A Florida jury began hearing the retrial on Thursday of Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white man charged with murder after he shot an unarmed black teenager during an argument over loud rap music.
Dunn, 47, a software engineer, fired 10 rounds at an SUV carrying four black teens listening to music at a Jacksonville gas station in November 2012, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis.
Prosecutor John Guy on Thursday gave a chilling dramatic narrative opening of the night Davis died after verbally insulting Dunn.
“Michael David Dunn had enough of the mouthy audacious, disrespectful teenager in the car next to him and with malice in his heart and intent in aim, he took a semi-automatic pistol and fired," he said.
In an earlier trial in February, a jury could not reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charge but convicted Dunn on three lesser counts of attempted murder for firing at the three teens who survived in the vehicle, which was parked next to Dunn’s.
Mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines in Florida for crimes committed with a gun mean that Dunn could face 60 years in jail for the February convictions. Sentencing was postponed until after his retrial on the outstanding charge.
Dunn claimed at his original trial that he acted in self-defense and started shooting in a state of panic after he thought he saw the barrel of a gun in the back window as Davis started to get out of the SUV, a Dodge Durango.
Defense attorney Waffa Hanania said Thursday that jurors will come to understand that Dunn "acted to defend his life from a real threat or what he perceived to be a real threat in that time and in those circumstances."
Prosecutors say Davis used foul language when confronting Dunn but that no gun was found in the Durango. They also sought to paint a more personal picture of Davis on Thursday, something they were criticized for failing to do at the first trial.
The racially charged trial in February drew comparisons to the case of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder in Florida last year in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old.
The prosecution team is led by State Attorney Angela Corey, appointed by Florida Governor Rick Scott as special prosecutor in the Zimmerman case.
Prosecutors on Thursday addressed how the teens briefly drove away after the shooting, before returning. In the first trial, Dunn's attorney said the teens had time to discard any weapon before police arrived.
Guy described how the young men drove only about 300 feet before stopping the SUV, and the two men in the front got out, opened the back door and found Davis collapsed in the lap of a friend. “He wasn’t responding,” said Guy. “He was gasping for air.”
Corey asked contractor Steven Smith, who had stopped at the gas station to buy a soda, how long the Durango was gone.
“Two-and-a-half minutes max,” Smith said.
The Jacksonville jury of 10 whites and two blacks is being sequestered throughout the trial, which is expected to last one week. The February trial was heard by a slightly more racially diverse jury of 8 whites, 2 blacks, one Asian and one Hispanic.
(Editing by David Adams, Bill Trott, Andrew Hay and Ken Wills)