It was the day after Thanksgiving 2012 when Michael Dunn pulled into a Jacksonville, Fla., gas station and parked his Volkswagen Jetta next to a red Dodge Durango. Dunn, now 49, was headed back to his hotel after attending his son’s wedding reception with his fiancee, who went into the gas station store to pick up a bottle of white wine.
Loud rap music blared from the Durango, and Dunn, who is white, asked the four black teenagers inside, including 17-year-old Jordan Davis, to turn down the volume. An argument ensued, and Dunn grabbed the 9 mm pistol in his glove compartment, firing 10 shots at the Durango. Davis, struck in the back and groin, was killed.
A jury found Dunn guilty of first-degree murder in October 2014.
Dunn appealed and, on Thursday, a Florida appeals court rejected the argument from Dunn’s lawyers that he acted in self-defense when he killed Davis, the Associated Press reported. Dunn has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The defense attorneys claimed the state had failed to present evidence contradicting Dunn’s self-defense claim, but the 1st District Court of Appeal panel said evidence such as witness testimony that the Durango did not contain weapons — which investigators’ accounts confirm — sufficed to refute Dunn’s claim, according to Florida Today. Dunn’s fiancee, Rhonda Rouer, has also testified that Dunn never mentioned seeing the teenagers holding weapons.
“While it’s hard to celebrate anything with the loss of Jordan Davis, it was closure. And it was the bittersweet last piece,” said John Phillips, the lawyer who represents Davis’s family.
The decision finalizes what became known as the “loud music trial,” during which Dunn was initially convicted in February 2014 of three counts of attempted second-degree murder and shooting into an occupied car. That jury deadlocked on the first-degree murder charge. Circuit Judge Russell Healey declared a mistrial on that count, and Dunn was found guilty eight months later in a retrial.
The case’s racial element drew national attention alongside the death of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was also killed in Florida in 2012 and later found to be unarmed. George Zimmerman, the man acquitted in Martin’s death, said he feared for his life — the same claim made by Dunn.
Dunn testified that he asked Davis and the three teenagers in the Durango to turn down their music, which he said grew “ridiculously loud.” At first they complied, Dunn said, but they soon began using expletives and turned the volume back up.
Dunn said he saw what looked like the barrel of a shotgun or a lead pipe through the back passenger window of the Durango and heard Davis say, “This s‑‑t’s going down.” At one point, Dunn testified that he feared for his life. He pulled his 9 mm handgun — for which he had a concealed carry permit — from the glove compartment of his car and fired into the Durango.
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