Florida Man Uses Stand Your Ground Defense in Killing of Black Teen Over Loud Music

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Friends of Jordan Davis comfort each other outside the funeral home where the visitation with Davis' family was taking place at the Hardage-Giddens Funeral Home in Mandarin area of Jacksonville, Fla., late Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Bob Self)

Friends of Jordan Davis comfort each other outside the Hardage-Giddens Funeral Home in Mandarin area of Jacksonville, Fla., late Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Bob Self)

The killing of another unarmed black teen by a white man claiming self defense under Florida’s shoot-first law — aka “Stand Your Ground” — has made national news. The incident occurred at a gas station in late 2012, when 45-year-old Michael Dunne allegedly ended an altercation over loud music coming from a car with a group of teens by firing multiple shots into the vehicle. Seventeen year-old Jordan Davis died in his friend’s arms. (Ta-Nehisi Coates interviewed Davis’ mother for The Atlantic.)

According to police, Dunne then got into his car with his girlfriend and went to eat a pizza. Dunne later claimed that he feared for his life, and only fired when one of the teens brandished a gun and started to exit the vehicle. Police found no weapons, and witnesses said Dunne was the only person to get out of his car. While awaiting trial for the killing, Michael Dunne wrote a series of “shockingly racist” letters about the case.

At The New York Times’ website, filmmaker Orlando Bagwell, a child of the civil rights movement and one of the producers of PBS’s Eyes on the Prize, has a new short film — part of their excellent “Op-Doc” series — about the killing. Here’s his introduction to the piece:

I grew up with parents who were active in the civil rights movement. My mother and father joined demonstrations to integrate public facilities and theaters. They believed nonviolent intervention was a centerpiece of a safe, healthy society.

Now grown and a parent myself, I am still strongly wedded to those ideals. But I see my children confronting a new violent reality in American society. The “Stand Your Ground” laws spreading across the country allow the use of deadly force when people believe they are in imminent danger and have exhausted other means of escape.

A perception of danger might be reasonable, but can any of us fairly determine whether it justifies irrevocable deadly force? As we’ve seen with the killings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis (both young black men shot by white men), these laws also create a climate of fear that can prey upon and inflame racial tensions.

The seven-minute documentary includes footage of Dunne’s initial interview with police. You can view it at The New York Times website.

Joshua Holland is a senior digital producer for BillMoyers.com. He’s the author of The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America) (Wiley: 2010), and host of Politics and Reality Radio. Follow him on Twitter or drop him an email at hollandj [at] moyersmedia [dot] com.
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  • Anonymous

    If I was the girlfriend I would have been very afraid and in shock at the least.

  • KatieHepburn

    I hope the prosecution does its job properly this time.

  • Collien Stopersmile

    Ask yourself,what would make You pull your gun and fire 9 times at 4 angry threatening shouting enraged men parked next to you?
    Loud Music? Really?
    How about the anger threats and rage directed at You,?
    Would you fire then?

  • Angel Dalton

    None of us were there. People can hide things if they want to hide something so to say the police didn’t find anything doesn’t mean anything to me. Also, just out of curiosity, what color were the witnesses. We know the three other men in the car were black, but what about the rest of the witnesses or were the men in the car the only witnesses? So before you get your panties in a bunch, listen to all the facts not just a small piece by a writer. Maybe watch the case if able to and hear everything.

  • trixie

    watched most of the case today whitnesses white and black so obviously not a race issue for everyone except maybe this ahole shaking his head.i hope justice is done properly this time.

  • Anonymous

    That defense will not hold water in this case.

    Every time some dirtbag attempts to justify a murder with an SYG defense, the knee-jerk left in the media and blogosphere try to use that as evidence that SYG laws are bad. It’s also always compared to the trial of George Zimmerman, who did NOT invoke SYG in his defense in the trial in which he was acquitted of murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

  • Anonymous

    Collien….if “anger threats and rage” directed towards you would make you murder unarmed teenagers there is something very wrong with you.

  • Anonymous

    The jury instructions for most states, including California, all have similar language. From California Criminal Law instruction 3470:

    “A defendant is not required to retreat. He or she is entitled to stand
    his or her ground and defend himself or herself and, if reasonably
    necessary, to pursue an assailant until the danger of (death/bodily
    injury/ ) has passed. This is so even if safety could have been achieved by retreating.”

    There is no duty to retreat from an attacker anywhere in the USA. Florida’s jury instruction that states a defendant is entitled to stand his or her ground has been in place much longer than the codified SYG law.

  • Thomas Olson

    It was never mentioned in the Zimmerman trial only the press talked about it, constantly. It was also not brought up in this case as it does not apply, but again the media is going on about it because it helps push the myth of overt nationwide racism. Which helps get page hits and advertising dollars.

  • Thomas Olson

    Since you weren’t there you don’t actually know if they were armed or not. So what say we stick to the known facts? IF we give the man the benefit of the doubt remember “innocent until proven guilty” the one thing we know is that he shot 3-4 times as the other vehicle was leaving the area. It was at that time that Davis was hit and Dunn should be punished for that. The Prosecutor over charged with the Murder 1. Unfortunately the Prosecutor over charged because he didn’t want it to look like he was letting a white man get away with shooting a black teenager.

  • Thomas Olson

    1. He didn’t actually know he had killed anyone until sometime later.
    2. The Stand Your Ground law is not being used in his defense
    3. Yes it is to easy to get away with murder. If you are a young black man you can kill someone and it won’t make national news and the prosecutor wont be under political pressure to make an example of you. The defense will say “oh he had no positive male role models growing up, he is from a bad neighborhood” and you will be given the least possible sentence by the bleeding hearts.

  • Anonymous

    The known facts are that the POLICE found no weapons and the witnesses say there were no weapons in the SUV. That said, the police recovered 10 BULLETS from the murderers gun from the SUV. Not 3 or 4. 10. Republicans are such lying cowards.