Jacksonville, FL - No big ruling but new information coming out of Tuesday’s hearing for Michael Dunn.
Dunn is charged with one count of first degree murder and three counts attempted first degree murder for the fatal shooting of Jordan Davis at a Southside gas station late November. Three other teens were in the car Dunn is charged with shooting in to.
Bond ruling delayed
Several motions were discussed, but the most significant action dealt with whether Dunn should be given bond. Attorneys on either side argued over technicalities to begin. The State, led by State Attorney Angela Corey, presented an affidavit from a detective as probable cause why Dunn should remain in jail, and claimed the sentence facing Dunn- life in prison or the death penalty- would make no bond appropriate. Defense Attorney Cory Strolla argued a different rule which claims just hearsay- the affidavit- is not enough to support no bond.
The judge declined to rule specifically on that, and did not decide bond either today, saying only that she will issue the ruling “soon”.
The Defense also presented several witnesses to speak to Dunn’s finances, character and ties to the community for future consideration in the matter of bond. He is seeking $100,000 bond or $50,000 bond and electronic monitoring.
There was a sizeable crowd for the hearing, many friends and family of Michael Dunn who came to speak on his behalf. Many of them were called as witnesses for this bond hearing, including his parents.
The parents of the teen Dunn is charged with killing were in court as well, and they were not happy so many people were called to say a similar message.
“It just continues to prolong out pain. It prolongs what we go through, and it’s going to get harder and harder,” says Davis’s mother Lucia McBath.
For Strolla, however, it is due process.
“If her son was charged with a crime, she would expect the court to take all day to hear her case,” he says.
Dunn’s parents claim they are now financially supporting him and he has no assets. They say they have been supporting his fiancé as well but can no longer do so. Under sworn testimony they pledged to pay for his electronic monitoring and give him a job where he can work from home to help pay bills. Strolla is also willing to turn over Dunn’s passport and pilot’s license.
Death penalty seems unlikely
While speaking about the sentence Dunn faces if he is convicted, State Attorney Angela Corey pointed out that the state has not filed a motion to seek the death penalty. In context, the statement implied they would not, however that was not outright stated.
Another question is on the confidentiality of court records, specifically those dealing with witnesses. The Defense was concerned about the release of several 911 tapes from that night, and the ramifications of letting witnesses be identified and potentially questioned or sought by parties outside the trial while the trial was proceeding. Judge Suzanne Bass questioned specifically about the scope- just what kind of authority gives her the right to impose this ban and how long would the ban be in place? Without clear answers, she withheld ruling on this as well. The State did not object, however, mentioned the media would want to have a say in the ruling. That was another contributing factor to delaying the ruling.
Speedy trial waived
Dunn additionally waived his right to a speedy trial today. One of Judge Bass’s primary concerns was the amount of time it was taking to carry out discovery and set a trial date, citing Dunn’s right for a speedy trial. Following a direct question from the judge, the Defense claimed it could take him 6 to 9 months to complete all the depositions and be fully prepared on discovery. While the judge did not set a trial date today, she pressed that it was something which needs to happen soon.
Defense taking shape
Speaking after the hearing, Strolla elaborated on the self-defense argument they’re standing behind- saying Dunn felt threatened and thought he saw a gun. Strolla claims he doesn’t have to actually prove there was a gun under Florida law. He cites that fear as the reason Dunn fled the gas station after the shooting.
“He was afraid that they were gunna come back and either retaliate and shoot him or come back with other people,” he says.
For Davis’s parents, however, that is not a reason at all, and they say if Dunn is released the three other teens in the car are the ones who are scared.
Strolla says it is also clear through 911 calls shortly following the shooting that the SUV the boys were in fled the scene and came back.
An emotional trial is forming
One of the most dramatic moments actually came shortly following the judge calling a brief recess. At that time, Ron Davis locked eyes with Dunn and stood immobile for several seconds before being pulled away. I asked what he was thinking in that moment.
“Why was he looking at his family smiling, because even looking at his family he should be ashamed and not smiling,” Davis says.
He tells me it took “everything in him” to remain still and “keep his freedom”.
Dunn’s attorney is also beginning to frame an argument that the teens may have driven away to get rid of a gun, or may have said they were going to beat Dunn up. A lawyer pursuing a civil suit for Jordan’s parents tells me he is pursuing any “slanderous” things said about the teens involved.