Michael Dunn

Three Jurors Thought Michael Dunn's Self-Defense Story Was Plausible


ABC News

A juror interview that ABC News aired last night sheds light on the disagreement that blocked a verdict on the murder charge against Michael Dunn and the reasoning that produced guilty verdicts on three attempted murder charges. Valerie, a home care nurse administrator also known as Juror No. 4, said that in the initial poll she and nine other jurors wanted to find Dunn guilty, apparently of first-degree murder, in the shooting of 17-year-old Jordan Davis following an argument over loud music at a Jacksonville gas station in November 2012. Two jurors believed Dunn had acted in self-defense, or at least that it was reasonable to believe he had. After 30 hours of deliberations over four days, the vote was 9 to 3 in favor of conviction, meaning an additional juror was persuaded that the prosecution had failed to prove its case on the murder charge.

Those three jurors need not have been convinced that Dunn was telling the truth—merely that his story was plausible, since the prosecution had the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Dunn did not act in self-defense. Furthermore, the three holdouts need not have thought Davis actually had a shotgun, as Dunn claimed. It would have been enough for them to think that Dunn, given the circumstances, could have reasonably believed Davis had a shotgun that he intended to use. As I point out in my column today, that is the sort of question faced by jurors across the country, regardless of whether their state imposes a duty to retreat on people who are attacked in public places.

When ABC's Byron Pitts asked Valerie why she and the other jurors in the majority were convinced of Dunn's guilt, she replied, "To me, it was unnecessary." From the excerpts shown on Nightline, it is not clear what Valerie meant by that. If she meant the shooting was unnecessary to prevent death or serious injury, she was zeroing in on the right question. But some of her other comments suggest she meant that Dunn, even assuming his account of the shooting is accurate, could have cut short the confrontation with Davis, thereby avoiding any need for violence:

Pitts: Why were you and the others so convinced that Dunn was guilty?

Valerie: We all believed that there was another way out, another option….

Pitts: You think Michael Dunn had options.

Valerie: Oh, yes, sir.

Pitts: What were his options?

Valerie: Roll your window up. Ignore the taunting. Put your car in reverse. Back up to the front of the store. Move a parking spot over. That's my feeling.

It may well be true that Dunn "had options" in this sense, but that is not the relevant question in determining whether the shooting was justified. If the argument Dunn could have avoided culminated in a credible death threat from an armed teenager, Dunn at that point (by his account) had no option but to fire his gun in self-defense. If Davis was the one who transformed a heated argument into a violent clash in which Dunn reasonably feared for his life, the shooting was legally justified even if Dunn could have defused the situation before then by swallowing his pride and retreating. And just to be clear: That sort of retreat is not what is at issue when we talk about the right to "stand your ground," which kicks in only after you are attacked. Even in states that require people in the latter situation to retreat (assuming they can do so safely), people are under no obligation to avoid merely verbal arguments.

As to why the jurors agreed that Dunn was guilty of attempted second-degree murder when he fired at the Dodge Durango in which Davis was riding, Valerie said they all concluded that Dunn, having already shot and killed Davis, crossed a line when he continued to shoot at the SUV as it pulled out of the gas station, thereby endangering the lives of the three other teenagers who were in the vehicle. "We had a lot of discussion on [Dunn] getting out of the car," she said, "and the threat is now gone, and yet your intent is still to go ahead and pursue this vehicle."

As I've said before, Dunn's story is awfully fishy, but I am not sure he was driven purely by anger, as the prosecution suggested. More likely he was genuinely afraid (which might have made him angry), but that does not mean his fear was reasonable. It seems quite unlikely that Davis was armed, since no one but Dunn reported seeing a gun, the teenagers did not return fire, the police did not find any weapons, Dunn never mentioned a gun to his girlfriend, and the only evidence on that score is Dunn's self-serving testimony. Maybe Dunn sincerely thought Davis was armed. But again, that does not mean Dunn's belief was reasonable.

In short, I could easily see convicting Dunn of manslaughter, which requires neither premeditation (an element of first-degree murder) nor "a depraved mind regardless of human life" (an element of second-degree murder), although his actions arguably indicated the latter. The manslaughter option was available to the jurors, but t is not clear from the interview with Valerie whether it was discussed.  

