Defendant Dunn reacts on the stand during testimony in his own defense during his murder trial in Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville
By Susan Cooper Eastman
JACKSONVILLE Fla. (Reuters) - Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white man, was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 90 years, by a Florida judge on Friday for killing an unarmed black teenager in an argument over loud rap music.
Dunn, 47, a software engineer, testified at his murder trial last month he thought he was defending himself from an armed threat when he fired 10 rounds at an SUV carrying four teens at a Jacksonville gas station parking lot, killing Jordan Davis, 17, in November 2012.
Under Florida law, first-degree murder is punishable by life in prison without parole. Prosecutors waived the death penalty before trial.
Judge Russell Healey gave Dunn the maximum 90 additional years for earlier convictions on three counts of attempted murder of the other teens, none of whom were injured, to be served consecutively.
On a fourth charge of shooting a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle, Dunn received 15 years to be served concurrently.
The Dunn case drew comparisons to that of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder in Florida last year in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, another unarmed black 17-year-old. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, said he fired in self-defense.
In an emotional statement, Davis' mother told the court she forgave Dunn in order to move on with her life.
"I choose to forgive you, Mr. Dunn, for taking my son's life," she said. "Anger and bitterness will not honor my son's life. I walk in freedom, knowing the Lord's justice has been served."
In a statement before the sentence was read Dunn expressed his regret to the Davis family, saying he was sorry for the their loss.
"If I could roll back time and do things differently, I would," he said. Even though he said he acted in fear for his life and did what he thought he had to do, "I am mortified that I took a life, whether it was justified or not,” he added.
On the night of the murder, Dunn and Davis exchanged words before the shooting about the loud music coming from the SUV.
The jury, composed of 10 whites and two blacks, took less than five hours to reach a verdict. In a previous trial in February, a jury deadlocked after deliberating the murder charge in Davis' death for four days, but convicted Dunn on three counts of attempted murder for firing at the other teenagers in the vehicle.
(Editing by David Adams and Doina Chiacu)