators never found the weapon that Mr. Dunn said he saw. Officials eventually retrieved what a prosecutor described as a pocketknife from Mr. Davis’s clothing.
But Mr. Strolla told jurors that the investigation had been shoddy and incomplete, and he questioned the procedures that the authorities used when they questioned witnesses. “For Michael Dunn, you’re all he has, because nobody in law enforcement cared what he had to say,” Mr. Strolla said.
The only certain outcome of the trial is that it will call new attention to Florida’s laws protecting those involved in shootings who claim self-defense, a matter that was the subject of nationwide protests and new scrutiny after Mr. Zimmerman’s acquittal last year in Trayvon Martin’s death.
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