Local law professor says Michael Dunn hung jury is another reason Stand Your Ground must go

02/17/14 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: Jordan Davis, Michael Dunn, Angela Corrie, Trayvon Martin, Stand Your Ground

Over the weekend 47-year old Michael Dunn was convicted of 4 out of 5 counts in the Jacksonville ‘loud music’ case. Dunn, who shot and killed teen Jordan Davis after firing ten shots into his SUV, was convicted of three counts of attempted murder and one of firing into an occupied vehicle. That he was not convicted of murder has enraged critics of the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law including Stetson Law professor Charles Rose.

"The very real difficulty with the jury looking inside the mind of the defendant, as the statute requires, and trying to decide whether or not the defendant, at that moment in time, felt that their life was threatened sufficiently that using lethal force was authorized. It's just another example of a fundamental problem with the statute as it currently exists."

The shooter claimed he saw a gun when he approached Jordan Davis in a Jacksonville convenience store parking lot. After 30-hours of deliberation, at least one of the 12-member jury must have believed that Dunn had adequate reason to feel threatened. Because the jury was hung on a first degree murder charges or lesser charges of second degree murder or manslaughter, that case could be re-tried. Regardless, Dunn faces at least 60-years in prison.

"The parents of the young man that was shot in the car, they have received justice. The family of the young man that was killed, this family has not received justice."

Hillsborough County NAACP president Carolyn Collins points out the state already has self-defense laws. But Rose, the Stetson law professor, says there are differences between self defense and Stand Your Ground. Self defense, he explains, comes with a stipulation that a shooter has to retreat if possible.

"It's a duty to remove yourself from a dangerous situation so that you don't have to use deadly force to defend yourself. In other words; someone threatens me, if I have an opportunity to just get out of the area, to avoid the confrontation, self defense law requires me to do that before I meet force with appropriate force to defend myself or others."

The verdicts in the November 2012 shooting case came down Saturday night. State prosecutor Angela Corey worked on the case herself after losing a similar Stand Your Ground case in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. The NAACP’s Collins says Corrie could have done more to prove their case that Michael Dunn’s shooting of Jordan Davis was premeditated.

"I just think that Angela Corey and her staff need to do a little bit more aggressive job on no more than the national media and everyone else. I think that if there was a letter that showed his biases it should have been presented in the case. I think that to insure that beyond the shadow of a doubt that if there were people that could have talked about him in some kind of way she has got to learn to be a little bit more aggressive in allowing people to see the person who's life had been snuffed out that's not been speaking themselves."

The NAACP plans to take its anti-Stand Your Ground message to Tallahassee this March in advance of the state’s legislative session.

"The intent for us is to make sure that we continue to talk to the legislative delegation and our representatives as well across the state as need be from our president () with the state NAACP to send a clear message."

And Stetson professor Rose agrees the law either needs to be repealed or seriously reformed.

"In society it doesn't work really well to go back to the 1800's and have people walking up and down the street with guns strapped to their waist. And yet you could make an argument that Stand Your Ground has created that situation in Florida in a way that it did not before. And the really sad part about it is that this is not, it's designed to fix a problem that did not exist."

A sentencing date for Michael Dunn has not been set. He faces a minimum of 20-years for each of the three attempted murder charges and another possible 15-years for firing into an occupied vehicle. A first degree murder charge, if the case is re-tried, could be a death penalty case.

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