Monday, 17 February 2014

The saga of Michael Dunn and his shooting to death of Jordan Davis  
The trial of Michael Dunn in Jacksonville, Florida had the eyes of millions of people around the world transfixed on their TV screens. He admitted that he shot teenager Jordan Davis to death after telling him and three other black teenagers in a car to turn down the volume of their car radio. The question that was facing the jury was a contentious one. Did he shoot the boy because he was defending himself or did he shoot the boy because he was upset at what the boy said to him after he and his friends were asked by Dunn to turn down the volume in their car radio?


Background of Dunn and Davis

Michael Dunn is not to be confused with Michael Dunn, the actor who was born in 1934 and died in 1973 or Michael Dunn, the baseball player who was born in 1985 or professor Michael Dunn.  The man I am writing about is 47 years of age and was a software developer. Jordan Davis was a 17-year-old black teenager.  


The shooting event 
On November 23rd, 2012, Dunn had pulled into a Jacksonville gas station with his fiancée, Rhonda Rauer, so that Rauer could buy a bottle of white wine. The couple had just returned from Dunn’s son’s wedding reception and they were on their way back to their hotel in a nearby city.

 Dunn had parked his car right next to a red Durango SUV that had four black teenagers in it who had pulled in for cigarettes and gum. They were playing loud rap music on their car’s radio.

I am sure that almost all of us have heard loud rap music emanating from teenager’s cars with the base thumping at our eardrums. It is extremely annoying when we are up close. It can cause very minute perforations in our eardrums which invariably reduces our ability to hear properly as we get older.  

Dunn asked the teenagers to turn the volume down. Let me say from the get go that that was a reasonable request notwithstanding that Don Lemon, a CNN anchor said that the blaring of the loud rap music was none of Dunn’s business. It was Dunn’s business if he was unfortunate enough to have his vehicle right next to the SUV.     
When Dunn testified at his trial, he said, “The body panels on the SUV were rattling, my rear view mirror was shaking.” I find that very hard to believe. If the body panels on the SUV were loose, they may have been shaking but the SUV was quite new. His rear view mirror shaking? Give me a break. This is what we call hyperbole. I do agree with him that his ear drums would be shaking (vibrating) and that the music was ridiculously loud.
The teenagers turned own the music at Dunn’s request and he says that he thanked them. So far, so good. 
However, the volume was shortly thereafter, turned up again according to Dunn. If that was so, then the teenager who turned up the volume again was definitely in the wrong. No doubt he was of the erroneous belief that blaring loud music being played immediately next to someone in a car is none of that person’s business. I strongly suspect that the volume was actually turned up to antagonize Dunn which of course it did.

He said he heard someone in that car referring to him as a cracker (a derogatory term for white people, especially poor rural whites in the Southern United States) then he said that he heard racial epithets and threats coming from the car such as “I should kill that mother fucker.” Dunn said that the teenager who said those words was screaming the words.
If someone in the SUV really had said those words; it was damn stupid of that person. Considering the fact that people in Florida are permitted to carry concealed hand guns on their person, saying threatening words that implies that such a person should be killed, is asking for a bullet in the head. But I wasn’t there so I don’t know if that is what one of the teenager’s actually said.
At that point, Dunn said that he felt he should try to ‘de-escalate’ the situation. When he looked back towards the rear of the SUV which was immediately at his left as he sat in his driver’s seat, he said the back rear window of the SUV was down, and he could see two young men in the back seat with ‘menacing expressions.’

“Are you talking about me?” Dunn said he asked them. He testified that he wanted to know if he was that motherfucker. 

That was a stupid thing for him to do. That just antagonizes the person who allegedly made the threat. If he felt that someone in the car had suggested that he should kill Dunn, then Dunn would be justified in reaching for his handgun in the glove compartment of his car. Then he could keep the gun out of sight and only fire it if one of the teenagers got out of the car with a gun in his hand.
Now comes Dunn’s contentious version of the event that followed. He testified that a young man in the rear passenger seat “leaned forward and picked something up and slammed it against the door.” Then he testified that he saw what he believed was about four inches of the barrel of a shotgun sticking out above the windowsill.

