On Saturday evening, a Florida jury found Michael Dunn guilty on four charges, three of them attempted murder and one count of firing into an occupied motor vehicle.
The jury was unable to reach a verdict in the fifth charge: the first-degree murder of 17-year old Jordan Davis. Being unable to reach a verdict resulted in a mistrial. Florida could re-try the case, though with Dunn being found guilty other charges he is looking at a lengthy prison sentence. Each attempted murder charge carries a maximum of 30 years in prison while the firing into an occupied car carries a maximum of 15 years. In total, Dunn is looking at spending a century in prison. His sentence will be handed down at a hearing next month.
What prompted Dunn to commit this act of violence?
It was over teenagers playing loud music in their vehicle.
Again, it was over teenagers playing loud music in their vehicle.
On 23 November 2012, Dunn pulled into a Jacksonville, FL gas station next to an SUV full of four teenagers playing their music. Dunn expressed his displeasure towards the music. Words were exchanged between the two parties. Dunn discharged 10 bullets from his weapon. Three of those bullets struck and killed Davis.
Dunn in his testimony claimed that the teenagers had a shotgun in their possession, but during their investigation of the crime scene and later presented by prosecution in the trial no such weapon existed.
During that same testimony, there was some contradiction between Dunn and his fiancée, Rhonda Rouer. When Rouer took the stand, she said that Dunn did not tell her that evening when they arrived at their hotel that one of the teenagers were carrying a firearm and that Dunn did not call a neighbor who was a federal law enforcement official as Dunn said in his testimony.
Dunn is a white middle aged gentleman who according to this interview had a known history of violence. The teenagers where black boys on the cusp of manhood. One, being Jordan Davis, did not live to see manhood. He may or may not receive justice dependant on the length of the sentence Dunn receives for the four charges he was found guilty of. The length of the sentence could factor into whether Florida feels the need to pursue a new trial over the murder of 17-year old Davis.
Ms. Monica Roberts raises her opinion on this verdict. I think it is worth reading and understanding. She also sites letters written by Dunn while he was in jail for the duration of his trial and this article from The Atlantic about the fear black parents feel. As I cited in my piece regarding the George Zimmerman trial verdict over the Trayvon Martin murder back in July 2013, there are very likely black parents having a difficult conversation with their children these days. They are hugging their children even more tightly over this weekend and in the next few days.
It is possible that the jury could not reach a verdict on the murder charge because of what the prosecutor said during closing arguments to them: “Jordan Davis didn’t have a weapon. He had a big mouth. And that defendant wasn’t gonna stand for it. And it cost Jordan Davis his life.”
Even if Davis said something that provoked Dunn, that did not give Dunn the right to take his life.
This brings me to the main point I am making and the title of this article.
Let's review why Dunn felt the need to discharge his firearm.
It was over a bunch of teenagers playing music that an older person did not like.
Teenagers playing music loud is not a new thing. The volume and type of music is not the issue here. Again, this shooting was over a bunch of teenagers playing music that an older person did not like.
The defense cited that Dunn felted threatened and there was a weapon in the teenagers' SUV. The defense stated that Dunn had the right to be there under Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground Law." What about the teenagers right to be at the convenience store? Dunn could have easily said nothing and gone on his happy way with his fiancée. Instead Dunn confronted the teenagers and tensions escalated resulting in the death of Jordan Davis.
To me this sounds similar to another crime that happened at a Tampa, FL movie theater earlier this year. In January 2014, a retired police captain confronted a couple over texting prior to a film. Even though the captain asked the couple to stop and took the matter up with the theater manager as shown in this video, a fight ensued between the man and police captain. The police captain discharged his .380-caliber firearm striking the couple because the man threw popcorn at the police captain. The man was dead while the woman suffered a hand injury trying to block the bullet. The retired police captain is charged with second degree murder.
I'm just thinking to myself as I write this: all of this is stupid.
You confront some teenagers over their music and they talk back, so you shoot at them killing one of them.
You see someone texting before a movie and you do right thing by involving a manager and yet still confront the person. Then the person throws popcorn at you, so that justifies shooting and killing that person and wounding another.
There are many issues in play in the Dunn trail specifically the issues of race and class. Those are issues that need to be addressed. I believe the one issue that people are skipping over is the culture of vigilantism perpetuated by Florida's "Stand Your Ground Law" and the ease of access to firearms. The cases involving Dunn and the retired police captain expose the flaw in the logic of the "Stand Your Ground Law" and those who advocate for firearms to be carried at whim. While there are many law abiding firearm owners out there, these instances highlight that Florida has created a dangerous environment where a minor altercation can turn deadly within moments and alter lives forever.
The man shot in the theater was a father whose child is now left without a dad.
"I felt threatened" is these people's defense and why they justify the use of deadly force over rather minor issues. Teenagers playing their music loud and it being objectionable to an older demographic is not a new thing. Texting in a movie theater is a social faux pas. Neither of these instances should result in someone getting shot or killed over it.
Firearm rights advocates may claim that an armed society is a polite one. That is clearly not the case in Florida.
If you feel that someone playing loud music and texting before a film is a threat, then you have some serious paranoia persecution issues and a firearm will not solve that.
I feel like I am repeating myself in this post because of how stupid this is. It is.
There needs to be changes in these laws. Election Day is 4 November 2014.
If we want justice for Jordan Davis and the countless others senselessly killed, there needs to be a change.
Enough is enough.