Defense lawyer Cory Strolla, left, talks with Michael Dunn during the first day of Dunn's trial Feb. 6, 2014, in Jacksonville, Fla.
(Photo: Bob Mack, AP
JACKSONVILLE (USA TODAY) - As jurors Thursday deliberated the fate of Michael Dunn, his lawyer said the computer programmer would never had been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 17-year-old had it not been for George Zimmerman, who was acquitted last year in the murder of another Florida black teen.
Defense attorney Cory Strolla said Dunn, tried for the November 2012 death of Jordan Davis, was "overcharged" with first-degree murder due to escalated political pressure and heightened media attention from the Zimmerman case.
"I personally believe there's a lot vested in the outcome of this case politically,'' Strolla told reporters.
Zimmerman, a white Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer, was acquitted last summer of charges of second-degree murder in Trayvon Martin's shooting death. Zimmerman said he had acted in self-defense as the pair fought.
"Had we never heard about George Zimmerman, I don't think you and I would be standing in this room talking about Mr. Dunn," Strolla told reporters. "I think I've said it from the beginning - because of the George Zimmerman case, a lot more was focused on this case.''
Dunn testified that he acted in self-defense after he felt threatened by Davis and other teens in the parking lot of a Jacksonville gas station in an argument that escalated over loud rap music. The incident occurred after Dunn and his fiancee left the November 2012 wedding reception of Dunn's son, Christopher. Dunn had stopped for wine and snacks at the station, and complained about the loud rap music coming from the SUV Davis and friends were sitting in.
Prosecutors in Zimmerman's case had called his actions racially motivated. However, Strolla said Dunn is not a racist and that the shooting of Davis was not racially motivated.
"Mr. Dunn does believe that there are kids and youth out there that listen to this, what we call gangster rap or violent lyrics, and they see violent things on TV and they try to imitate it because they think that's fun, or they think that's cool, or they think that's the way it's supposed to happen. And it's not black. It's not white. It's not Hispanic," Strolla said.
"This isn't a black-and-white issue,'' Strolla said. "It's what he would call a subculture thug issue. And again, it doesn't go to race. It goes to how people behave and respond to situations."
Dunn repeatedly said during his testimony that he felt his life was being threatened, and that he thought the youths had a shotgun or another weapon when he got a gun from his car and shot in to the vehicle.. Authorities found no weapon at the crime scene.
Strolla said state attorneys had offered no pretrial plea bargain before the case was tried - although Dunn would not have accepted one.
Jackelyn Barnard, spokeswoman for the state attorney's office, said Strolla's accusations of political pressure affecting his case are wrong.
"Michael Dunn was indicted in December 2012, weeks after the shooting death of Jordan Davis. (State Attorney Angela) Corey has been assigned to the case since December 2012. The prosecution of Michael Dunn began long before the Zimmerman trial," Barnard said.
John Phillips, the lawyer representing Jordan Davis's family, criticized Strolla's remarks as insensitive and ill-timed.
"It is up for this jury to determine if Mr. Dunn is a murderer. He killed Jordan Davis and never cared to call the police. If we were waiting on the time it took for Mr. Dunn to return to the scene or call the police, the clock would now be ticking 447 days," Phillips said.
Strauss reported from McLean, Va.
More Florida 'loud music' trial coverage:
WATCH: Coverage of Michael Dunn trial in Jacksonville
-Florida's next Trayvon Martin case?
-Echoes of Zimmerman expected in FL murder trial
-Man claims fear led to slaying over loud music
-DAY 1: Prosecutor says Dunn was unconcerned after shooting
-DAY 2: Testimony focuses on rap music confrontation
-DAY 3: Jacksonville Police officer takes the stand
-DUNN'S FIANCE: Emotional Testimony
-DAY 4: Prosecution rests case vs. Dunn
Rick Neale and Gary Strauss, USA TODAY