The police later testified that when they examined the SUV, they didn’t find a firearm in the vehicle however Dunn’s lawyer quite correctly argued that the police stupidly didn’t search the immediate area of where the SUV was parked to see if a firearm was laying on the ground.    

Dunn said he heard the young man saying, “Yeah, I’m going to fucking kill you.” Dunn then said, “I’m looking at a barrel and I’m looking at a gun and he’s threatening me.”

Dunn then said, “The door opened, and I saw the young man getting out of the SUV and his head clear the window frame.” According to Dunn, the young man then said, “This shit’s going down now.” 

Dunn later said nothing about a shotgun in the young man’s hands when the young man exited the SUV. This bears out when he then testified, “My death is imminent.  He’s coming to kill me. He’s coming to beat me.”  When he said he feared he was going to be beaten, that is clear evidence that he wasn’t going to be shot with the shotgun he claims he saw previously. 

I’m not absolutely sure what Dunn’s intentions were. But he did state he was in fear of being beaten. But beaten with what? If the young man had actually left the SUV to beat Dunn, then Dunn had no reason to fear because the teenager because he could have rolled up his window or alternatively he could have pointed his 9-mm pistol at the approaching teenager.

But in fact, the teenager hadn’t exited the SUV. The proof of that is obvious. Dunn re-created for the jury how he reached into his glove box for his pistol and aimed the gun out of his window, angling his gun slightly back towards the rear of the SUV. “You’re not gonna kill me, you son of a bitch,” Dunn screamed as he fired five bullets from his gun into the rear passenger door of the SUV—of which two bullets of the killed Jordan Davis whom Dunn claimed had been insulting and threatening him.

He didn’t fire the gun at the teenager he claimed had exited the SUV. Instead he fired the gun at the teenager who was sitting in the rear seat next to the window facing the left side of Dunn’s car. Two bullets tore through Davis’ body and left him gurgling in his own blood. One struck his right lung and then tore through his liver. He later died of his injuries.

Now what was really perplexing in Dunn’s defence was the fact that the first five bullets fired at the rear door of the SUV weren’t fired at a sharp angle from the driver’s window of Dunn’s car since he had fired his gun at the SUV’s rear passenger door that by then was only slightly behind him when the SUV was beside him.  Then as the SUV was moving backwards, Dunn fired two more bullets at that front passenger door from a more extended angle since the SUV had moved further backwards. I should point out that he never said at his trial that the teenagers in the front seat were a threat to him which makes me wonder why he fired two shots at the front passenger door in an attempt to kill the passenger and driver sitting in the front seats.  
When you look at the photos of the bullet holes, you can see that the first four bullets hit the door almost face on. The fifth bullet hit the door jam. Then as the car continued to move backwards, he fired two more bullets at the car which hit the front passenger door. Then as the SUV was being driven away, Dunn left his car and got down on one knee in commando style and fired three more bullets at the fleeing car of which two of them struck the immediate area of the right rear tail light of the fleeing SUV. The third bullet went astray. He was definitely intending to kill the four teenagers in that car and certainly not out of fear because they were by then, fleeing from him. 
Dunn’s excuse for firing at the rear of the car when it was fleeing was that he feared that the teenagers in the SUV would later return with others to do him harm. That excuse has to be the dumbest excuse anyone has ever heard. If he really had that fear, he could have called the police—which he didn’t do and he certainly could have immediately driven his car in the opposite direction the SUV was being driven away —which he also didn’t do.                                              
So why did he fire his handgun at the passengers and driver inside the SUV if he wasn’t really in fear of his life?  
Assistant State Attorney. Erin Wolfson said that Dunn was disrespected by the 17-year-old teenager, (Jordan Davis) and he lost it. He wasn't happy with Jordan Davis’ attitude. What was his response? Wolfson paraphrased Dunn when he said, “You're not going to talk to me like that.” It is my opinion that Dunn was extremely upset that four black teenagers would show such disrespect to him and he wasn’t going to let them get away with it. I suspect that his anger overtook him as he couldn’t stand being humiliated by black teenagers who thought that they could be disrespectful to him with impunity and that is why he fired his hand gun at them.

