Michael Dunn’s Jacksonville criminal case has not even made it to trial, and it has already made it through to the Florida First District Court of Appeals. Dunn has been charged with the murder of Jordan Davis. He is arguing that he acted in self defense in Jacksonville FL. A jury will decide this issue in February. As part of the criminal procedure in Florida, several pretrial motions have been filed. This is not usual in a case like this one. Just last week, the Duval County State Attorney and Dunn’s lawyer had hearing on several motions before the court. Read Jacksonville Criminal Law Motions Granted and Denied in Dunn’s Case on the Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers website for the story.
Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys will often file motions to protect their clients’ rights. When Jacksonville criminal lawyers are defending a person accused of a crime, they want to stop any prejudice against the client. They do not want the jury pool to be tainted in a high profile criminal case. Dunn’s attorney tried to do this by filing a motion with the court. He was successful at the Duval County Courthouse and Judge Healey granted the motion. However, the media appealed the decision and won. The Florida Times Union reported on the story:
“The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee has thrown out a Jacksonville judge’s order limiting the amount of materials that can be released to the public in a high-profile murder case. In a unanimous ruling, the appellate court said Judge Russell Healey could not keep records from the public for up to 30 days after the prosecution hands them over to the defense in the first-degree murder trial of Michael David Dunn. The ruling came a day after oral arguments occurred in the case…. Florida statutes mandate that when materials — known as “discovery” — are shared by law between the prosecution and defense in a criminal case, they become public record. But Healey said he wasn’t going to allow any release for 30 days so he could review the materials first.”
Judge Healey explained his reason for the ruling. It was due to letters that Dunn had sent out from jail. He made “derisive and racially sensitive comments in letters.” Healey did not know about the letters that had been released. He learned about them at the same time as the public when “he saw them reported on television.” Understandably, Judge Healey had a “concern that if more reports on Dunn’s behavior came out, it could jeopardize seating a jury in Jacksonville for a fair trial. He told both sides in the case he would review all material to avoid something similar happening again.”
It was expected that Judge Healey’s decision would upset the media. It “drew objections from The Florida Times-Union, First Coast News and WJXT TV-4, who appealed Healey’s ruling after the judge refused to rescind it.” This led to the appeal before the Florida First District Court of Appeals. This does not mean that Dunn’s defense attorney and the prosecutor must release everything to the public. “The prosecution and defense will still have the right to ask Healey to issue a protective order that would keep specific discovery from the public. If that happens, an evidentiary hearing must be held to determine if the information should be protected.”