AFRICANGLOBE – Michael Dunn, the man who shot and killed African-American teen Jordan Davis, was found guilty of first-degree murder in a retrial on Wednesday.
Dunn made national headlines in November 2012 after he approached a vehicle at a Jacksonville gas station that was allegedly playing loud music. Words were exchanged between Dunn and the teens inside and at some point the 47-year-old pulled out a gun and fired ten shots into the car, mortally wounding Davis, who was unarmed. The gunfire missed the other teens, who were also unarmed.
Dunn claimed he saw someone aim a gun from one of the car’s windows. Police found no weapon at the scene.
Following the shooting, Michael Dunn and his girlfriend drove back to their nearby hotel and ordered pizza. The next day the couple drove 175 miles south of Jacksonville to Dunn’s home where he was later arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder.
Dunn also reportedly described the teens he fired on as “thugs” and “gangsters” in his initial conversations with authorities about the incident.
The case also took on added significance since it came just months after former neighborhood bully George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.
Both cases struck racial cords and spurred national protests and added to a string of killings of unarmed Black men that prompted dialogue about the often deadly interactions between armed Whites and unarmed Black men especially.
Last summer Zimmerman was found not guilty of all charges related to Martin’s death.
In February of this year, Dunn was found guilty of three counts of attempted murder and firing into an occupied vehicle. However, the judge declared a mistrial on the count of first-degree murder, which results in a retrial this month. The ruling angered many who saw the case as a slam-dunk, while discouraging others still in shock over the Zimmerman acquittal.
Michael Dunn testified in his own defense, claiming that he feared for his life when he shot at Davis and his fellow passengers.
“He wasn’t shooting at the tires. He wasn’t shooting at the windows. He was shooting to kill, aiming at Jordan Davis,” prosecutor Erin Wolfson told jurors.
During court proceedings this week, Dunn told jurors reiterated what he’d said to law enforcement shortly after the shooting, that he saw a “very angry-looking young man” in the back seat, referring to Davis, who he said then raised a barrel of a gun to the window and threatened to kill him.
“I saw the barrel of a gun. I’m petrified. I’m in fear for my life. This guy just threatened to kill me — and he showed me a gun,” Dunn testified on the witness stand during his retrial, according to reports.
The jury on Wednesday deliberated for less than five hours on Wednesday, a stark contrast from the 30 hours the jury in Dunn’s original trial took to return its decision.
Michael Dunn, 47, already faces at least 60 years in prison for his earlier convictions.
Following the hearing Davis’s parents, Ron Davis and Lucy McBath told reporters that the verdict was not just their family’s victory alone.
“We are very grateful that justice has been served, justice not only for Jordan, but justice for Trayvon and justice all the nameless, faceless children and people that will never have a voice,” Lucy McBath, Jordan’s mother said after the verdict. “And Ron and I are committed to giving our lives to walking out Jordan’s justice and Jordan’s legacy.”
“We know that Jordan’s life and legacy will live on for others,” McBath said.
Ron Davis said he found solace and reassurance in the verdict.
“I wanted Jacksonville to be a shining example that you can have a jury made up of mostly White people, White men and to be an example to the rest of the world to stop the discriminatory practices, stop discriminating, stop looking where we have to look at juries and say what the makeup of juries are,” he said.
The names of both Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis have been intoned in recent weeks as unrest continues in Ferguson, MO over the cop-killing of Black teen Michael Brown. Like Martin and Davis before him, Brown was unarmed at the time of his killing.
The list of cases involving unarmed young Black men killed by White men or law enforcement continues to grow, as do the protests demanding justice in their name.
Attorney John Phillips, who has represented the Davis family in this case for two years, said hearing the guilty verdict was “surreal” and brought an aspect of closure. He said he felt prosecutors were better prepared to counter defense attempts to paint Jordan Davis in a negative light. In the retrial, Phillips said “the race card wasn’t played, it was an American card.”
He added: “Jordan opened the door to people who’s minds were closed before all this happened.”
“All across this nation, every time there is a trial between a victim that is Black and someone that shot him that is White, we look at what is the make-up of the jury. Is the Black victim going to be represented? Hopefully this is a start where we don’t have to look at the makeup of the jury anymore,” Ron Davis said. “All we can do is look at the case, look at the minds and the souls and the hearts of people, of human beings, not of skin color, but of human beings.”
By: Trymaine Lee and Adam Howard