Florida jury acquits man of murder of unarmed teenager
Banner staff | 2/20/2014, 6 a.m.
Michael Dunn, the Florida man who pumped nine shots into a car in Jacksonville, Fla., killing a teenager allegedly for playing music too loud, is facing a sentence anywhere between 20 and 60 years in jail for multiple counts of attempted murder.
But the Florida jury’s refusal to convict Dunn of the first-degree murder charge prosecutors sought has many African Americans again questioning the criminal justice system and the so-called stand your ground law in the Sunshine State.
Dunn’s dispute with the teenagers began when he asked them to turn down the music blaring from their car stereo.
Like George Zimmerman, who beat a murder rap in July last year after killing an unarmed black teenager, Dunn argued he feared for his life when he opened fire on the car full of unarmed teenagers.
He told jurors he saw a gun in the car carrying 17-year-old Jordan Davis and three other black teenagers and said he heard Davis threaten to kill him. Yet he also testified that the music in the car in which Jordan was a passenger was “ridiculously loud” and a police investigation concluded no gun had been in the car.
Yet apparently at least one member of the jury of eight whites, two blacks, a Latino and an Asian believed Dunn’s story that he feared for his life as he squeezed off a total of 10 rounds in two volleys, the second of which came as the car Davis was in was fleeing.
Dunn was convicted of three counts of attempted murder for firing into the teenagers’ car.
Following the shooting, Dunn drove to a nearby hotel with his fiance, ordered a pizza and drank rum and cola. The following day, he drove to his home, 200 miles from Jacksonville, before eventually turning himself in.
The prosecution argued that Dunn fired into the car, not because he feared for his life, but because he felt disrespected by the teens, who refused to turn down their music at his request.
“That defendant didn’t shoot into a carful of kids to save his life. He shot into it to save his pride,” said Assistant State Attorney John Guy, addressing the jury. “Jordan Davis didn’t have a weapon, he had a big mouth.”
The jury deliberated for 30 hours over four days.
The jury’s unwillingness to convict Dunn on a murder charge has led Florida activists, now including Davis’ parents, to push for a repeal of the state’s controversial stand your ground law, which makes it legal to use deadly force without first attempting to evade danger.
Predictably, the case has pundits from actor Wayne Brady to the Rev. Al Sharpton questioning whether the criminal justice system in the United States is capable of meting out justice free from racial bias.
“In America — and especially in Florida — it is apparently impossible to murder a black male,” quipped comedian W. Kamau Ball.
Dunn’s jailhouse letters, excerpts of which have been published in newspapers and on blogs, are further fanning the flames.
In one letter, Dunn decries what he characterizes as a pro-black bias in the court system.
“It is spooky how racist everyone is up here, and how biased towards blacks all the courts are. The jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs.”
In another, he seems to advocate a strategy of killing blacks.
“This may sound a bit radical, but if more people would arm themselves and kill these f---ing idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.”