This man has a history of being angry at others.  His neighbor testified that if you disagreed with Dunn, he would get boisterous and try to be overbearing and try to intimidate people with his size and voice. Apparently, he was unable to intimidate the four black teenagers in their SUV so he fired his handgun at them in an attempt to kill them. The neighbour also testified that Dunn was selfish and there wasn’t much he wouldn’t do to get his own way. The neighbor said that Dunn previously had married twice and one of his wives was from Mexico and the other was from Columbia. He said that each of Dunn’s wives had come over to his house complaining that Dunn had threatened to kill them with his gun.  There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Michael Dunn is obviously a very dangerous man and if he remained in society, he would be a continuous threat to the safety of others.

It is highly unlikely that he will ever enjoy his freedom again. The jury convicted this violent thug with three counts of attempted murder (by firing bullets into the car after he shot Jordan Davis). The minimum penalty for attempted murder is 20 years for each of the three counts. He was also convicted of firing bullets into the car. The minimum sentence for that crime is 15 years. This means that he must serve a minimum total of 75 years in prison before he can be set free. Since he is already 47 years old, he would have to wait until he is 122 years of age before he would be released from prison. Well, that ain’t going to happen is it? He in effect will be given a life sentence in March or May of this year.

As we all know, the jury couldn’t arrive at a decision with respect to the first degree murder of Jordan Davis. Subsequently, they became what is referred to in legal parlance as a hung jury meaning that they were hung up on various issues with respect to that specific charge. The prosecutor has stated that she will be applying for a new trial of Dunn on the charge of first degree murder.

Now you may ask, why bother trying him for first degree murder since he is going to prison for the rest of his life on those other charges? The reason is obvious. It is for the family of Dunn’s victim. They are entitled to closure and it would be unjust to simple say to them, “We won’t go to the expense of another trial as he is going to go to prison for life anyway so just write off the death of your son as a bad experience.”  No, that uncontrolable thug will be tried for the first degree murder of that 17-year-old black boy. But the question in most people’s minds will be, “Will he be convicted?” Let me give you two views of that question.                                                                                                                       
Michael Dunn will be acquitted of the murder of Jordan Davis

Dunn's attorneys will use the controversial Stand Your Ground law as a defense, as was used in the infamous Zimmerman trial and be acquitted.

Stand Your Ground

The Florida Stand-Your-Ground law in Florida is dangerous.  It is giving people permission to shoot whoever they want to shoot if they are suspicious of a person who in their opinion may be a danger to them in any manner whatsoever whether or not their fear is unreasonable. The Stand Your Ground law is generally based on the premise that allows individuals who believe they are being threatened with deadly force, to engage in deadly self-defense, even if it appears that they have a reasonable opportunity to otherwise retreat without anybody getting harmed.

Florida was the pioneer in passing such a law in 2005. It generally means allowing innocent people to stand their ground instead of retreating, if they reasonably believe that shooting the person they fear is about to attack them with deadly force will prevent death or great bodily harm to the innocent people or someone else nearby. Since 2005, 15 other states have passed stand-your-ground laws. Before 2005, US states imposed a duty to retreat when outside one’s own home if possible, instead of using deadly force, and 19 states still do. Ten states have self-defence laws similar to stand-your-ground laws, but with an important difference. A person can stand his ground only on his own property, not in a public place, as in the Martin and Davis shootings. Canada has a similar law but it isn’t given a name. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a case where a homeowner broke the leg of an intruder he was trying to evict from his own home. A fight ensued and he was forced to swing at the man’s legs with a two by four piece of wood. The court said that he had the right to protect himself and his home from the man who insisted on remaining in his house when he had no right to be in the house in the first place. The court said that the owner of the house didn’t have to retreat from the man who was attacking him in his own house.

