Michael Dunn was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole on Friday for the 2012 Florida shooting death of unarmed black teenager Jordan Davis. The sentence, in what was deemed the “loud music trial,” also carries an additional 90 years for three previous convictions of attempted murder — 30 consecutive years for each count — and 15 concurrent years for firing a gun into an occupied vehicle.
Dunn, 47, who is white, fired 10 rounds at the 17-year-old African-American and his friends in November 2012 after fighting with them about music coming from their SUV in a Jacksonville parking lot. During a retrial on Oct. 1, jurors unanimously found Dunn guilty of first-degree murder for Davis’ death. In Florida, first-degree murder is punishable by life in prison without parole.
In February, Dunn was convicted of three counts of second-degree attempted murder toward Davis’ friends. But after more than 30 hours, jurors couldn’t reach a verdict on his first-degree murder charge, resulting in a mistrial on that count.
At the hearing on Friday, Dunn read a brief statement and, for the first time, publicly apologized for killing the teen. Several of Davis’ family members and friends attended the hearing and addressed Dunn.
“I miss his big, wide, toothy smile,” Davis’ mother, Lucy McBath, said through tears. “For me, there will be no college graduation. There will be no daughter-in-law. For me, there will be no future generation.”
She went on to add, “I, too, must be willing to forgive. And so I choose to forgive you, Mr. Dunn, for taking my son’s life. I pray that God has mercy on your soul.”
Dunn, a software engineer who has a concealed-weapons permit, previously testified in his own defense. He said he felt threatened when he thought he saw “the barrel of a gun” emerge from a window of the vehicle and acted in self-defense. Police later discovered that Davis had been unarmed. Officers also didn’t find any weapons inside the SUV.
After the shooting, Dunn and his girlfriend returned to their nearby hotel and ordered pizza. The next day, the couple drove 175 miles south of Jacksonville, to Dunn’s home, where he was later arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder.
The case made national headlines when it occurred just months after former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Last summer, Zimmerman was found not guilty of all charges related to Martin’s death.
Both cases struck racial cords and prompted protests. National dialogue about the often deadly interactions between armed whites and unarmed black men again restarted in August after the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Florida was the first state to adopt the so-called “Stand-Your-Ground” law in 2005 as an expansion of the “Castle Doctrine.” The current measure gives individuals the right to use deadly force to defend themselves without retreating from potentially harmful situations. Although Stand-Your-Ground was not used in the Zimmerman defense, Florida police initially said they could not arrest him because of such state laws. Nearly half of the country has joined the state in adopting a similar policy, most often originally aimed at addressing domestic abuse cases.