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  1. It would have been enough for them to think that Dunn, given the circumstances, could have reasonably believed Davis had a shotgun that he intended to use

    This sounds like a cop trying to weasel out of shooting out of an unarmed civilian. Anyone could have a gun they intend to use. If all that’s necessary for a claim of self-defense is that I believe they could be a threat, than there’s pretty much any murder is legitimate self defense.

    1. The jury didn’t see it that way. Sometimes life is like that. Your or my opinion of the merits of his self defense claims don’t matter. What matters is the jury’s opinion. And three of them bought it. If you don’t like that, take solace in the fact that they did find him guilty of attempt, which will send him to jail effectively for life anyway, and the hung jury just means that it is really hard to convict someone of murder. And I at least think that is as it should be.

    2. Hence “reasonably” believed, a qualification that Jacob harped on several times in this post.

  2. “People die everyday because of stupid arguments and picking fights.”
    Teach your children.

    1. That is sad but true. If there is a lesson in this, it is don’t get into confrontations with strangers if you can possibly avoid it because they might be some pissed off lunatic with a gun. You never know.

      1. About fifteen years ago some idiot friends of mine were driving through Georgetown yelling at people in cars and being obnoxious, as teenagers/early 20-somethings are sometimes prone to do. One of the cars pulled up next to them at a light, whereupon the driver, an otherwise nondescript black man in his early 30s, showed them his Glock just over the lip of the door frame, saying, “I AM from DC, and I WILL buck.” The light turned green, he drove away, and my friends shut the fuck up for the rest of the day.

          1. I could understand maybe five words in that song.

            I’m getting better!

          2. OT, but someone was here yesterday pointing out that rap artists don’t have to believe in the violence in their songs, that they are writing from the point of view of a character (e.g., a gangster). And while that’s true, it shouldn’t absolve them in cases like this:

            Long before Memphis rapper Mario Mims, better known to his fans as Yo Gotti, took to the stage at Epic nightclub earlier this month, the Minneapolis police prepared. Known for violent songs that promote drug dealing and shooting people who disagree with him, Mims’ concert tour was followed by reports of shootings, stabbings and homicide at numerous locations.

            1. Wha?

              So, are you implying that Behemoth is causing an upsurge in Satanism? Or that Buddy Holly should be banned lest his music result in an upsurge in loose morals amongst teenagers? The argument’s no different. Elvis’ pelvis has yet to be proven a cause of teenage pregnancy.

              Has it occurred to you that perhaps people who actually do sell drugs and shoot people might like to listen to songs about those things? Because I think you’re getting your causality mixed up here.

  3. This is the jury system. Sometimes jurors don’t look at it the way you do and sometimes they get it wrong. I wish media would stop saying this is some kind of scandal because 9 jurors thought he was guilty and three didn’t. If they really think that is a problem, then be honest and advocate for an end to unanimous verdicts. I think that is a terrible idea, but if you think this is a big deal, that is really what you are advocating for. So at least be honest.

    1. The reason there is a “media narrative” about these incidents is because of race. If the races of the suspect and the deceased were reversed, not even you could say the outcome would have been the same and keep a straight face.

      1. No Tony, you only think that because you are so dishonest to even yourself you assume everyone else is. Had the races been reversed, it is entirely possible the result would have been the same. They convicted the guy for attempt. So it isn’t like they wanted to let him walk.

        Moreover, unlike you I actually know something about how these things work. So I am fully aware of how often black juries acquit black defendants of crimes because they don’t want to send another black man to prison. That actually happens. I know it does because I know plenty of defense attorneys who have seen their guilty clients walk thanks to it.

        That being said, I see no evidence to believe that kind of thing is going on here. If it were, they wouldn’t have convicted him of anything. But unlike you, I have the ability to think about this case. You in contrast have no such ability and see nothing but race and symbols for the various lies your tell yourself.

        1. The important variable seems to be the race of the victim. There is a meaningful difference in the outcome of trials depending on whether the victim was white or black (but apparently there isn’t such a difference over the race of the defendant).

          I don’t know what to tell you John. I pretty much agree with Sullum. Looks like 2nd degree to me. I am simply wondering if that wouldn’t have been the verdict if the victim were white. And I’m merely saying that’s why it’s in the media.