All Dunn has to do to be able to successfully use that defence is to convince his jury that he really was in fear of his life. The jury doesn’t have to be convinced that he had a valid reason to be in fear of his life—they simply have to be convinced that in Dunn’s mind, he really was in fear of his life. That is because to convict someone of a crime, you must be satisfied that he really had the criminal intent to commit the crime in the first place. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse but real belief in protecting yourself, or someone else or your property when you honestly believe that person is going to harm you is a proper defence to a crime you commit if your belief is  reasonable.

There apparently is nothing in the Stand Your Ground law that says that their opinion has to be reasonable. A person may mistakenly believe that he is in mortal danger when in fact he is not. Let me give you some examples how silly this law                                                                                                                                  
Over a period of five years, the states that have Stand Your Ground laws have led to an increase of 600 homicides.  Self-defense claims have tripled in Florida.  In Stand Your Ground states, white on back killings are 354 percent more likely to be considered justified than black on white killings, according to Becky Rafter, Executive Director of the Georgia Women's Action for New Direction.   
Strangely enough, in the state of Georgia, that law doesn’t apply as a defence in cases where a wife is in immediate fear of being killed by her husband. For example, Marissa Alexandra, a young black woman in the state of Georgia who was being approached by her violent partner who had assaulted her in the past was in fear of her life so she fired a shot into the ceiling to scare her abuser away from her. She was arrested and the court refused to permit her to use the Stand Your Ground defence at her trial. She was subsequently convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison.   
Also in the state of Georgia, Christopher Johnson, an unarmed African American male, was shot dead by the boyfriend of a woman who Johnson allegedly insulted. The boyfriend used the Stand Your Ground defence at his trial and was acquitted.                                                                                                     

Nineteen-year-old Christopher Araujo was shot by Norman Borden, who said at his trial that “he was walking his dogs when three men in a Jeep shouted threats at him and warned they had bats as weapons. Borden went into his home and came back out armed. The Jeep returned and Borden said they tried to run him down. He pulled a gun and shot five times through the windshield, then nine more times after the Jeep hit a fence post and stopped. A judge denied the Stand Your Ground motion, but Borden was acquitted by a jury of first-degree murder and other related charges.
Nineteen-year-old Christopher Cote was killed by his neighbor, after a dispute over walking his dog on his new neighbor’s property. When Cote came back, unarmed, to talk to 62-year-old Jose Tapones about the dispute, Tapones answered the door with a shotgun, stepped outside onto the lawn, and shot Cote twice. A judge declined to grant Tapones Stand Your Ground immunity during his first trial, but was granted a new trial and acquitted the second time around by his jury.   

As you can see, that defence is used as any excuse for killing someone, be the motive reasonable of not. Travon Martin in the Zimmerman case and Jordan Davis are two of at least 26 children and teens who have died in Florida Stand Your Ground cases. These particular laws that have proliferated in at least 20 states are associated with vigilantism, authorizing violence by individuals who perceive a “reasonable” imminent threat to their lives, without any duty to attempt retreat. They have taken the lives of a dramatic number of young victims. Out of 134 fatal Florida cases analyzed by the Tampa Bay Times in which the Stand Your Ground defense was raised or played a role, 19 percent saw the deaths of children or teens. Another 14 involved victims were 20 or 21. And another 8 teens were injured in nonfatal cases. The Tampa Bay Times last updated its database last year, and there have likely been more such deaths since. How many of those deaths were needless? 

