Defense lawyer Cory Strolla, left, talks with Michael Dunn during the first day of Dunn's trial Feb. 6, 2014, in Jacksonville, Fla.
(Photo: Bob Mack, AP
JACKSONVILLE, FL (USATODAY.com) - Fueled by anger, Michael David Dunn pointed a semi-automatic pistol at four unarmed kids and fired 10 bullets at their Dodge Durango during a parking-lot argument over loud music, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday during opening statements in Dunn's murder trial.
Three of those bullets struck a 17-year-old in the rear seat, Jordan Davis. One bullet tore through his liver, both lungs and his aorta, and he died soon afterward.
"And (Dunn) drove off. He didn't call the police. He went to his hotel with his girlfriend, He ordered pizza, took his little dog for a walk outside the hotel, turned on a movie and made himself a big, tall rum and Coke," said Assistant State Attorney John Guy.
Dunn, 47, a software engineer who lives in South Patrick Shores, Fla., faces charges of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and shooting or throwing a deadly missile. The shooting occurred on the day after Thanksgiving 2012 at a Gate gas station here. Dunn, a white man, told detectives he fired in self-defense because Davis, a black teenager, threatened him with a shotgun or pipe-like weapon - but police said no weapon was found at the scene.
On Thursday afternoon, opening statements began in Dunn's highly publicized trial at the Duval County Courthouse downtown.
Many observers are drawing parallels with the fatal confrontation between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, and Davis' mother, Lucy McBath, has lobbied Congress and the Florida House criticizing Stand Your Ground firearm self-defense laws.
Cory Strolla, Dunn's defense lawyer, said Davis threatened to kill Dunn, brandished a weapon and was getting out of the SUV when Dunn reached for his firearm.
STORY: Another Stand Your Ground showdown?
"We're not here to change the law. We're not here to say anybody deserved to lose their life. But under the law, it was justified. And Michael Dunn, (considering) the facts of this case and the law, had every right under the law to not be a victim," Strolla said.
"To be judged by 12 rather than carried by six - that's the law. That's justified in the great state of Florida," he said.
Strolla accused Jacksonville Sheriff's Office homicide detectives of sloppy police work and said the other teens in the SUV - Tevin Thompson, Leland Brunson and Tommie Stornes - worked in tandem to get their stories straight shortly after the shooting. Strolla said the teens had ample opportunity to hide a shotgun or pipe in a nearby parking lot, and four days passed before police searched that area.
Including four alternates, the racially mixed jury is comprised of 10 women and six men. Circuit Judge Russell Healey ordered the jury to remain sequestered in a hotel for the duration of the trial. Strolla requested this move, citing "extensive, inflammatory and prejudicial" pretrial publicity of the case.
Guy, who also delivered the prosecution's opening statement in the Zimmerman trial, talked to jurors so softly at times Thursday that the courtroom microphones barely picked up his voice. In contrast, Strolla paced back and forth and spoke loudly during his opening statement, peppering his speech with occasional obscenities as he recounted the parking-lot dispute.
Dunn wore a V-neck sweater, white collared shirt and a tie, and he took notes and listened without facial expression while Guy spoke. Dunn choked up when Strolla described how Dunn repeatedly asked his girlfriend, Rhonda Rouer, if she was all right at the hotel the night of the shooting.
After opening statements, prosecutors introduced their first seven witnesses to try to bolster their case against Dunn.
The first was 19-year-old Aliyah Harris, Davis' former girlfriend. Harris, who is now a Florida Atlantic University freshman, testified that Davis was happy and in good spirits the night of the shooting when he dropped by Urban Outfitters while she was working.
Andrew Williams, 22, a Jacksonville cabinet installer and former junior lifeguard, described how he attempted to perform CPR on Davis in the gas station parking lot. Williams said he checked for a pulse on Davis' neck, but never felt one.
Shawn Atkins, now in prison on theft charges, provided the license plate ID of Dunn's car to police.
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Friday.
Rick Neale also reports for Florida Today in Melbourne, Fla.