When Michael Dunn is tried a second time next year on a first-degree murder charge, his attorney is requesting the high profile case be tried outside of Jacksonville. A motion was filed this month asking for a change of venue when the state tries Dunn again on the one count the jury couldn’t agree on earlier this year, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Dunn said he feared for his life when he opened fire on a car of teenagers at a Southside gas station, killing a 17-year-old, the newspaper reported. Dunn went to trial earlier this year and his case was followed closely by national and local media. He was convicted on three counts of attempted murder for the shooting at the three teens in the car who survived, but the jury could not come to agreement on whether Dunn was guilty of first-degree murder in the teen’s death.
Dunn, 49, faces a mandatory 20 years on each of the three counts, so he will be in prison for at least 60 years. Because these are mandatory sentences, they must be served consecutively and in their entirety without a change of gained time for good behavior. So he would be released when he is 109, meaning he’s likely already serving a life sentence. Despite that prospect, the state is pushing forward with another trial that will be expensive to taxpayers and put the city in the national spotlight again. The first trial garnered gavel-to-gavel news coverage, so his attorney has a legitimate point that the media coverage could taint a potential jury pool.
The change of venue request in this Jacksonville Murder Case can be made in the “interest of justice” according to state statutes. Essentially that includes any elements that could prevent finding an impartial jury in the Jacksonville Murder Case, which could be whether jurors have heard about the case and already made a decision one way or the other on if they feel Dunn is guilty. The requests are filed fairly regularly, but not often granted. Most murder trials are in the media prior to the case going to trial, and reading a story or watching a news progress does not preclude them from being fair and impartial on the jury. But the level of media attention in this case was as high as it has been for any case in recent years – and there will be more in advance of the trial as it gets closer. The ultimate responsibility of the justice system in any Jacksonville Criminal Case is for the defendant to have a fair trial in front of a jury of his or her peers. The role of a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney to fight for a fair trial, including seeking to move the trial if there could be an issue with a local jury.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.