On February 15th, 2014 a Florida jury found Michael Dunn guilty on three counts of Attempted Murder and were hung on whether Dunn murdered 17 year old Jordan Davis. If a jury is hung on a particular charge in a criminal case, after a certain period of time a judge can declare a mistrial, which is what happened in this case. Dunn’s defense for his actions on the night of the shooting was that he was acting in self defense when he shot 10 times at the vehicle that Jordan Davis and three of his friends occupied. So what does it mean that the jury found him guilty of attempting to murder Davis’s friends but could not reach a decision on the murder itself? There are a couple of ways to interpret the verdict.
One possibility is that the jury did not buy Dunn’s claim of self defense and believed that he was not justified in the killing of Davis but could not agree on whether the verdict should be First Degree Murder or a lesser included offense like Second Degree Murder or Manslaughter. Even if the jury concluded he was guilty of the death, if all 12 could not agree to the level of culpability it would result in a hung verdict. Even if 11 jurors felt that Dunn was guilty of First Degree Murder and one juror thought that he was only guilty of manslaughter it would result in a mistrial.
Another possibility is that the jury was split on whether or not Dunn was justified in the killing of Davis, meaning that it is possible that at least some members of the jury believed Dunn was acting in self defense when he shot and killed Davis. The obvious question that would arise from that conclusion is “Why would the jury convict on attempted murder if they thought Dunn was acting in self defense?” One has to remember that Dunn fired off three or four shots as the teenagers were trying to leave the parking lot. It is possible that at least some members of the jury believed that Dunn was acting in self defense from a perceived threat from Davis when he fired the first three or four shots but was not acting in self defense when he continued to shoot at the entire car as the teenagers were pulling away. This theory is supported by the fact that one of the questions the jury asked yesterday was “If we determine deadly force is justified against one person is it justified for the others?” There would be no reason to ask this question if the jury was unanimous in their belief that Dunn did NOT act in self defense. Clearly by this question being raised, one can conclude that at least some members of the jury believed that Dunn was justified in his use of deadly force against Davis. Dunn does not contend that any of the other teenagers made any threats or did anything threatening, so the “others” the jury referenced in their question would have to refer to Davis’s friends, leaving Davis as the person they felt deadly force was justified against.
At the end of the day, unless members of the jury start doing interviews, all anyone can do is speculate as to why the jury reached the verdict that they reached. I would conclude based on the particular jury question referenced above that the deadlock was not whether Dunn was guilty of First or Second Degree Murder or Manslaughter but whether Dunn was acting in self defense or not when he killed Davis.
UPDATE: February 19th, 2014
Juror number 4 who sat on the Dunn jury confirmed in an interview that the jury was deadlocked on whether Dunn was acting in self defense when he killed Davis. Two jurors were undecided, two felt he was acting in self defense and the rest of the jury believed he was guilty of murder.