Hung jury for Michael Dunn, white killer of unarmed black teenager Jordan Davis
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Sunday 16 February 2014
When Michael Dunn pulled in at a petrol station in Jacksonville, Florida, on 23 November 2012, the Dodge Durango SUV containing 17-year-old Jordan Davis and his friends was already on the forecourt.
Dunn, a software developer from out of town, was on the way home from his son’s wedding. His fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, went into the shop to buy wine and crisps, while he stayed in the car with the couple’s puppy.
The four teenagers in the Durango were playing loud hip-hop on the car’s stereo. Dunn considered the music “rap crap” and “thug music”; he became annoyed by its volume and asked the teens to turn it down.
Dunn, who is white, would later claim he was threatened verbally by Davis, who was black, and that he saw what he believed was the barrel of a gun emerging from the SUV. Dunn pulled a handgun from his glove compartment, firing 10 bullets at the Durango. “My intent was to stop the attack, not necessarily end a life,” Dunn testified at his trial, as his lawyers argued that he fired in self-defence. Davis was hit three times and died.
On Saturday, after 30 hours of deliberation, a jury in Jacksonville was unable to reach a verdict on the charge of first-degree murder. Dunn, 47, still faces life behind bars, after being found guilty on four lesser counts, including three of attempted second-degree murder, which carry a combined mandatory minimum sentence of 60 years.
But it was an unsatisfactory conclusion to a trial that has raised troubling memories of another unarmed black teenager’s death. The parents of Trayvon Martin, whose killer George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder last year, said Davis’s death was a reminder that in Florida “racial profiling and stereotypes” could lead to “the shooting and killing of young teenagers”.
Zimmerman shot dead Martin in Sanford, about 125 miles from where Dunn shot Davis. The cases were both prosecuted by the same State’s Attorney’s office. Ken Jefferson of Operation Save Our Sons, a national initiative aimed at empowering young African-American men, told The New York Times: “The verdict won’t sit well with the black community in Jacksonville.” The Trayvon Martin case, he said, had created, “a feeling of being able to shoot black people and get away with it”.
After the shooting, Dunn and Rouer left the petrol station without contacting police. They drove to a motel 40 miles away, where Dunn walked the dog and ate a takeaway pizza. Six hours later, he learned that he had killed Davis and, he testified, became “crazy with grief”. He suffered a stomach upset for several hours and then took a nap.
Rouer later testified that Dunn never mentioned that he thought the teenagers had a weapon of any sort – let alone a shotgun, as Dunn would claim. Police found a basketball and camera tripod in the Durango, but no firearms. Dunn also said that one of the teenagers had stepped from the SUV and he feared a “clear and present danger” before opening fire. Prosecutors insisted that nobody got out of the car.
Instead, they said, Dunn had been angered by what he felt was the teenagers’ disrespect. Dunn testified that one of the teenagers had yelled expletives at him, including the derogatory racial term “cracker”. One witness claimed he heard Dunn respond: “You are not going to talk to me like that.” The prosecution told the jury that Dunn “didn’t shoot into a carful of kids to save his life. He shot into it to save his pride. Jordan Davis didn’t have a weapon, he had a big mouth.”
Following the announcement of a mistrial, State’s Attorney Angela Corey said her office would seek a new trial on the charge of first-degree murder. In spite of the inconclusive verdict, however, Davis’s mother Lucia McBath told reporters that her family was “very happy to have just a little bit of closure”.
Davis would have turned 19 on Sunday. “It’s sad for Mr Dunn that he will live the rest of his life in that sense of torment, and I will pray for him,” McBath said.
- 1 The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election
- 2 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
UK weather: Warning for more snow and ice as freezing temperatures and gales hit Britain
Three killed at South Korean nuclear reactor days after hackers target country's atomic agency
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...