JACKSONVILLE — As jurors Thursday deliberated the fate of Michael Dunn, his lawyer said the computer programmer would never had been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 17-year-old had it not been for George Zimmerman, who was acquitted last year for the shooting death of another Florida black teen.
Defense attorney Cory Strolla said Dunn, tried for the November 2012 death of Jordan Davis, was "overcharged" with first-degree murder due to escalated political pressure and heightened media attention from the Zimmerman case.
Zimmerman, a white Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer, was acquitted last summer of charges of second-degree murder in Trayvon Martin's shooting death. Zimmerman said he had acted in self-defense as the pair fought.
Dunn, 47, testified that he acted in self-defense after he felt threatened by Davis and other teens in the parking lot of a Jacksonville gas station in an argument that escalated over loud rap music. The incident occurred after Dunn and his fiancee left the November 2012 wedding reception of Dunn's son, Christopher. Dunn had stopped for wine and snacks at a Jacksonville gas station, and complained about the loud rap music coming from the SUV Davis and friends were sitting in.
"Had we never heard about George Zimmerman, I don't think you and I would be standing in this room talking about Mr. Dunn," Strolla told reporters.
Prosecutors had called Zimmerman's actions racially motivated. But Strolla said Dunn is not a racist and that Davis' shooting was not racially motivated.
"Mr. Dunn does believe that there are kids and youth out there that listen to this, what we call gangster rap or violent lyrics, and they see violent things on TV and they try to imitate it because they think that's fun, or they think that's cool, or they think that's the way it's supposed to happen. And it's not black. It's not white. It's not Hispanic," Strolla said.
"This isn't a black-and-white issue,'' Strolla said. "It's what he would call a subculture thug issue. And again, it doesn't go to race. It goes to how people behave and respond to situations."
Dunn repeatedly said during his testimony that he felt his life was being threatened, and that he thought the youths had a shotgun or another weapon. Authorities found no weapon at the crime scene.
Strolla said state attorneys had offered no pretrial plea bargain before the case was tried — although Dunn would not have accepted one.
Jackelyn Barnard, spokeswoman for the state attorney's office, said Strolla's accusations of political pressure affecting his case are wrong.
"Michael Dunn was indicted in December 2012, weeks after the shooting death of Jordan Davis. (State Attorney Angela) Corey has been assigned to the case since December 2012. The prosecution of Michael Dunn began long before the Zimmerman trial," Barnard said.
Strauss reported from McLean, Va.