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Dunn sentencing delayed until May 5

Miami Times staff report | 3/20/2014, 9 a.m.

JACKSONVILLE- Michael Dunn, who was found guilty on three counts of second degree murder in the criminal trial of the killing death of 17-year old Jordan Davis, will not be sentenced until a new trial.

A judge has agreed to delay Dunn’s sentencing until May 5 when he is tried on first-degree murder charges. Those charges were left over when Jurors failed to convict him for the death of Davis, resulting in a deadlocked decision last February.

Dunn was convicted last month for shooting 10 shots at Davis and his three friends even as they fled in their vehicle. Davis had taken issue with Dunn asking them to turn their music down at a gas station Thanksgiving weekend 2012 while the Brevard County man was in town for his son’s wedding. Dunn said Davis threatened to kill him and he saw a shotgun, so he shot first.

Davis was killed, but his friends were unharmed. Dunn fled the scene with his fiancee and went back to their hotel without calling police. They then headed back to Brevard the next morning before being tracked down because a witness gave police the number on his license plate tag.

Dunn claimed the shooting was in self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, but prosecutors argue the incident was racially motivated and driven by hate.

Civil rights leaders and parents are closely following the case, hoping a first-degree murder conviction would send a strong message to lawmakers amid renewed calls to repeal the controversial self-defense law.

Dunn, 47, had been scheduled to be sentenced the week of March 24, but his attorney requested it be postponed until after the new trial. Judge Russell Healey agreed over the objections of prosecutors.

Healey said he preferred to wait until all the charges are concluded before sentencing occurs. The judge had previously expressed concern that he might say something during sentencing that could show bias, causing him to be removed from the retrial.

And there aren’t a lot of other judges lining up to take this case, Healey joked. Two other judges have already recused themselves from the case.

Attorney Cory Strolla argued Dunn shouldn’t be sentenced until after the retrial because he cannot speak in his own defense while he still has pending charges. Assistant State Attorney John Guy argued that the law required Dunn be sentenced now, but Healey disagreed.

Healey said Dunn would be sentenced after the murder charge is retried. Dunn will remain in jail until he is retried.

For the new trial Dunn will have a new attorney after Strolla dropped out because Dunn and his family could no longer afford to pay him. The Office of Regional Conflict Counsel will represent him.

On Friday Assistant Regional Counsel Janet Abel said Dunn was not yet ready to waive his right to a speedy trial. Under Florida law when a hung jury occurs, defendants must be retried within 90 days unless they waive their right to a speedy trial.

So Healey set Dunn’s retrial to begin May 5. But it remains possible that Dunn will eventually waive his right to a speedy trial and seek a delay so his new lawyers can become better acquainted with his case.