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Loud music murder trial in Florida enters first day
Susan Cooper Eastman, REUTERS
First posted: Thursday, February 06, 2014 05:50 PM EST | Updated: Thursday, February 06, 2014 06:05 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, FLA. - A 17-year-old black teenager was "mall hopping and girl shopping" on a typical Friday outing with friends, when he was confronted and killed by a middle-aged white software engineer in a dispute over loud rap music, a north Florida jury heard in opening statements on Thursday.
The engineer Michael Dunn, 47, is being tried in state court on one count of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of firing a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle.
Dunn faces life in prison if convicted in the Nov. 23, 2012, shooting death of Jordan Davis, 17, who along with three friends in an SUV had stopped for cigarettes at a gas station.
Prosecutors said Dunn overreacted in his frustration with loud music coming from the SUV; the defense said he believed his life was in danger and he was justified in using deadly force under the state's stand your ground self-defense law.
Assistant state attorney John Guy, speaking for the prosecution, recounted how the argument broke out when the teens pulled into the gas station in a red Dodge Durango, and made the case that Dunn could have avoided a confrontation.
The teens were listening to rap music - Lil Reese's "Beef", according to police reports - cranked up loud.
Dunn and his fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, stopped at the same gas station store on the way back to their hotel after attending the wedding of Dunn's son. Dunn parked his 2009 Volkswagen Jetta beside the Durango.
The music was so loud, the defense said, Dunn asked the teens to turn it down.
When one of the teens lowered the music, Davis told him to turn it back up, Guy said, adding that although Davis cursed at Dunn, he represented no threat to his life.
"There is no doubt he raised his voice, but he didn't threaten the defendant. He disrespected the defendant," Guy said.
To emphasize that Davis wasn't acting aggressively or advancing on Dunn, Guy told jurors the evidence would show the teen was leaning away when he was struck by three bullets.
Defense attorney Cory Strolla described Davis as so threatening that Dunn feared for his life.
"The only person who cursed was Jordan Davis. His words were, 'I'm going to ****ing kill you. I should kill you right now,'" Strolla said.
When his friend turned down the music, Strolla said Davis was so angry he cursed and said, "... turn it back up."
The music was so loud, it was rattling windows and mirrors, and Dunn and his fiancee "couldn't hear themselves talk ... sitting in the same vehicle," Strolla added.
A gun or a lead pipe was brandished out the back passenger window and Davis was exiting the car when Dunn reacted, Strolla said.
As he moved to open the door, Davis said this "is going down now, bitch," according to Strolla.
Police found no weapon in the Durango, although Dunn's attorney said the teens had time to discard any weapon before police arrived.
A racially diverse jury of 10 whites, three blacks, one Asian, one Hispanic and one person of Indian descent is hearing the case. Only 12 jurors ultimately will take part in the deliberations to decide if Dunn committed murder or was acting in self defense when he opened fire on the four black teenagers in an SUV parked next to him at the gas station.
According to information compiled by a local radio reporter about the jury panel, many of the jurors know people who have been arrested or have been victims of crime.
Several own guns, according to the WOKV-FM reporter. One of the white male jurors, who works as a software developer like Dunn, has a friend who was a victim of violent crime and an uncle convicted of armed robbery.
Another juror worked in a bank that was robbed. She said she does not like guns.
The Dunn case has drawn comparisons to the prosecution of George Zimmerman over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012. The victims in both cases were 17-year-old black teens killed by men who said they believed their lives were in danger.
Both cases have been prosecuted by the office of State Attorney Angela Corey, who supervised the Zimmerman case and said she will prosecute Dunn.
