March 2014 - Pg 2
Mr. Dunn told his fiancée what happened but never said he saw the occupants of the SUV with a shotgun as he later told the police during an extensive interview given without counsel.
Mr. Dunn had some familiarity with shotguns, but likely had little formal use of force or firearms study or training. It was uncontroverted that he uttered a slang statement of disapproval of the loud music to his fiancée before she exited his vehicle.
Dunn’s demeanor at trial was a mixed bag. I thought his attorney did a good job with what little he had for a case. Forensic evidence suggested the individual Dunn killed was seated in the vehicle when shot, not exiting, as he testified.
The SUV’s occupant who Dunn alleged was about to kill him was killed as a result of Dunn’s first volley. The other three occupants escaped harm from the later volleys, which impacted the SUV. Dunn was convicted of three counts of attempted second-degree murder and the occupied vehicle shooting count. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the first-degree murder charge or a lesser charge as to that count. A mistrial on that count was declared by the judge and the State Attorney promptly announced her intention to retry the count. Sentencing is scheduled for the week of March 24; the sentence (20-60 years) will likely be the practical equivalent of natural life for the 47-year old previously law-abiding citizen.
Marty Hayes invited me to give a “lessons learned” analysis. Before I “cut to the chase,” as they say (which is not that complicated), I offer this: I expected a conviction whether or not the jury believed Dunn. Even if they believed there was a shotgun or something that looked like one in the SUV, the impropriety of using what was in essence “suppressive” fire was confirmed by Dunn’s own words. Thus, he clearly committed three counts of attempted manslaughter.
I understand how the jury could have concluded that Dunn’s leaving the scene, not calling police, and driving two hours home the next day (after learning from television news he had killed someone) evidenced that Dunn possessed the “depraved mind” necessary for a conviction of second degree murder. Hence, the three attempted manslaughter convictions I expected morphed into attempted second-degree murder. Conviction for shooting into an occupied vehicle was a foregone conclusion. As to the murder count, I thought if the jury believed Dunn, they would find him guilty of manslaughter (for mistaken use of deadly force); if they did not, they would find him guilty of second-degree murder. A slight bit of a surprise for me there; it appears nine or ten of the jurors had voted to convict him of first-degree murder. I thought not more than six would.
I employ a CAN-MAY-SHOULD-MUST tactical/legal analysis in lecturing on the use of deadly force. You can find the general explanation of my paradigm here: http://modernserviceweapons.com/?p=1574. (For my thoughts on applying the paradigm to defense from home invasion, see here: http://modernserviceweapons.com/?p=4545). Dunn failed each prong of the paradigm, in whole or part. That is why I thought he would suffer conviction on all counts.
Here is my thought process:
• CAN: Shooting skills (or luck) aside for lack of definitiveness either way, I quickly concluded Dunn did not demonstrate the requisite common sense, situational awareness, dynamic handgun training, tactical mindset, or shooting “aftermath” knowledge.
• MAY: Dunn’s actions show a complete lack of knowledge of applicable legal principles. There was simply no way the law allowed him to engage the SUV with the third volley of shots. Such shots, even if merely “warning” shots, would constitute aggravated assault with a deadly weapon under Florida law.
• SHOULD: It appeared to me that more likely than not, Dunn acted in error and worse, failed to appreciate the gravity of his miscalculated judgments.