Over Easy: Breaking down the Michael Dunn indictment
by Frederick Leatherman Thursday, July 25, 2013. I am still awaiting parts for my non-working computer, so I cannot research, post or comment yet. Fred and I are passing this one back and forth.
Breaking down the Michael Dunn indictment
A grand jury returned a five-count indictment last December against Michael Dunn for shooting into a red Dodge Durango killing Jordan Davis, an unarmed black 17-year-old male. Dunn is a 46-year-old white male.
The shooting occurred in the parking lot of a gas station and convenience store in Jacksonville, FL on November 23, 2012. Four black male teenagers were sitting in the Durango listening to music when Dunn drove up and parked next to them on the passenger side. Jordan Davis was sitting in the back seat of the Durango on the passenger side with his window down.
After Dunn’s girlfriend entered the store to purchase wine and potato chips, Dunn complained about the volume of the music and told the teenagers to turn it down. After someone in the front seat turned it down, Jordan Davis objected and the person turned up the volume back up.
Dunn and Davis started arguing. After stating, “you’re not going to talk to me like that,” Dunn pulled out a 9 millimeter semiautomatic handgun and started squeezing off shots into the Durango, hitting Davis multiple times, killing him.
Dunn got out of his car and kept firing as the driver of the Durango backed out of the parking place and sped away.
Dunn fired 8 shots. Fortunately, no one else was injured.
After hearing the shots, Dunn’s girlfriend rushed back to the vehicle and got in leaving the bottle of wine, potato chips, and the money to pay for them on the counter.
A few minutes later, after Dunn peeled out of the parking lot, the teenagers in the red Dodge Durango, who had stopped in a nearby parking lot to check on Jordan and assess the damage to the vehicle, called 911 and returned to the scene to wait for the police and the ambulance to arrive.
The teenagers were unarmed and the police did not find any weapons in their vehicle. Police also searched the route they had taken and the area where they briefly stopped. They did not find any weapons.
The indictment alleges in Count 1 that Michael Dunn committed first degree premeditated murder when he shot and killed Jordan Davis. Dunn has admitted the shooting but claims that he acted in self-defense.
Here is the Florida Supreme Court jury instruction for first degree premeditated murder:
To prove the crime of First Degree Premeditated Murder, the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. (Victim) is dead.
2. The death was caused by the criminal act of (defendant).
3. There was a premeditated killing of (victim).
An “act” includes a series of related actions arising from and performed pursuant to a single design or purpose.
“Killing with premeditation” is killing after consciously deciding to do so. The decision must be present in the mind at the time of the killing. The law does not fix the exact period of time that must pass between the formation of the premeditated intent to kill and the killing. The period of time must be long enough to allow reflection by the defendant. The premeditated intent to kill must be formed before the killing.
The question of premeditation is a question of fact to be determined by you from the evidence. It will be sufficient proof of premeditation if the circumstances of the killing and the conduct of the accused convince you beyond a reasonable doubt of the existence of premeditation at the time of the killing.
(Transferred intent. Give if applicable.)
If a person has a premeditated design to kill one person and in attempting to kill that person actually kills another person, the killing is premeditated.
Counts 2-4 each allege that Michael Dunn, while acting with premeditated intent to kill each of the other three teenagers, attempted to kill them by shooting into the vehicle.
The Florida Supreme Court jury instruction for attempted first degree premeditated murder provides:
To prove the crime of Attempted First Degree Premeditated Murder, the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. (Defendant) did some act intended to cause the death of (victim) that went beyond just thinking or talking about it.
2. (Defendant) acted with a premeditated design to kill (victim).
3. The act would have resulted in the death of (victim) except that someone prevented (defendant) from killing (victim) or [he] [she] failed to do so.
A premeditated design to kill means that there was a conscious decision to kill. The decision must be present in the mind at the time the act was committed. The law does not fix the exact period of time that must pass between the formation of the premeditated intent to kill and the act. The period of time must be long enough to allow reflection by the defendant. The premeditated intent to kill must be formed before the act was committed.
The question of premeditation is a question of fact to be determined by you from the evidence. It will be sufficient proof of premeditation if the circumstances of the attempted killing and the conduct of the accused convince you beyond a reasonable doubt of the existence of premeditation at the time of the attempted killing.
It is not an attempt to commit first degree premeditated murder if the defendant abandoned the attempt to commit the offense or otherwise prevented its commission under circumstances indicating a complete and voluntary renunciation of [his] [her] criminal purpose.
Count 5 of the indictment charges Michael Dunn with “wantonly or maliciously” shooting a firearm at, within or into a vehicle, which was being used or occupied by any person. Count 5 is a felony.
Since Count 5 is a felony, Michael Dunn could also be convicted of first degree murder in Count 1, pursuant to the felony murder rule, if the jury convicts Dunn on Count 5 (a felony) that results in the unlawful death of Jordan Davis.
Notice that the felony murder rule is an alternative method of proving first degree murder that does not require proof of premeditation. Instead, it requires proof of a predicate felony, such as Count 5, that unlawfully causes the death of another person.
Dunn’s defense is self-defense and like Zimmerman, he has a credibility problem. He initially said that he fired in self-defense because he feared the boys were going to rush him. Subsequently, he said he thought he saw a shotgun.
The jury will have to decide if he believed he was in imminent danger of death or grievous bodily harm and if so, whether his belief was reasonable.
If you have not already done so, go here to review the discovery (.pdf link, H/T to fauxmccoy for providing the link).
Rolling Stone states:
If Dunn, a 300-pound giant of a man with a loaded 9mm and an extra clip in his glovebox, can persuade a Jacksonville jury that his life was at risk from four middle-class boys who’d stopped to buy gum, then Ms. Corey and her statutes may be put to the torch by a populace that’s finally had enough. In George Zimmerman, the state of Florida has created something obscene: a legally bulletproof coward with a license to kill.
Dunn is also charged with three attempted murder charges. Dunn used both hands to hold the gun and fire additional shots into the back of the fleeing car as the boys attempted to escape, so there are holes in the back of the vehicle. Like Zimmerman, he began making up his self-defense story (‘I saw a shotgun’) days later. Dunn told the police, “They didn’t obey me. What was I supposed to do?
Photo by Schen Photography released under a Creative Commons license.