A Florida man convicted of first-degree murder for fatally shooting a teenager in an argument over loud music outside a Jacksonville convenience store was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole.
The life sentence imposed by Circuit Judge Russell Healey was mandatory for 47-year-old Michael Dunn after prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty.
“Mr. Dunn, your life is effectively over,” Healey said. “What is sad … is that this case exemplifies that our society seems to have lost its way.”
Dunn was convicted of first-degree murder at a second trial in September after jurors deadlocked on the charge at his initial trial in February. Prosecutors say Dunn, who is white, fired 10 times into a sport utility vehicle carrying black teenagers in November 2012 and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis of Marietta, Georgia.
Evidence showed that Dunn, of Satellite Beach, fired the shots during a heated argument over the volume of music coming from the SUV carrying Davis and three other teenagers. Dunn was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder in his first trial because he continued to fire into the Dodge Durango as the driver tried to flee. Healey on Friday sentenced him to a minimum of 60 years in prison for those charges, to be served consecutively with the life sentence.
Dunn, who testified at both trials, claimed he acted in self-defense. Dunn told jurors that he saw Davis roll down the window and flash what he believed to be a gun after the two exchanged words. He contended that he kept firing at the fleeing SUV to make sure no one shot back at him.
At Friday’s sentencing hearing, Dunn apologized to Davis’ parents.
“I want the Davis family to know that I truly regret what happened. If I could roll back time and do things differently, I would,” he said. “I am mortified that I took a life whether it was a justified or not.”
Supporters of Jordan Davis and his family filled rows of the courtroom, and many broke into tears, sometimes sobs, as his parents and other family members told Healey how devastating his death had been.
Davis’ mother, Lucia McBath said she always taught her son to love and to forgive.
“Therefore, I too must be willing to forgive and so I choose to forgive you Mr. Dunn for taking my son’s life,” McBath said in court.
Jordan Davis’ father, Ronald Davis, spoke tearfully of holding his son when he was born, then kissing his body one last time at the hospital the night of his death.
“I gave him his first kiss when he came into this world and I could never have imagined giving him his last kiss,” Davis said. “Our family has lost the biggest and the brightest smile of all of us.”
Throughout the second trial, prosecutors portrayed Dunn as a cold-blooded killer. Dunn never called 911 after firing into the SUV, and afterward he went back to his hotel, made a drink, ordered pizza, walked his dog and went to sleep.
Dunn testified that the problems started when he and his fiancee heard loud bass thumping from an SUV parked next to them after they pulled into a convenience store to buy a bottle of wine. Dunn had just come from his son’s wedding. Healey speculated that the public will always wonder how Dunn left his son’s wedding in nearby Orange Park a happy person, then turned into a killer on his way back to his Jacksonville hotel.
Prosecutor John Guy said during opening statements that when Dunn pulled into the parking spot, the music from the SUV was blaring.
“He looked at his girlfriend and said I hate that thug music,” Guy said.
After Healey imposed the sentence and adjourned, Davis’ family and supporters continued sitting, talking to each other and hugging for about 15 minutes. They left with visible signs of relief on their tear-streaked faces.