Fla. Loud Music Murder Case in Jury's Hands - FindLaw Blotter
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Fla. Loud Music Murder Case in Jury's Hands

A Florida man facing murder charges for a fatal argument over loud music took the stand earlier this week. Jurors are now deliberating his fate.

Michael Dunn, 47, told jurors about his altercation with a group of young black men over loud music coming from their car at a Jacksonville gas station. Dunn shot and killed one of the car's passengers, 17-year-old Jordan Davis, Reuters reports.

As Davis was unarmed, parallels have been drawn between Dunn's case and George Zimmerman's trial. But will Dunn's jury reach the same verdict?

Self-Defense Requires 'Reasonable Fear'

Dunn's defense rests largely on his assertion that he feared for his life when he pulled the trigger. A defendant can be legally excused for intentionally killing another person so long as the killer had a reasonable fear of imminent lethal force or great bodily injury.

But in order for the jury to find that Dunn had such a "reasonable fear," there must be evidence that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances believed that the "danger could be avoided only through the use of that force." This was the same instruction that the jury was given in the George Zimmerman case.

Much of Dunn's testimony Tuesday spoke to his emotions and state of mind at the time of the fatal shooting. Dunn insisted he "was in sheer terror" when he used his gun, Reuters reports. He also told jurors that he only opened fire on Davis after seeing what looked like "the barrel of a gun or a lead pipe" in the back passenger window.

No weapons were found in Davis' vehicle. And Dunn's fiancee, who was with him the night of the shooting, testified that Dunn didn't mention seeing a gun until more than a month later, CNN reports.

In order to apply self-defense, jurors must agree that Dunn's fears and actions were reasonable under the circumstances.

Stand Your Ground

"Stand Your Ground" laws have historically been used to support claims of self-defense without requiring defendants to attempt to retreat or flee when lethal danger is present. There was a significant amount of talk surrounding "Stand Your Ground" in Florida during the Zimmerman case, but a pretrial "Stand Your Ground" hearing was dropped as a defense strategy.

Although Dunn also did not ask for a "Stand Your Hearing" to receive immunity from prosecution, he was still allowed to raise the law's principles during trial or in jury instructions.

Morally, Dunn appears to be standing his ground. He testified Tuesday that after the shooting, "I knew I had done nothing wrong," Reuters reports. If convicted, Dunn faces the possibility of life in prison.

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