Jane Velez-Mitchell

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Did dispute over loud music lead to murder?

NEED TO KNOW
  • Michael Dunn is charged with first-degree murder for shooting unarmed black teen Jordan Davis
  • Get caught up on the case as opening statements begin Thursday in Jacksonville, Florida
Michael Dunn faces first-degree murder charges after killing teen during loud music spat

O'Mara compares cases: Dunn vs. Zimmerman

O'Mara compares cases: Dunn vs. Zimmerman

Parents discuss pain over Jordan Davis' death

Parents discuss pain over Jordan Davis' death

Watch: Opening statements in 'loud music' murder trial

Watch: Opening statements in 'loud music' murder trial

Opening statements begin Thursday in the trial of a Florida man accused of opening fire on an SUV full of teens and killing one of them after an argument over loud music.

Michael Dunn told police that on November 23, 2012, he confronted 17-year-old Jordan Davis and three other teens, who were parked next to him at a Jacksonville gas station.

"Their music starts and I roll down my window -- and I thought I was polite -- and asked them nicely, 'Hey, would you guys mind turning that down?'" Dunn told police during an interrogation less than 24 hours after the incident.

Davis began to argue with Dunn, according to police, who said Dunn then started shooting. Dunn showed officers during the interrogation how he held his gun with two hands and pumped four shots into the vehicle and then fired off another four rounds as the teens pulled away.

Read more: The other Florida case everyone's talking about

Dunn claimed he heard threats from the group and even saw some sort of weapon -- either a stick or a gun -- in their car.

"I've never been so scared in my life," he told police, insisting he wasn't looking for trouble.

When police confronted Dunn about the fact that they never found any weapons inside the vehicle, he suggested that maybe the teens dumped whatever they had when they drove away. But investigators told Dunn the SUV never left the parking lot that night.

Dunn, who was visiting Jacksonville for his son's wedding, returned to his hotel after the incident and ordered a pizza with his girlfriend, according to police. When asked by investigators why he didn't call them right away, Dunn told them, "I wanted to come back to my hometown to do that. With our dog and everybody – where they needed to be. I didn’t want to bring a [expletive] storm down in Jacksonville."

Dunn, who is a software developer, has been charged with first-degree murder in Davis' death. He also faces three counts of attempted first-degree murder for shooting at the three passengers in the vehicle who survived. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him.

Parallels to another high-profile self-defense case in Florida?

Many have pointed out the similarities between Dunn's case and that of George Zimmerman's: Both defendants are seen as white while the victims were 17-year-old unarmed black teens. The prosecutor for both cases is also the same: State Attorney Angela Corey.

Zimmerman, who was a neighborhood watch volunteer at the time of Martin's death, was acquitted of second-degree murder in July 2013.

Many who followed the Zimmerman case considered race to be one of the key issues at play. Critics accused Zimmerman of racially profiling Martin and protests were held around the country when it appeared that Zimmerman wasn’t going to be arrested in Martin’s death. Zimmerman was eventually charged with second-degree murder in April 2012. The case reinvigorated national conversations about race, racial profiling and self-defense laws -- and even after the verdict, those discussions continue.

Watch: O'Mara compares cases: Dunn vs. Zimmerman

However, while there are undeniable similarities between the cases of Dunn and Zimmerman -- including that both incidents happened in Florida -- the people involved in the case are doing what they can to underscore some key differences. 

For example, Dunn's former attorney, Robin Lemonidis, denies any connection between the Dunn case and Zimmerman's case and says her client isn't a "vigilante."

Davis' mom also says she doesn't want race to be the focus of her son's case.

"It’s apparent that Michael Dunn is white, it’s apparent that Jordan is black," Lucia McBath Davis told HLN last April. "But the issue is the ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws. The issue is not the racial part of it. We’re not going to center and focus on that because that doesn’t do any good for the country. We’re not going to incite racism in this country. The bigger picture is making a change in the laws so that … this doesn’t continue to happen."

Will Dunn's own words be used against him?

Twenty-five letters Dunn has written behind bars have been released to the public, according to Jacksonville's WTEV.

In one of those letters to his grandmother, Dunn claims he's not a racist and repeatedly refers to Davis and his friends as thugs.

"I'm not really prejudiced against race, but I have no use for certain cultures," Dunn writes in the letter, dated February 20, 2013. "This gangster-rap, ghetto talking thug 'culture' that certain segments of society flock to is intolerable."

Watch: Letters Dunn wrote could be crucial to his case

"I just got off the phone with you and we were talking about how racist the blacks are up here," Dunn writes to his girlfriend, Rhonda, in a letter dated June 14, 2013. "The more time I am exposed to these people, the more prejudiced against them I become."

In another letter to his daughter, written on July 12, 2013, Dunn writes, "This may sound a bit radical, but if more people would arm themselves and kill these [expletive] idiots when they're threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior."

In several letters, Dunn also talks about his desire to speed up the judicial process so he can go home and put this all behind him. In one letter he even outlines what he wants his attorney to do because things are moving too slowly for his taste.

What's ahead for the trial

Twelve jurors and four alternates have been selected to determine Dunn's fate. Reporters inside the courtroom say the makeup of the jury is diverse with 10 females and six males -- 11 of whom appear to be Caucasian, three of whom appear to be African-American, one of whom appears to be of Asian descent and the last appears to be Hispanic.

John Phillips, an attorney for Davis’ family said the trial shouldn’t last past February 14, two days before what would have been the teen’s 19th birthday.

The Jacksonville judge overseeing the trial announced Wednesday that the jury will be sequestered for the remainder of the trial.

If convicted, Dunn faces up to life in prison.

CNN Wires contributed to this report

For more on this story, watch Jane Velez-Mitchell weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on HLN. Follow the show on Facebook, and follow Jane on Twitter.

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