Michael Dunn will be convicted of the murder of Jordan Davis            

His jurors, if they comprise of a reasonable thinking jury will ask themselves some questions in which the answers will be detrimental to Dunn’s defence of standing his ground when facing the four teens in their SUV.
Why didn’t he simply drive away when he thought that Jordan Davis was going to harm him? It is true that he would have left his fiancé in the store but he         could return to her later.      
Why did he shoot at the SUV while it was being driven away and the teens in     the SUV were no longer a threat to him?       
Why didn’t he immediately go into the store and call the police if he still feared for his life after the SUV was being driven away?                 
Why didn’t he immediately contact the police after he learned from the TV announcement that one of the teens in the SUV was dead instead of waiting for them to call him the next day?          

Dunn testified that he didn't call the police because his focus was on Ms.Rouer, whom he described as being in hysterics. He said that the next morning, Ms Rouer insisted she wanted to go home and they drove to Brevard County, 280 kilometres away. He said he had learned of Davis' death long after leaving the scene and said he then contacted a neighbour who works in law enforcement for advice on how to turn himself in to the police. No one needs advice on how to turn one’s self into the police. Just go to the nearest station.   

Why did tears flow from his eyes during his trial when he spoke of his   dog but didn’t flow from his eyes when the gruesome details of  the death of  Jordan Davis was described by the coroner?         

 If  Jordan  Davis had exited the SUV as Dunn claimed he did at his trial, then why did Dunn shoot Jason Davis after the teenager went back into his car and the car was being driven backwards away from him?  

 When his fiancé returned to the car, why didn’t he tell her of his fear of being killed and even mention that it was he who fired the shots?  
  I would be surprised if the second jury doesn't convict him this second time around. No. Let me back track. I won’t be surprised if they find him not guilty. Let me explain.

Many years ago, I attend a trial in which a man was accused of strangling a young hooker in her room. There were witnesses who saw the woman being strangled. They testified that she didn’t move after the man finished strangling her. Then they all escaped leaving the door to her room open. The defence lawyer argued that it was conceivable that someone else entered the room and that the girl had regain consciousness by then and that an unknown person entered the room and strangled her to death. The jury bought that argument and the man was acquitted. The judge upon hearing that verdict of the jury remarked that that was one of the reasons why he didn’t like juries in murder cases. A year later, tat acquitted man was convicted of attempting to strangle another woman and was sent to prison for 12 years. In that case, his trial was by judge alone. Incidentally, the lawyer in the first case later became the chief justice of the province.

Trial by juries is a good way of conducting trials but there are many occasions when their verdicts result in guilty people going free. I remember a case where a murderer was acquitted by a jury in British Columbia and a month later, he told the press that he really did kill the person he was accused of killing. I sincerely hope that in the Michael Dunn case, the jury’s verdict will result in him being sent to prison for the rest of his life. Of course that sentence will be academic since he is highly likely to be sentenced in March or May to seventy-five years for the other convictions that in his case considering his current age is a sentence of life in prison. He has already been incarcerated from the day this horrible event occurred in 2012.

I am 80 years of age and when I look back at my own life and then consider just how long a sentence of 75 years plus the year he has already been incarcerated actually is, then I only have to look back seventy six years ago when I was only four years of age in 1937 to make the determination that it is a very long time in a person’s life. As I said earlier, he won’t live another 75 years. But if he lives to 80, then he will have been incarcerated thirty-four years—a little over a third of a century. That is quite a price to pay for being so upset at another person’s rhetoric—you pull out a gun and start shooting people in a car. Of course if he is convicted of first degree murder, he will never be released from prison until he is deceased and if he dies at age 80, he will still have served thirty-four years in prison. Dunn was a very, very stupid man.

UPDATE:    A Canadian jury was a hung jury very recently and the prosecutor and the defence lawyer asked the judge to make the decision as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant on the charge of second degree murder rather than set the matter down for another trial in a year or so later. Since the judge heard all the evidence, including evidence that the jury didn't hear, he is in a good position to arrive at a verdict. This procedure is not used that often in Canada but it is legal.

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