Defense attorney Cory Strolla (L) talks with Michael Dunn during the murder trial of Dunn for the shooting death of Jordan Davis at Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida February 6, 2014. (REUTERS/Bob Mack/Florida Times-Union/Pool)

Loud music murder trial in Florida enters first day | World | News | Toronto Sun
Florida teen in loud music murder trial was unarmed, witnesses say
Susan Cooper Eastman, Reuters
First posted: Friday, February 07, 2014 05:28 PM EST | Updated: Friday, February 07, 2014 08:01 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, FLA. - A black teenager shot dead by a middle-aged white man in Florida after an argument over loud rap music, was unarmed and never threatened his assailant, a court heard on Friday
In testimony that centered on events leading up to the Nov. 23, 2012, shooting, three friends of the 17-year-old victim, Jordan Davis, testified they were caught by surprise when Michael Dunn, a 47-year-old software engineer, opened fire on their SUV at a Jacksonville gas station in north Florida.
Moments before the shooting, one of the teens Tevin Thompson, 18, said he heard Dunn ask: "Are you talking to me?" He then said he saw Dunn pull out a 9 mm pistol, turn toward Davis and fire.
Dunn is being tried in state court on one count of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of firing a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle. He faces life in prison, if convicted.
The deadly expletive-laced altercation began at a gas station, where Davis and three male friends had stopped on a night out mall hopping and hoping to meet girls.
The driver of the SUV, Tommie Stornes, 19, wanted to buy cigarettes, as well as gum, because Davis said it might help with the girls.
"You all's breath stink," Thompson said Davis told them, smiling in a rare moment of humor.
The case has drawn comparisons with the prosecution of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012. In both cases, the victims were black teens killed by men who said they believed their lives were in danger.
In opening statements on Thursday, prosecutors said Dunn overreacted to loud music coming from the SUV and could have avoided a confrontation. The defense maintained Dunn was justified in using deadly force under the state's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law.
State prosecutor John Guy recounted how the argument broke out after the teens pulled into the gas station in a red Dodge Durango. Dunn and his fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, stopped at the same gas station store after attending the wedding of Dunn's son, and parked their car next to the Durango.
The music was so loud, the defense said, that Dunn asked the teens to turn it down. He only opened fire after seeing what looked like the barrel of a gun or a lead pipe through the back passenger window, the defense said.
One of the other teens in the car, Leland Brunson, 18, testified on Friday that Davis did not have a weapon in his hand. Brunson said Davis pointed at Dunn with his right hand as he was talking to him, and his left arm was across the back of the seat.
At one point toward the end of the argument, Davis had a cell phone in his right hand, he said.
Police found no weapon in the Durango, although Dunn's attorney said in his opening statement that the teens had time to discard any weapon before police arrived.
Thompson told the court the cars were so close he was face-to-face with Dunn and would not have been able to open his car door to get out.
The music was so loud he did not hear Dunn ask the teens to turn it down, although he saw him mouth the words: "Turn your music down .... I can't hear myself think."
When asked to describe how Dunn appeared, Thompson replied: "A little angry and upset."
Thompson told prosecutors he didn't see or hear Davis threaten Dunn, but he did keep talking to him. At one point, Thompson reached over and used driver's controls to roll up Davis' car window to about three inches from closing, but the teen kept jawing with Dunn.
"When did you first see the gun?" Guy asked Stornes. "Pointing at me," the teen replied.
"What was your reaction?" Guy asked.
"To try to get away?" he answered. "I remember hearing glass shattering ... I was in a panic."
The prosecution said the first three bullets entered the Durango's rear passenger door in a tight cluster, passing through the metal and entering Davis' body, ripping through his liver and shredding an aorta in his chest. The next three bullets struck the front passenger door, where Thompson was sitting, along the length of the door from the handle to the door hinge, according to a photo shown in court.
Stornes backed the SUV out of the gas station and gunned it into an adjacent strip mall, where he stopped. He called everyone's name. "Everyone answered but Jordan," he said. "He was gasping for air."
Defendant Michael Dunn looks back at his family on day two of his first-degree murder trial in Jacksonville, Florida February 7, 2014. (REUTERS/Bob Mack/The Florida Times-Union/Pool)

Florida teen in loud music murder trial was unarmed, witnesses say | World | News | Toronto Sun