SPECIAL REPORT: Breaking down the loud music trial – has justice - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: Breaking down the loud music trial – has justice been served?

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It's a controversial case out of Florida: teenager Jordan Davis was gunned down by 45-year-Old Michael Dunn outside a convenience store.

Questions have been swirling since the verdict was rendered Saturday.

Michael Dunn was found guilty of four counts, but a mistrial was declared on a first-degree murder charge.

News Leader 9's Jenyne Donaldson sits down with local attorneys to analyze the case.

The "Stand Your Ground" defense has recently garnered a lot of attention. It's been used in a few recent high profile cases and in this case dubbed the "loud music" trial.

Attorney Teddy Reese with the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice says that law was created with good intention but is now being used in a way that was not intended.

"They were in a car," Reese said. "So the fact that the statute specifically mentions a car we're applying that initially and it may not be applicable but if it fits within that puzzle piece legally you can bring that forward."

He says it's all about strategy, but statistics show that more often when there's a white defendant and a black victim, use of deadly force is justified under stand your ground. However, they're not when the opposite is true.

"Their argument was that it was reasonable for him to behave in the manner that he behaved that night that resulted in a 17-year-old's death," said Katonga Wright, managing partner with the Wright Legal Group. "And ultimately, the jury somewhat agreed with him."

The evidence and the way it was presented also played a major role in the jury decision.

"A lot of the forensic evidence which was really downplayed in this particular trial," Wright said.  "And in the day and era of CSI, I found that to be quite surprising."

The attorneys were surprised that additional charges weren't sought.

"It's a serious thing that he didn't acknowledge to the police that he was involved in this incident and I have a serious problem with it and I think others do too," Wright said 

"Ironically, that's a charge that we did not see," added Reese. "We did not see that charge… failure to report a crime."

There was contradicting testimony and it was up to the jury to decide what was most reasonable.

"When it comes down to the jury instructions, sometimes they get so convoluted and confusing," Wright said. "It appears to me that the jury just wasn't clear on what they were allowed to do, once they got back to the jury room."

"One question was, hey I think you made an error in the jury instructions, in which he did," Reese said. "In which he had the jury thinking that if they couldn't come up with a conclusion on the murder charge one, that the entire case would be re-tried."

In Florida when the jury reaches a verdict on individual counts, those counts stand....but then there's the question of race.

"You found an individual guilty for attempted murder of three individuals in the car and not for the person that actually died from that attempt," Reese said.

"To say that if you're black in Florida you can't get justice, I think that would just be an overgeneralization," Wright said.

"Because there are people that believe that justice is justice regardless of your color. And that's what we've gotta get to," Reese added.

"Unfortunately, we are just at a place where those types of stereotypes are being perpetrated, perpetuated," Wright said. "As a mother of teenage sons it highly concerns me."

Reese says our justice system works and we have to have faith in it, but as a society we must make sure that morally we're on equal ground.

"In Florida twice you've seen a situation where a young black male's life was taken by someone not of the African American race and it seems that justice wasn't served," Reese said.

"I think there's room that if there was in fact a weapon or some reasonable conclusion that there was a weapon in that car, I can see where a jury could have a problem convicting him under those circumstances," Wright said.

In a case full of contention, the public rallied on both sides arguing a case that was ultimately decided by a jury. The prosecution said they may retry Michael Dunn on that first degree murder charge.

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