Michael Dunn Verdict: Encouraging Or Terrifying?By: Toni Matthews-El - February 15, 2014
On Saturday evening at about 7:00 pm a Florida jury managed to find Michael Dunn guilty of four charges in relation to the death of Jordan Davis. The case was dubbed the “loud music trial” as the altercation started because Dunn had a problem with the music blasting from a car that Davis was in. Words were exchanged and the situation escalated to a point where shots were fired and a teenager was killed.
It is likely that Dunn will be faced with prison for the rest of his life as a result of the convictions on lesser charges, including attempted murder. However, the lack of a conviction for first degree murder and yet the willingness to convict for multiple counts of attempted murder is puzzling.
There was a sense that a hung jury might be possible when it was learned that the jury had reached a verdict on every charge but one, which they were struggling with as late as 4:45 pm on Saturday–less than three hours before the verdict was read. In the end the jury could not decide whether to convict or acquit on the fatal shooting of the 17-year-old Davis.
The hung jury resulted in the judge declaring a mistrial on the murder charge, which means that Florida prosecutors must now decide whether or not to re-try Dunn for murder.
The jury included four white women, four white men, two black women, an Asian woman and a Hispanic man. It may be argued in the coming days that the racial makeup of Florida juries is a major deciding factor of guilt or acquittal. After all, Florida juries are made up of Florida citizens. Therefore, it must be asked what the individuals selected for these sort of cases say about the state of Florida.
Florida is seeing an increase of high profile cases involving unarmed individuals being gunned down and the armed individuals falling back on a “stand your ground” defense. It does not help that the basis for such defense is often seen as in fact “grounded” in racial prejudice, stereotypes, and inexplicable fear.
The state of Florida is starting to find itself developing a reputation of paranoia combined with an excessive willingness to start shooting anything that moves. More troubling than this is that state citizens seem to be struggling with an ideology where this is anything less than the norm; where they cannot fathom whether or not this excessive fear does or does not justify opening fire at unarmed strangers.
Dunn, unless his convictions are overturned, may very well grow old in and even die in prison. The family of Davis may or may not see the guilty verdicts as closure.
Still, others must wonder why Florida citizens are reluctant to call a fatal shooting where murder if it shakes the foundation of “Stand Your Ground”. And even if it’s possible there was no real ground to stand on.
For those who are uncertain about safety in a state with controversial and potentially lax gun laws, the precedent set by these cases may make individuals mark Florida off their list of places they desire to set foot in.
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