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Florida 'loud-music' murder trial's verdict evokes mixed reactions

By Ray Sanchez, CNN
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sun February 16, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Closely watched trial drew comparisons to Trayvon Martin case
  • Florida State Attorney: "It was too long before victims' voices were heard"
  • Jordan Davis' mother, Lucia McBath: "We're so very happy to have just a little bit of closure"
  • Michael Dunn's lawyer said his client was "in disbelief" at verdict

(CNN) -- It was a hot-button trial that drew comparisons to the proceedings against George Zimmerman in the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. The outcome, however, was vastly different.

The jury in the case of Michael Dunn found him guilty Saturday night on four charges, including three of attempted second-degree murder, but they couldn't reach a verdict on the most significant charge -- first-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. The decision came on the eve of what would have been Davis' 19th birthday.

"It was too long before victims' voices were heard," Florida State Attorney Angela Corey, who also prosecuted the Zimmerman case, said after the verdict.

"Justice for Jordan Davis is as important as it is for any of our other victims," she added, saying that the Zimmerman verdict had nothing to do with her pursuit of the Dunn case.

Dunn's attorney: There were no winners
Jury finds Dunn guilty on four counts

Like the Dunn trial, the earlier case had racial overtones and claims of self-defense, but Zimmerman was found not guilty in Martin's death on July 13, 2013. The verdict inflamed passions throughout the nation.

Davis' shooting also angered many people. It happened on November 23, 2012, when Dunn, who is white, pulled into a gas station in Jacksonville, parking next to a red SUV full of black teenagers. Loud music blared from the car. Dunn expressed his displeasure. Words were exchanged. Dunn opened fire, killing Davis. Dunn said he saw a gun. The teens were unarmed, prosecutors said.

Moments before the Dunn verdict, Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin, appeared on CNN. He urged viewers to "respect" the jury's decision. "Do not do like the killers of our children, who have taken the law into their own hands," he said.

After the verdict, Crump said: "As black males and black people in America, and other minorities and Hispanics as well, it is somehow, if you kill us, the justice system isn't equal. It is almost as if your life is less valuable ... The rules are different. If it were equal, I believe Michael Dunn would have been convicted of first-degree murder."

Still, Davis' mother, Lucia McBath, expressed her gratitude to the jury. "We are so grateful for the truth," she said.

"It's a long, long road," she said, "and we're so very happy to have just a little bit of closure."

She added, "It's sad for Mr. Dunn that he will live the rest of his life with that sense of torment, and I will pray for him, and I've asked my family to pray for him."

Ron Davis, the teen's father, said he had waited 450 days for this moment.

"The whole world is looking at all of us here in Jacksonville," he said.

Dunn's lawyer, Cory Strolla, talked about an appeal but acknowledged the likelihood that his client, at age 47, was looking at "basically a life sentence."

The jury convicted Dunn on three counts of attempted second-degree murder, one for each of the other teens in the SUV. Dunn was also found "guilty of shooting ... as charged in the indictment," according to the jury's decision read out in court.

As the verdict became clear about 7 p.m. ET Saturday, Dunn looked ahead solemnly with a frown but no tears. Strolla said his client was "in disbelief."

"Even as he sat next to me, he asked, 'how is this happening,' " Strolla said. "... It has not set in. I don't think it will set in anytime soon."

Given the attention and emotions tied to the case, a "comprehensive public safety plan" was established ahead of a verdict, according to the Duval County joint information center handling the Dunn trial. Throughout the deliberations, dozens of protesters gathered, many carrying signs calling for justice for Jordan Davis.

After the verdict, there was calm.

Outside court, Bishop Rudolph W. McKissick Jr., senior pastor of Bethel Baptist Institutional Church in Jacksonville, had tears in his eyes as he described feeling numb.

"Not completely satisfied, you know," he said. "At the end of the day, we walk away saying Jordan Davis was not vindicated. And I don't want us to get lost in the guilty verdicts and think that everything is justified. It's not. They walked away saying we could not decide that this man killed in cold blood a young man because he didn't like the loudness of his music, and, to us, that's sad."

Bishop John Guns of St. Paul Church in Jacksonville noted that the verdict came on the eve of the day the victim was born.

"How do we celebrate that?" he asked. "We have to make a decision that we have to really begin to look seriously at our legal system, at the application of the stand your ground law and some of the other dynamics that created the conditions and climate that brought about this. Jordan Davis will not die in vain."

On Facebook and Twitter, observers also voiced opinions.

On Twitter, Lauren Chief Elk, wrote, "A mistrial: What an incredible demonstration of the legal system protecting and upholding white male rights and interests."

A blogger named Courtney tweeted: "I just never want to have to hear about anything like this ever again. But I know I will...."

CNN's Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.

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