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Fla. verdict renews debate on self-defense

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A verdict in the city of Jacksonville is again raising the issue of self-defense and race in Florida, just seven months after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting of a black teenager, Trayvon Martin.

Michael Dunn, a white 47-year-old software developer, could face 60 years in prison following his conviction Saturday on multiple counts of attempted murder for shooting into a car with several teenagers outside a Jacksonville convenience store in 2012.

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Jordan Davis, a black 17-year-old, was killed in the shooting, but the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charge against Dunn. A mistrial was declared on that count.

Dunn’s attorney, Cory Strolla, vowed to appeal on several grounds, including how the jury could reach guilty verdicts on four counts and deadlock on another. “We’re still going to fight,’’ he said.

The verdict is a far cry from one delivered in the Zimmerman case, when he was acquitted in July in the shooting death of 17-year-old Martin in Sanford, about 125 miles south of Jacksonville.

Like Zimmerman, Dunn said he felt his life was in danger when he fired the shots. But the verdict suggested the jury struggled to see it that way.

After an argument over loud music coming from the car that Davis was in, Dunn said he shot at the car with his 9mm handgun; he said he was afraid and thought he saw a shotgun in the car.

Legal analysts say it is likely that at least one member of the jury believed Dunn’s story about being scared, pulling a gun in self-defense and firing the first few shots, which killed Davis. After more than 30 hours of deliberations over four days, the jury couldn’t agree on the first-degree murder charge.

Some experts said Sunday that it is possible that the jury was confused regarding first-degree murder and the concept that it must be ‘‘premeditated.’’

Another area of confusion for the general public is Florida’s stand your ground defense law, which was a flashpoint during the Zimmerman case and, to a lesser degree, in this case.

In each case, jurors were told by the judges that they should acquit if they found the defendant had no duty to retreat and had the right to ‘‘stand his ground.’’ But the stand your ground law was technically not part of either trial.

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