          And now I’m questioning your criminal justice reform bona fides because you are apparently invested in the idea that there isn’t widespread racism contributing to the problems that need reforming.

          1. There is a meaningful difference in the outcome of trials depending on whether the victim was white or black (but apparently there isn’t such a difference over the race of the defendant)

            And the fact that you think that such a number means anything shows how stupid you are. Not every macro number tells you anything about individual cases. There are a lot of reasons why that tends to be the case. Mostly it has to do with the nature of black murder victims. Sadly, young black men die at a very high rate in gang violence. And yes, a trial over the death of one gang member at the hands of another is going to look completely different than a trial over the murder of someone whose home was being robbed. Each case is murder, but the second one is going to result in a lot stiffer sentence probably. That has nothing to do with race though. But don’t let the facts get in the way of crude correlation and your narrative.

            1. I don’t have a narrative you dumb bitch, at least not more than anybody else here discussing a particular case on an article about that case.

              1. Yeah, you don’t have a narrative Tony. You just immediately focus on the race of the parties for no reason.

                It is amazing though. You really are incapable of telling the truth. So of course you say you don’t have a narrative.

              2. Tony, of course you have a narrative, and it’s not “the race of the victim.” It’s the race of the victim when the victim is black, and the shooter is not. That’s what gets liberals like you upset, because it triggers your “white racism” reflex. You don’t care when blacks kill whites or blacks, or when whites kill whites, because none of those have symbolic weight in your Social Justice Warrior worldview.

                1. Here’s how this works. We liberals tend to have a “bias” toward the weaker in a power relationship, because if anyone needs society’s looking out for, it’s they. Sometimes that means caring about defendants’ rights (we invented it!). Sometimes it means caring about victims of violent crime whose murders go unrectified because of stupidly liberal self-defense law. It perpetually means a little extra concern for people of color in a very racist country.

                  1. Sometimes that means caring about defendants’ rights (we invented it!).

                    Liberals invented it, yes. Your illiberal type, no.

                  2. Sometimes that means caring about defendants’ rights (we invented it!). Sometimes it means caring about victims of violent crime whose murders go unrectified because of stupidly liberal self-defense law.

                    Translation: We hate the concept of rule of law because sometimes it goes against what is politically expedient for us.

                    You and the people like you aren’t in any reasonable definition of the word liberals Tony.

          2. Awwww, look at little Tony w/o spaces. He doesn’t know how mens rea works. Isn’t that just the most precious thing EVER?

      2. Good thing you have unique access to these jurors’ racist ids.

      3. Right, and how much experience do you have with juries?

        1. More than enough for one lifetime.

          1. This is one of your more idiotic comments. What does that even mean?

      4. Again, there’s that case of the black New Yorker shooting a white teenager and being acquitted. Don’t talk as if we “know” what the verdict would be if the races were reversed.

    2. MSM coverage of legal issues in general and trials in particular is infuriating.

    3. Exactly. This is the way the system is designed to work.

      And because of the design, sometimes guilty men will walk free.

      And, yes, sometimes innocent will be found guilty, but that seems to be more of a problem with misconduct than with a flawed system.

      If the misconduct was punished harshly, most of that would stop.

      The only part of the “system” that seems broken wrt that is judges who seem slow or unwilling to accept new evidence of innocence.

    4. Bitching about juries is part of free speech, so long as we don’t take it too seriously. At least the journalists were in the courtroom, or anyway I hope they were – that’s why trials are open, so the public can see what’s going on and make their own conclusions. But if the journalists were just emoting based on excerpts of the testimony and a racial narrative, they can [expletive deleted].

      I don’t get how the Supreme Court said that in some circumstances a majority verdict can be enough to convict – if presumably reasonable jurors think there isn’t enough proof, that sounds functionally equivalent to reasonable doubt, which could only be overcome if a subsequent jury is unanimous.

      1. For sure you can bitch. But I think making a local murder story a national story is doing a bit more than bitching. People are covering this story and interviewing the jurors as raw meat for hateful idiots like Tony and as a way of poisoning the jury pool in future cases.

        My bitch here is with the media in this case not with the concept of criticizing jury verdicts. If the victims family or anyone else connected to this case wants to tell the jurors to their face they are idiots, that is certainly their right.

