Earlier this month, Michael Dunn, the Florida man accused of fatally shooting 17-year-old Jordan Davis, was convicted on 4 of 5 felony charges. The case, which had garnered national attention, stemmed from an incident in November 2012 when Dunn – who is white – fired 10 rounds into an SUV, killing Davis – who was black. The shooting erupted after a confrontation between Dunn and Davis, who was in a vehicle of teenagers playing loud music.
Initially, Dunn stated he saw Davis brandish a shotgun and was acting in self-defense. However, no weapons were found in the SUV and witness testimony revealed that Dunn had continued firing even though the SUV was retreating.
A Controversial Verdict
On February 15, a Jacksonville jury found Michael Dunn guilty of four of the five charges he faced, but was unable to reach a decision on the most serious allegation, the first-degree murder of Jordan Davis. Dunn was convicted of three counts of attempted second-degree murder for firing at the three other teenagers in the vehicle, as well as one count of firing into a vehicle. Dunn's sentencing is set for late March. He faces up to 75 years in prison.
The case was a significant challenge for both the prosecution and defense, and many are asking whether this verdict was a victory for either side. The answer, as Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Stephen G. Rodriguez states, is not so cut and dry. Attorney Rodriguez gives his thoughts on what the verdict meant for the prosecution and the defense:
- If this is a victory for the prosecution, it is because Dunn was convicted on most of the counts (4 of 5) and because it potentially exposes him to decades in prison – effectively a life sentence for the 47-year-old. The prosecution will likely retry Dunn on the most serious charge – murder – and if successful, will add a life sentence of 25 years to life.
- If anything, the defense secured a hollow victory; one in which the defense hung on the most serious charge of murder. Given the conflicting facts of the case, the defense did a competent job in presenting their case and on putting the defendant on the stand, which ultimately convinced some jurors that he acted in self-defense and was therefore – at least partially – justified in killing Davis.
The case was heavily followed by media across the country, and raised many questions about the use of self-defense as a shield for criminal accountability. Dunn, for instance, stood by his statements that he observed a weapon in Davis' hands, that verbal threats were made against him, and that he felt threatened. However, he fired 10 shots into a vehicle of unarmed teenagers. Although race was not a factor in this case, there were also certainly racial undertones.
As shown by a hung jury that couldn't reach a decision on the murder charge, questions about self-defense are not easy to answer. Questions of whether the verdict was a victory for the prosecution or defense are also debatable. What's not, however, is the fact that a young man is now dead.
What Sets Defense Attorneys Apart
At Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners, our legal team closely follows controversial cases and analyzes how the prosecution and defense handle complex allegations and legal issues. What separates talented and successful defense attorneys from the pack, it often seems, is the willingness to handle challenging cases, as well as the determination to fight aggressively and intelligently on behalf of clients. Attorney Stephen G. Rodriguez has continually demonstrated just that when representing individuals accused of any crime.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offense, a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer from our firm is prepared to work tirelessly on your behalf. Call 213-481-6811 to discuss your case.