Michael Dunn's Charges: What Jurors Are Debating

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on February 14, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The fate of Michael Dunn, the Florida man facing a murder charge for a fatal argument over loud music, hangs in the balance of a jury currently in the throes of deliberations.

What are they debating? A variety of charges. Dunn, 47, is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Jordan Davis, an unarmed 17-year-old boy. However, the judge told jurors that they can also consider lesser charges including second degree murder, manslaughter, justifiable homicide, or excusable homicide, ABC News reports.

Here's a breakdown of the various charges:

  • First degree murder. When considering first degree murder -- which entails premeditated, intentional killings and felony murder -- the jury will vigorously debate the degree of Dunn's intent when carrying out the killing. To convict Dunn of first degree murder, the jury must find that Dunn planned and intentionally carried out the killing. If his intent didn't rise to that level of premeditation, the jury will need to turn to the lesser charges.
  • Second degree murder. In order to find Dunn guilty of second degree murder, a jury would have to find that he acted with a depraved indifference to human life, a much lesser level of intent than first degree murder because it includes unplanned killings. However, this charge can also be tricky because it requires the jury to make a sort of moral judgment.
  • Manslaughter. In stark contrast to murder, manslaughter only asks that jurors find Dunn was either reckless or not justified by the circumstances in killing Jordan Davis.
  • Justifiable homicide. Florida's justifiable homicide law -- commonly known as "Stand Your Ground" -- allows for a self-defense killing if a person reasonably fears death or serious bodily injury. Like George Zimmerman -- who claimed that he killed Trayvon Martin, a similarly unarmed 17-year-old, in self defense -- Dunn also did not request a "Stand Your Ground" hearing to receive immunity from prosecution. But the law's principles were still allowed to be used during Dunn's trial and jury instructions.
  • Excusable homicide. In Florida, a homicide is excusable when it's committed by accident without any unlawful intent, by accident in the heat of passion, upon sudden and sufficient provocation, or upon a sudden combat, but only without any dangerous weapon being used and not being done in a cruel or unusual manner.

In addition to the murder charge for Jordan Davis' killing, Michael Dunn is also charged with three counts of attempted murder.

If convicted, Dunn faces the possibility of life in prison.

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