        1. OK, you’ve probably seen the coverage – I’ve mercifully missed it. Have they been pushing this as a case of a racist killer getting off lightly because the Koch Brothers passed Stand Your Ground?

          1. I am not sure they are doing that. But they are definitely pushing it as a case where a white jury let off a white defendant who killed a black victim.

            The national media refuses to cover cases of black on white violence because they claim it would be bad for race relations. That is a reasonable stand as far as it goes. Almost no murder cases warrant national attention. But then they engage in covering cases like this and the Martin case for the single purpose of convincing blacks that whites are racist and the system is out to get them. Somehow they forget all about their concern over race relations.

            1. This was the MSM’s chance at a second bite at the Trayvon apple. And it really does have it all: angry white man with a CCW who might be racist, young black teenager of apparently unimpeachable character from a solidly respectable middle-class family, the works. So of course they immediately injected race into it, even though, frankly, I don’t see any reason to think that anyone in that courtroom (besides maybe–MAYBE–the defendant) had race on his or her mind.

          2. They absolutely went that way on Nightline just recently here. They left out the Kochtapus angle but the kids mother equated stand your ground to lynching. It was a fucking despicable performance by the interviewer and Obama’s not even running in 3 years. These fucking people are evil.

  4. I don’t know all the facts about the case, but I feel he should have been convicted of something like manslaughter or murder in the second and probably will when he’s retried.

    Can the state of Florida just fire Angela Corey for incompetence? Why would you think first degree murder would stick following a shooting where the shooter was intoxicated and in a heated argument?

    1. Is there even a need to retry? The 3 attempted murder convictions mean he will probably never see freedom again.

      1. I could see why it would matter to the family of the victim and I do sympathize with them if they want justice to acknowledge that Dunn murdered their son.

      2. That too. But political pressure will cause them to retry it. And all of this coverage is effectively ensuring the guy won’t get a fair trial the next time.

        The better thing would be to max this guy out on the charges he was convicted of and leave the family with the knowledge he is never getting out of prison and be done with it.

      3. Meh. IIRC the average time-served sentence for murder (non-premeditated, single, non-grisly) is about twenty years.

        The real key is whether the sentences for the three convictions are served consecutively or concurrently.

    2. Angela Corey’s rampant idiocy notwithstanding, my take on the premeditation was his chambering of a round and exiting the vehicle to fire. If you’re carrying for self-defense, you’ve already got one in the chamber. Otherwise, you’re wasting time you don’t have in the moment and running the risk that the gun will jam besides. And if the point is deterrence, he could’ve easily accomplished that by simply pointing the gun at Davis, if we’re operating under the assumption that Dunn is being truthful about thinking he saw a shotgun barrel poking up in the window.

  5. Seriously it seems like no one understands what ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ means. The standard that most people apply is exactly the opposite. “Is there a slim chance he’s guilty? Convict.”

    1. It doesn’t matter, look at any left-wing media outlet and they’ll have you think there’s an epidemic of white guys shooting young black men and walking.

      The narrative must be served.

    2. On the contrary, I think juries are being misled into thinking that “beyond a reasonable doubt” means “beyond any possible doubt.”

      1. Tony, I don’t think you should use terms the meaning of which you don’t understand. You no more understand what reasonable doubt means than my dog understands the phases of the moon.

        All you see is a black victim and a white accused and want blood. That is all you are doing here. The victim isn’t even a human being to you. He is just a tool to further your political narrative.

        1. Just shut up you shrill moron. Christ man, calm down.

          1. Truth hurts Tony. You don’t even know anything about the case and know even less about the law involved. But you do know the races of those involves and that seems to be all you think you need to know.

            If you don’t like people pointing out who are, change who you are.

            1. Race was clearly an important factor in the trial itself, and race is the only reason anyone is talking about this. I think race matters in the horrific endless shit heap that is American criminal so-called justice, because it obviously does. The only one with a problem here is you, invested as you are in the wrong side of American racial politics.

              1. ace was clearly an important factor in the trial itself,

                There is no reason to think that. None of the jurors have said it was a factor. The defendant never claimed he shot the guy because he was black. You think it is because you see a black victim and a white defendant. That alone makes the case about race. You don’t have to know the facts or anything about the case. You have your narrative and the set of lies you choose to believe. Everything else is immaterial.

