In failing to acquit or convict Michael Dunn on the most significant charge — the premeditated murder of a teenager in a dispute over loud music — a jury on Saturday may have run headlong into the breadth and reach of Florida’s contentious self-defense law.
In their 30 hours of deliberation, the 12-member panel wrangled with a question that cuts to the heart of all self-defense claims: How does a juror know when using lethal force is justified, where nothing is straightforward, memories are hazy or contradictory and perception counts as much as fact?
Even as the jury agreed to convict Mr. Dunn of attempted murder, it found no consensus on murder.
In the courtroom, Mr. Dunn told the jury he shot Jordan Davis, 17, after the teenager pointed a shotgun at him from the window of a sport utility vehicle, threatened him and then got out of the truck. The two cars were parked side by side in front of a gas station convenience store
But the prosecution said there was no shotgun: No witness saw one, the three teenagers who were in the vehicle with Mr. Davis said they did not have a shotgun, and the police never found one. While Mr. Dunn fired 10 rounds at the teenagers on Nov. 23, 2012, no one ever shot back.
Rather, the prosecution argued, Mr. Dunn shot Mr. Davis because he became enraged after the teenager disregarded his request to turn down the loud rap music blasting from the vehicle and then “mouthed off,” hurling expletives at him. He fabricated a story about the shotgun to bolster his self-defense claim, they added.
But the state failed to persuade everyone on the jury — four white men, four white women, one Hispanic man, two black women and an Asian-American woman — of their version of events. As a result, the judge was forced to declare a mistrial Saturday on the charge of first-degree murder. A new trial on that count is expected to take place later this year.