Tag Archives: corey

Teen Shooting in Jacksonville Has Echoes of Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman Case

Accused killer Michael Dunn mug shot

Accused killer Michael Dunn mug shot

A few weeks ago in Jacksonville, Michael Dunn shot and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis in a gas station lot.  The shooting was preceded by an argument over loud noise that was being played in the vehicle that Mr. Davis was in with three friends.  Reports indicate Mr. Dunn fired 8 rounds into the vehicle, resulting in Mr. Davis’ death.  Dunn initially left the scene, but called to turn himself in the next day.  He was charged with murder for Mr. Davis, and three counts of attempted murder for the other teens in the car.  Mr. Dunn is white, and Mr. Davis was black.

Recently, the State Attorney’s Office announced that they had sought and received an indictment upping the primary charge to First Degree Murder.  Apparently, they do not intend to seek the death penalty, but First Degree Murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.  In Florida, life means life: there is no possibility for parole if convicted.  The case is being handled by the 4th Circuit SAO, which is the office of State Attorney Angela Corey, whose aggressive prosecutorial style this blog has previously discussed.  To charge First Degree murder, the State must be able to prove there was premeditation or that there was another specific aggravator.  Based on the facts that have been discussed in the media so far, the State is likely proceeding on a premeditation theory.  The premeditation does not mean “advance-planned” as we often think, but the case certainly sounds like a heat of the moment act as opposed to one of premeditation.

Attorneys for Mr. Dunn have claimed that their client acted in self-defense.  He apparently gave a statement to law enforcement that while he was arguing with Mr. Davis, he was threatened and thought he saw a shotgun being pointed in his direction before shooting.  No weapon has been located in the vehicle, but there are reports the teen’s vehicle initially left the scene before returning.  Mr. Dunn’s first attorney tried to distance his client from the Trayvon Martin situation, but his new attorney, Cory Strolla, has acknowledged that they may try to use Stand Your Ground in his defense.  They better, because Mr. Dunn will need to show that he had a reasonable belief that he was in danger of death or great bodily harm for his actions to be justified.  There are certainly differences between the cases, but they both come back to the simple question of justification.  And that justification does not require a showing of actual danger, merely that a reasonable person in their shoes would have felt the danger.

Thanks to Dan for the heads up on this case.  #standyourground

Michael Jackson murder conviction overturned by FL Supreme Court (not THAT Michael Jackson!)

A Florida man who shares his name with the deceased pop singer had his murder conviction overturned by the Florida Supreme Court.  The Court ruled that the trial court improperly allowed portions of the detectives’ interview with Michael Renard Jackson to be played to the jury.  The offending portion of the interview included several statements of opinion by the detectives, their firm belief in the defendant’s guilt, several statements regarding the victim’s character, and other statements.

Michael Jackson – accused murderer

To break it down simply, anything a defendant says may be used against him at trial.  However, anything the police say to him as they try to elicit a confession should not be used against him.  Their statements are not admissions.  It’s a different story if they ask him a question, and he adopts their statement, but not when he denies the allegation as Mr. Jackson did.  There are exceptions.  For instance, when Mr. Jackson took the stand and testified that he had a relationship with the victim, he opened the door to his statements where he denied knowing her.

The Supreme Court decided the error to allow the interview to be played calls into question the validity of the jury verdict.  The Court found that there were several statements of opinion that were improper and/or inflammatory, and that there is a concern the jury may have given weight to the recorded statements of the officers.  The error falls not only on the judge, but on the prosecutors as well, who fought to introduce the improper evidence over the defense objection.  The lead prosecutor was the elected State Attorney for that judicial circuit, Angela Corey.  She is currently the appointed prosecutor prosecuting George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin killing.

Corey has a reputation for being an exceptionally aggressive prosecutor.  In her comments, she defends the right of the officers to be aggressive in their questioning, which is correct.  However, the fault for the conviction being overturned falls not on the detectives or their aggressive interview technique.  The fault lies in the introduction of the inflammatory statements to the jury, and that falls right on her lap.  Officers are allowed to ask a lot of questions, but many of these comments should not be entered into evidence in court.  Due in large part to her aggressiveness, the case will be reopened and set for a retrial.

Also, Corey indicated she was frustrated because the defense agreed to the segment of the interview played in court, according to her.  This does not sound accurate, for in order for the defense to have standing to appeal, the issue must have ben objected to at trial.  If the defense had agreed to the playing, the right to appeal that decision would have been waived.  Since the Court granted the appeal, the objection must have been lodged, contrary to Ms. Corey’s claim in the article.  I do not doubt her claim she will continue to prosecute the case with the same vigor.

It’s important to remember, this decision does not reflect on Mr. Jackson’s innocence.  It only means that his case must be tried again (without the offending statements).  There is still a great deal of evidence suggesting that he is guilty of this brutal rape and murder of Ms. Andrea Boyer.  It’s a shame for everyone involved that the case will have to be revisited, but to maintain our faith in the system, it is paramount to ensure that everyone gets a fair trial.