              2. I disagree with your first point, but totally agree with your second. The only reason this is a topic is because the parties involved are of different complexions, and one of them is a paleface. But I don’t see anything to imply that race was a factor in the jury’s decision or in the conduct of the trial, unless you’re saying that the mere fact of three jurors buying his self-defense argument is proof of their racism. If that’s the case, you’re showing a bit of bigotry yourself, frankly.

    3. I think jurors tend to take the system more seriously than the cynical folks who work for the system. For the jurors, it’s all fresh and new and civics textbook idealism. For the cops, judges and lawyers it’s just another day at the office – and thank God Dunkin’ Donuts is open!

      1. (not all of them)

      2. I think you are right GKC. I am great believer in the jury system and I think they get it right a lot more than they get it wrong and even then they take their job seriously.

  6. Roll your window up. Ignore the taunting. Put your car in reverse. Back up to the front of the store. Move a parking spot over.

    As long as SOMETHING IS DONE. Inaction just wouldn’t be American.

    1. (yeah, I guess technically “ignoring” isn’t “doing something”.)

    2. Don’t get into confrontations with strangers. I guarantee you this guy sitting in jail wishes he had never said anything about the music. And I also guarantee that when the victim realized he was done for he wished he had never turned his music up.

      If you want to carry, that your right. But you are a serious moron if you have a CC permit and confront some idiot over his music. What do you think is going to happen?

      1. This is the proper action to take when confronted by punks playing loud music


  7. Who fires a gun at a car full of teenagers (even if you reasonably feared for your life for a brief moment) and then calmly drives home and watches re-runs of T.J. Hooker, never notifying the police?

    He’s guilty of leaving the scene of a crime, if nothing else.

    1. They found him guilty of attempted murder, which frankly is a strange finding in a case where the victim is dead. Regardless, it is what it is and he is never seeing the light of day because of it.

      1. I thought the attempted murder was with other kids – the ones who survived, and the hung jury was over the kid who died.

        1. Yes. Jon Stewart: “So the message in Florida is pretty clear: if you fire a gun, you better fucking hit somebody.”

          1. Yes Tony, we know you get your news and talking points of Jon Stewart. You don’t have to tell us. The substance of your posts make that clear.

          2. if you fire a gun, you better fucking hit somebody.”

            He did, and he was found guilty. I’m not even sure what Stewart’s point is here.

            1. He was found guilty for attempted murder of the people who got away, but not of the actual murder. He was comparing it to the Martin/Zimmerman case.

              1. “the actual murder”

                And the jury didn’t agree on whether it was an actual murder.

              2. He was comparing it to the Martin/Zimmerman case.

                Ah, now I see his fatal flaw. Two different cases, two different circumstances, two different outcomes, three different races.

              3. Here, Tony w/o spaces. Let’s me try and break this down for you real simple-like for your simple mind.

                In the state of Florida, Title XLVI, Section 782.04, in the relevant parts reads:

                (1)(a)?The unlawful killing of a human being:
                1.?When perpetrated from a premeditated design to effect the death of the person killed or any human being;

                is murder in the first degree and constitutes a capital felony, punishable as provided in s. 775.082.

                Note the bolded section.

                Now let’s look at a good FL definition of Premeditation:

                Premeditation is defined as more than a mere intent to kill; it is a fully formed conscious purpose to kill.

                “This purpose to kill may be formed a moment before the act but must exist for a sufficient length of time to permit reflection as to the nature of the act to be committed and the probable result of that act.”
                Berube v. State (2009)

                In the discussion on premeditation, the court cites Hall v. State (1981), which suggests that the State, must prove that the homicide at issue could have only occurred by premeditation, not merely that premeditation fits neatly, or even that it is most likely.

                It appears the law of Florida, how ever inartful, was correctly applied by the jury to the facts.

          3. Yes. Jon Stewart: “So the message in Florida is pretty clear: if you fire a gun, you better fucking hit somebody.

            Where has Jon Stewart been for the 6 centuries of firearm history where drawing a gun on someone meant you better fucking hit somebody?

