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Verdict in Florida again raises self-defense issue

Jacob Black ducks his head behind a sign he holds for his mom Jacqueline Black outside of the Duval County Courthouse as the jury enters the fourth day of deliberations in the trail of Michael Dunn, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Jacksonville, Fla. Large crowds gathered outside the courthouse to wait for a verdict in the Dunn trial. Dunn was convicted Saturday of attempted murder in the shooting death of a teenager during an argument over loud music, but jurors could not agree on the most serious charge of first-degree murder. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Kelly Jordan)

Jacob Black ducks his head behind a sign he holds for his mom Jacqueline Black outside of the Duval County Courthouse as the jury enters the fourth day of deliberations in the trail of Michael Dunn, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Jacksonville, Fla. Large crowds gathered outside the courthouse to wait for a verdict in the Dunn trial. Dunn was convicted Saturday of attempted murder in the shooting death of a teenager during an argument over loud music, but jurors could not agree on the most serious charge of first-degree murder. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Kelly Jordan)

Denise Hunt tears up as she finds out the jury is deadlocked on the first-degree murder charge for Michael Dunn outside of the Duval County Courthouse as jury deliberations enter the fourth day of deliberations, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Jacksonville, Fla. Large crowds gathered outside the courthouse to wait for a verdict in the Dunn trial. Dunn was convicted Saturday of attempted murder in the shooting death of a teenager during an argument over loud music, but jurors could not agree on the most serious charge of first-degree murder. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Kelly Jordan)

Phyllis Parker chants outside of the Duval County Courthouse as the jury enters the fourth day of deliberations in the trail of Michael Dunn, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Jacksonville, Fla. Large crowds gathered outside the courthouse to wait for a verdict in the Dunn trial. Dunn was convicted Saturday of attempted murder in the shooting death of a teenager during an argument over loud music, but jurors could not agree on the most serious charge of first-degree murder. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Kelly Jordan)

Jordan Davis’ parents, Lucia McBath, left, and Ronald Davis, speak to the media after the verdict was read in the trial of Michael Dunn, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Jacksonville, Fla. Dunn was convicted of attempted murder in the shooting death of Jordan Davis over an argument over loud music. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Pool)

Defendant Michael Dunn is brought into the courtroom just before 5 p.m., where Judge Russell Healey announced that the jury was deadlocked on charge one and have verdicts on the other four charges as they deliberate in the trial of Dunn, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, for the shooting death of Jordan Davis in November 2012. Dunn is charged with fatally shooting 17-year-old Davis after an argument over loud music outside a Jacksonville convenient store. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Bob Mack, Pool)

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — 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 carful of teenagers outside a Jacksonville convenience store in 2012. 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.

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.

Following 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 experts say it’s 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.

“Although I don’t think the evidence supports this, it is possible that the jury felt that Dunn was proper to stand his ground as to Davis, but his shooting of the others in the car was excessive,” said Kenneth Nunn, a law professor at the University of Florida.

Nunn and other experts said Sunday that it’s possible 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.

Zimmerman told police he shot Martin only after the African-American teenager physically attacked him; Martin’s family and supporters say Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic, marked Martin as a potential criminal because he was black.

In both the Dunn and Zimmerman trials, lawyers decided not to pursue a pretrial immunity hearing allowed by Florida’s stand-your-ground law. But 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.”

That phrase is part of standard instructions given jurors when they weigh a case involving a claim of self-defense.

But

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