At the close of eleven days of trial, there was a point today where it seemed we finally are near verdict. Justice is spelled one way, but defined many different ways. Conviction of Michael Dunn for the murder of Jordan Davis is one of the keys to justice. Will that come tomorrow?
The jury asked a question tonight which spawned much discussion- the jury insinuated they may be a little hung up on only one of the five counts by asking, “Can we not agree on one count and reach a verdict on other counts.” One. We weren’t given guidance if this was ONE juror’s question or the ENTIRE jury’s. We also weren’t given guidance if this was a question involving whether to convict or acquit or merely a disagreement as to degree of wrong. Yet, off we go mind-reading what this question means and who and how many asked it.
The most logical plausible scenario is that the jury has made some decision of guilt on charges two, three, four and five- consisting of three attempted murder charges (one for each teenager who survived) and one for merely firing his gun- four felonies. Even Dunn said he found it hard to explain this “second volley” of shots. In one interview, he said he stepped out several feet before firing. In another, he ducked behind cover. The jury asked for the video/audio from that night and likely have listened to the timing of gunshots over and over again. The final three shots were flush in the rear of a retreating vehicle. If that is true, attempted murder convictions may be forthcoming.
Michael Dunn will therefore serve the rest of his life in jail and two of my clients will receive partial justice. Dunn’s actions will be deemed reprehensible at law and not self defense. And yet- no one feels safe. No one is satisfied. If the jury draws the line at Dunn getting out of the car, it sets a dangerous precedent. It says that words can be legally fatal. The jury says that young black boys cannot get the benefit of the doubt against a clear liar. The jury allows lies to substitute for reasonable doubt. The jury calls Michael Dunn a mere “attempted murderer,” and not a “murderer.” At least for now.
Ray of Hope
But then there was a ray of hope. Instead of expressing deadlocked disagreement before going home, the jury said they will try again to hurdle this wall tomorrow. They didn’t quit. They didn’t take the easy way out. They asked to go to bed and start fresh tomorrow. It could take mere hours or more days, but there are people fighting for Jordan Davis in that jury room. They aren’t giving up and taking the easy way out. Hopefully, they are discussing impact angles and weighing witness credibility, asking questions about evidence and doing what is right.
What happens next?
Assuming this question means what some think it means, before this jury can throw up its hands on Count I- the murder of Jordan Davis -there is more legal wrangling that may happen- the jury first tells the judge in some way it cannot reach a verdict as to the charge. The jurors must look at each other and not be able to find an answer on whether Jordan Davis died from 1st Degree Murder, 2nd Degree Murder or Manslaughter or whether this was a case of self defense.
The Court cannot coerce this decision. In an effort to prevent jury coercion by trial judges, the Florida Supreme Court crafted a jury instruction commonly referred to as an “Allen charge,” which “allows a jury to continue deliberations, even after it has announced its inability to do so, where there is a reasonable basis to believe a verdict is possible, while cautioning jurors that they should not abandon their views just to get a verdict or to accommodate the majority.” The deadlock instruction is also referred to as a “dynamite charge” for its “ability to blow apart deadlock.” It dates back to a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Allen v. United States, 164 U.S. 492 in 1896. The Allen charge embodied in Florida Standard Jury Instruction 3.06 provides:
“I know that all of you have worked hard to try to find a verdict in this case. It apparently has been impossible for you so far. Sometimes an early vote before discussion can make it hard to reach an agreement about the case later. The vote, not the discussion, might make it hard to see all sides of the case.
We are all aware that it is legally permissible for a jury to disagree. There are two things a jury can lawfully do: agree on a verdict or disagree on what the facts of the case may truly be.
There is nothing to disagree about on the law. The law is as I told you. If you have any disagreements about the law, I should clear them for you now. That should be my problem, not yours.
If you disagree over what you believe the evidence showed, then only you can resolve that conflict, if it is to be resolved.
I have only one request of you. By law, I cannot demand this of you, but I want you to go back into the jury room. Then, taking turns, tell each of the other jurors about any weakness of your own position. You should not interrupt each other or comment on each other’s views until each of you had a chance to talk. After you have done that, if you simply cannot reach a verdict, then return to the courtroom and I will declare this case mistried, and will discharge you with my sincere appreciation of your services.
You may now retire to continue with your deliberations.”
Justice Delayed will NOT be Justice Denied
If justice doesn’t come tomorrow for Jordan Davis, specifically, it will come. We will not let justice delayed mean justice denied. If convicted of Courts 2 through 5, Michael Dunn will leave the court room as a 4-time convicted felon, certain to spend the rest of his life in prison. More and more will come out about Michael Dunn and expose him for who he really is. Much of this did not make an appearance in this case, but will in the next one. Another trial will occur as to Count 1. We will continue to fight.
We hope the jury sees finds the answers it needs. Our heads are high. This jury is going through it in great detail. We cannot express enough gratitude for their sacrifice. We pray for its resolve.