New Case Renews 'Stand Your Ground' Debate In Fla.
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In Florida, a recent shooting is once again focusing attention on the state's Stand Your Ground Law. Today, Michael Dunn was arraigned on first degree murder charges for killing 17 year old Jordan Davis. The shooting began with a dispute over a loud car radio. Dunn says he felt threatened and fired several shots into the teenager's vehicle. Dunn's lawyer says his client acted in self-defense and that he may invoke Stand Your Ground.
From Jacksonville, NPR's Greg Allen reports.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: It's an incident that has drawn parallels with another Stand Your Ground case, the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman in February.
This shooting occurred the day after Thanksgiving in Jacksonville. Jordan Davis was one of four black teenagers parked in an SUV outside of a convenience store. Michael Dunn, a 45-year-old software designer, who's white, says he asked the teens to turn down the loud rap music on their car radio. He says they responded with threats and he saw someone holding a shotgun.
That's when Dunn, who has a concealed weapons permit, grabbed his gun and fired seven or eight shots into the SUV. Two shots hit Jordan Davis who was in a passenger seat, killing him.
Dunn left the scene and police charged him the following day with second degree murder. Last week, a grand jury looked at the case and raised the indictment to first degree murder. State Attorney Angela Corey says it's the appropriate charge.
ANGELA COREY: We are not seeking the death penalty. We always weigh aggravating or mitigating circumstances. And in this case, it's clear that we're going on a straight theory of premeditated murder on first degree.
ALLEN: Today, Dunn made just a brief appearance in court where he pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder charges. He's being held without bail. His family has hired a new attorney, Cory Strolla who said he's still getting a handle on the facts of the case. But from what he's seen, Strolla says he may argue that this was a justifiable shooting under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law.
CORY STROLLA: If the facts fit the law. And everybody has talked about it, stand your ground. If they do, and I research it and it's a viable defense, an ethical defense, then I'm going to vigorously pursue that on behalf of Michael Dunn.
ALLEN: Strolla also today pushed back against what he says has been inaccurate information in the media, about the facts of the case.
STROLLA: The evidence will show, and what we believe we're going to show, that these gentlemen in the car not only gave verbal threats of death but were attempting to get out of the car to attack Mr. Dunn. And that's when he fired the shots.
ALLEN: That's a key part of Michael Dunn's self-defense claim is his contention that he saw someone in the SUV holding a shotgun. Police say they found no weapons in the teenagers' vehicle.
Strolla today had some new information. He said while his client did leave the scene of the shooting, it wasn't until after the SUV carrying the teenagers pulled out. From speaking to witnesses, he says he learned the SUV later returned to the parking lot where it was eventually examined by police.
Jordan Davis's parents attended today's arraignment along with their attorney, John Phillips, who confirmed Strolla's information.
JORDAN DAVIS: The vehicle did leave the scene. But we're not addressing the facts today. What would you do if somebody was shooting 10 rounds at you?
ALLEN: Since the shooting, Jordan Davis' parents have started a campaign to repeal the Stand Your Ground law in Florida and in other states that have adopted it. Davis' mother, Lucia McBath, said she believes the horrific shooting in Connecticut is another example of the need to reform the nation's gun laws.
LUCIA MCBATH: This is not just by coincidence. This is not by coincidence. And people have to understand that if the laws are not amended, everybody has the ability to just to take the law into their own hands.
ALLEN: A special task force has been studying Florida's Stand Your Ground Law, but is not expected to recommend any major changes when it delivers its final report to the state legislature.
Greg Allen, NPR news, Jacksonville.
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