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Michael Dunn’s Charges: What Jurors Are Debating

The fate of Michael Dunn, the Florida man facing a murder charge for a fatal argument over loud music, hangs in the balance of a jury currently in the throes of deliberations. What are they debating? A variety of charges. Dunn, 47, is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Jordan Davis, an unarmed 17-year-old boy. However, the judge told jurors that they can also consider lesser charges including second degree murder, manslaughter, justifiable homicide, or excusable homicide, ABC News reports. Here's a breakdown of the various charges: First degree murder. When considering first degree murder -- which entails premeditated, intentional killings and felony murder -- the jury will vigorously debate the degree of Dunn's intent when carrying out the killing. To convict Dunn of first degree murder, the jury must find that Dunn planned and intentionally carried out the killing. If his intent didn't rise to that level of premeditation, the jury will need to turn to the lesser charges. Second degree murder. In order to find Dunn guilty of second degree murder, a jury would have to find that he acted with a depraved indifference to human life, a much lesser level of intent than first degree murder because it includes unplanned killings. However, this charge can also be tricky because it requires the jury to make a sort of moral judgment. Manslaughter. In stark contrast to murder, manslaughter only asks that jurors find Dunn was either reckless or not justified by the circumstances in killing Jordan Davis. Justifiable homicide. Florida's justifiable homicide law -- commonly known as "Stand Your Ground" -- allows for a self-defense killing if a person reasonably fears death or serious bodily injury. Like George Zimmerman -- who claimed that he killed Trayvon Martin, a similarly unarmed 17-year-old, in self defense -- Dunn also did not request a "Stand Your Ground" hearing to receive immunity from prosecution. But the law's principles were still allowed to be used during Dunn's trial and jury instructions. Excusable homicide. In Florida, a homicide is excusable when it's committed by accident without any unlawful intent, by accident in the heat of passion, upon sudden and sufficient provocation, or upon a sudden combat, but only without any dangerous weapon being used and not being done in a cruel or unusual manner. In addition to the murder charge for Jordan Davis' killing, Michael Dunn is also charged with three counts of attempted murder. If convicted, Dunn faces the possibility of life in prison. Related Resources: Mens Rea - A Defendant's Mental State (FindLaw) Fla. Man Shoots, Kills Teen Over Loud Music (FindLaw's Blotter) Trayvon's Mom: Clarify 'Stand Your Ground' Laws (FindLaw's Blotter) PS4 Shooting Suspect Could Face Murder Charge (FindLaw's 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. Related Resources: Michael Dunn's fate in jury's hands in loud-music murder trial (CNN) Fla. Man Shoots, Kills Teen Over Loud Music (FindLaw's Blotter) Homeowner Charged in Renisha McBride's Murder (FindLaw's Blotter) Trayvon's Mom: Clarify 'Stand Your Ground' Laws (FindLaw's Blotter)
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