A murder trial in Florida has become a dueling ground for competing crime scene expert witnesses who debated body position of the shooting victim. In the retrial of Michael Dunn, a 47-year-old man accused of murdering a teenager, both prosecution and defense attorneys relied on expert testimony in an effort to paint a clear picture to jurors about the details of the violent incident.
Michael Dunn Accused of First Degree Murder
The confrontation between Dunn and victim Jordan Davis occurred the day after Thanksgiving in 2012 at a gas station parking lot in Duval County, Florida. Dunn, who was parked in his car with his now ex-fiance, pulled up next to the SUV that Davis and three other teenagers were sitting in. Dunn asked the teenagers to turn down their rap music, which led to a heated argument between the two, which eventually led to the 47-year-old firing several shots into Davis’ vehicle, killing the 17-year-old.
Dunn claimed that he fired in self-defense after being threatened, which is a claim disputed by the three surviving teenagers who were at the scene. In January of this year, a jury deadlocked on the charge of murder in the first degree, but convicted Dunn of attempted second degree murder of the other three boys. Dunn, who is serving a 60-year-sentence for his previous convictions, faces life in prison without parole if this jury finds him guilty of the first degree murder charge.
Prosecutors Present Crime Scene Expert Witness
To dispute Dunn’s claim that he fired on the boys, the prosecution called as its final witness Stacey Simons, a former forensic pathologist with the Duval County Medical Examiner’s Office. Simons testified that Davis was sitting in the right rear of the SUV in which he was shot and killed, leaning away from Dunn’s vehicle at the time of the incident. Using trajectory rods between her body and an anatomical doll, Simon told jurors she believed the bullets pierced the door of the SUV and hit Davis while he was trying to get away from Dunn’s vehicle.
According to Simon’s expert testimony, Davis could not have been outside of the vehicle moving towards Dunn given the position he died in. Simon’s expert opinion directly contradicts Dunn’s claim that he acted out of fear for his life in firing the shots into Davis’ SUV.
Defense Team Hires Crime Reconstruction Expert Witness
In an effort to rebut the testimony of Simons, Dunn’s defense team called Michael Knox, a crime-scene reconstruction expert witness to testify that Davis had made a move out of the SUV towards Dunn’s vehicle at the time of the shooting. Knox analyzed the crime scene, and told jurors that he was “100 percent certain that the right rear door of the Durango was open.” Going further, Knox claimed that had Davis been sitting, he would not have been hit by the bullets fired by Dunn, meaning that the teenager had been moving out of the seat at the time of the shooting.
Knox also testified that because of the poor lighting at the gas station, it was possible for Dunn to believe that Davis had been holding a gun, even it was unclear whether or not he had one. Although Knox admitted he did not know how open the door was or exactly how far outside the door Davis was, but he assured jurors that Davis was not sitting in the car or leaning away from Dunn.
Expert Witnesses Likely to Influence Murder Verdict
With both sides relying heavily on expert witness testimony to demonstrate the likelihood of Dunn’s claim that he acted out of fear for his own safety, the expert crime-scene testimony is likely to heavily influence the verdict. Jurors will determine Dunn’s fate later this week.
It would be interesting to know what physical evidence supports those conclusions.