            Where has he been for the last several decades where people with badges do this and don’t serve jail time or even get paid suspensions?

  8. The 3 jurors may have envisioned a scenario in which he started off in fear for his life, shot the one guy, and then stayed pumped up and continued shooting even after the danger was past. This sort of thing can happen with cops, too – there’s an immediate danger, and even after the immediate danger is past you’re still in aggression mode. Add to that a lack of self-control, and – bang!

    1. That is exactly what happened. Are those three jurors correct? I don’t know. I didn’t watch the trial. Are those three juror’s opinion so out of line with the known facts that we should conclude out of hand that it is unreasonable the only or even most likely reason way they could think that is because of racism? Absolutely not.

      You just can’t overstate how horrible the media is in these sorts of cases. They are only covering this case for the purpose of stirring up racial division and anger.

      1. Personally, I think the shitbird should be gangraped by polar bears for effectively shooting someone because he was a teenager being a teenager, but I don’t assume that three jurors are Klansmen because they thought 1st degree murder wasn’t supported by the evidence. This is clearly the message being pushed by the media, however, because, at the end of the day, ya gotta sell papers. Or ad space, I should say.

        1. It is worse than that. If it were just about selling papers they would cover these sorts of cases when the races are reversed. They never do that. They only cover cases that go one way. That is intentional and because they want to ensure that black people never stop thinking white people and by extension Republicans hate them.

          1. You mean despite the statistical evidence that a black person is 12 times more likely to be killed by another black person than by a white person?

            1. They never mention that statistic. See they don’t mention those types of statistics because they claim it will just cause racial strife. I agree with them about that. That statistic doesn’t mean anything about the next black person I meet and the only reason to push it is to make black people guilty by association.

              The problem is the media does push any statistic that reflects poorly on white people. So that makes their commitment to racial tolerance a complete sham. They refuse to talk about statistics like yours because doing so interferes with the lies they want to tell.

          2. Well, judging by the protesters holding signs about the “war on black youth” and so forth it’s working like gangbusters. I note with interest there are no such protesters when the races of the parties involved are the same. And by ‘interest’ I mean derision, fury, scorn, and eventually a cynical exhaustion.

          3. For the most part its true. Most whites are not capable of getting out of their own way to understand that race is still very important in the minds of many Americans. You keep crying about the media only cars about this because of the victim is black but the facts don’t support that argument. Blacks die everyday at the hands of other less evolved blacks and for just being black in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wish it were possible to trust the motives but the sad fact of the matter is most whites speak with forked tongue regarding racial issues.

            1. You keep crying about the media only cars about this because of the victim is black but the facts don’t support that argument

              Ah No. You can’t read or are not paying well enough attention to understand what I am saying. It is not that the victim is black. It is that the victim is black and the defendant is white. The media never cares when both parties are black because those cases don’t push the narrative they want. My whole point is that the media only covers cases that push the narrative of white racism. You missed that completely.

              I wish it were possible to trust the motives but the sad fact of the matter is most whites speak with forked tongue regarding racial issues.

              Either you can read minds or you project your own biases on other people. You are no better than Tony. You automatically assume any white person who says race isn’t a factor is lying, even though you offer no reason to make such a generalization.

              I am sorry you are incapable of judging white people fairly or assuming anything but the worst motives. But that really is your problem and proof of nothing beyond that, although you do provide at least one piece of anecdotal evidence supporting my contention that the media lies on these issues poisons the well and furthers racial animosity. So there is that.

              1. John cut this bullshit out that the media gives a shit who kills blacks. The media doesn’t give a rats ass about these blacks anymore than you do.

                1. Hey MasterDarque, I always knew you for the racist pile of shit you are, thanks for finally confirming it.

                2. Then why are the media stirring up shit when the dude was convicted and will spend the rest of his days in prison (as it should be given the facts that came out during the trial). Strawman time.

                  I’d say most americans don’t like the idea of teenagers getting killed over stupid shit, no matter which race is involved on which side of the equation

                  If you can’t accept that you must be one bitter person.

            2. Most Whites ignore race entirely whereas Blacks are taught from birth that they are oppressed & should always be ready to fight for their birthright.

  9. Doesn’t “1st Degree”required “premeditation”?

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