Michael Dunn

Despite That Awful 'Stand Your Ground' Law, a Florida Jury Manages to Convict Michael Dunn of Murder

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CNN

On Wednesday a Florida jury found Michael Dunn guilty of first-degree murder for shooting and killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis after an argument over loud music at a Jacksonville gas station in 2012. Dunn had already been convicted on three counts of second-degree attempted murder for firing at the car in which Davis and three other teenagers were riding as it pulled out of the station. But the jurors in Dunn's first trial could not reach a verdict on the murder charge related to Davis' death because some of them believed Dunn may have reasonably feared for his life during his argument with Davis. This time around, the jury clearly did not buy Dunn's fishy self-defense claim, which hinged on a shotgun that no one else saw, that he never mentioned to his girlfriend after the incident, and that police never found.

Still, first-degree murder, which requires premeditation, seems like a stretch. If Dunn fired in anger after Davis disrespected him, as the prosecution argued, he acted in the heat of the moment, with little time for reflection, and may never have clearly formed an intent to kill. Given the circumstances, second-degree murder, which requires "an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life," seems more appropriate. But either way, Dunn, who already faced at least 60 years on the other charges, is going to prison for the rest of his life.

One thing that's clear now that the case has been concluded: The shooting of Jordan Davis is not, as widely claimed, an example of how Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law lets people get away with murder. Not only was Dunn convicted, but the absence of a duty to retreat does not seem to have played a significant role in either trial. As with George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin, the case came down to the same issue that jurors in any state would confront when someone accused of murder claims he acted in self-defense: Did the defendant reasonably believe the use of lethal force was necessary to prevent death or serious injury? If you believe Dunn invented the shotgun he says Davis had, that is the end of the inquiry.

New York Times reporter Lizette Alvarez, who keeps trying to link the Dunn case to special features of Florida law, tries again in her story about this week's verdict:

With Mr. Davis's death coming only months after the killing of another unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, his shooting also brought renewed focus to Florida's so-called Stand Your Ground law. The 2005 law makes it easier for people to claim self-defense if they have a reasonable belief that their lives are threatened, whether the threat proves real or not. George Zimmerman was ultimately acquitted of murder in Mr. Martin's death.

It is clear why Alvarez brings up the possibility that the use of lethal force could be justified even if the threat that the defendant reasonably perceived turns out to have been illusory: Even if Dunn only imagined that Davis had a shotgun, he still could have been acquitted (although he wasn't). The implication is that such an outrageous outcome is possible only in benighted places such as Florida, when in fact it could theoretically happen in any jurisdiction, although persuading a jury that an imagined threat gave rise to a reasonable fear is a pretty tall order. But at least Alvarez is not claiming, as the editorial board of her newspaper did after Zimmerman's acquittal last year, that Florida is unusual in recognizing a reasonable fear of death or serious injury as a justification for the use of lethal force.

Alvarez and her colleagues at the Times are not alone in comparing Dunn's case to Zimmerman's and arguing that both had something to do with Florida's excessively broad definition of self-defense. After the verdict on Wednesday, Jordan Davis' mother, Lucia McBath, said, "We're very grateful that justice has been served, not only for Jordan, but justice for Trayvon and justice for all the nameless faces and children and people who will never have a voice." McBath may be right that the shooting of Trayvon Martin was legally unjustified, but the crucial difference between that case and this one is the evidence of a violent altercation, as opposed to a mere exchange of words, prior to the shooting. It is still unclear to me whether Zimmerman reasonably feared for his life, but his story, unlike Dunn's, was plausible and supported by considerable evidence.

To convict Zimmerman, the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not act in self-defense. It did not come close to satisfying that standard (which, contrary to what the folks at the Times might believe, is not unique to Florida either). Dunn's case was much easier to win, not just because of the disappearing shotgun but because he acted like a guilty man after the shooting, leaving the scene and failing to call the police. Except for his own self-serving testimony, there was no evidence that Davis ever physically threatened him, with or without a weapon.

Although the absence of a duty to retreat does not explain Zimmerman's acquittal or the hung jury in Dunn's first trial, you could argue that it emboldened both men to get involved in violent encounters they could easily have avoided. But that argument is not very plausible either. It is hard to believe that Zimmerman, when he started following a black teenager he mistook for a burglar, was thinking about what might happen if he ended up shooting Martin. And once they were fighting and rolling around on the ground, the duty to retreat was irrelevant. In Dunn's case, where the prosecution argued that he acted in a fit of anger, it is even less plausible that the details of Florida's self-defense law were on his mind. With or without a duty to retreat, there is no way he could have thought it was OK to shoot someone for wounding his pride.

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  1. On Wednesday a Florida jury found Michael Dunn guilty of first-degree murder for shooting and killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis after an argument over loud music at a Jacksonville gas station in 2012.

    Good. If everything I read about this was true, this dude was a sociopath.

    1. Not that I’ve been following this case extensively, but I don’t recall any prominent group or person defending this guy. He most certainly was not acting in self-defense.

      I just feel that, like with Zimmerman, he was overcharged with murder 1 and that’s what tripped up the jury.

      Perhaps this jury was conscious of how it would look if they deadlocked again and that’s why they convicted.

      1. I agree, the murder 1 charge for Dunn seems over the top. What was the evidence that he drove to the convenience store with intent to kill a teenager.

      2. With Zimmerman, he was not just overcharged, imnsho he should not have been charged with any crime

        1. Actually, he should have been rewarded for doing a public service in permanently retiring a dangerous gangsta-wannabe.

  2. I love when big violent thugs are referred to as “black unarmed teens” and 5-6 year old photos are showed to the public. It’s almost like the media has some kind of bias!

    1. It’s only when they are shot by “white Hispanics” that anyone cares.

    2. It’s quite possible that the teen Dunn shot was a thug. The problem is, by Dunn’s actions, we’ll never know.

      As someone who carries a gun, the thought of shooting at a car full of people- especially if I perceived a real threat to my person, then calmly going back to my hotel and ordering a pizza and never calling the cops is beyond conception.

    3. Has the definition of “thug” changed to “any young black male?” From all we know, the only thug in this story was Dunn.

      1. Sorry, I should have been clear. I haven’t followed the Dunn story. I was referring to the Trayvon Martin part of the article.

  3. His self-defense claim was pretty shaky anyway, what with continuing to fire as the boys drove away. Only cops can do that.

    1. Also, only the cops get “I reasonably perceived a threat” defense. It’s wise to remember that if you carry.

      1. That’s why I only shoot cops.

      2. Paul, there’s no real requirement that a cop’s perception of a threat be reasonable.

        Hell, just yesterday we were looking at the guy who was gunned down for taking his hands out of his pockets and raising his shirt. No gun, no reasonable person would have thought this act put them in fear of imminent death or injury.

        The cop, however, walked.

        And, if the killer in this case had been wearing the right laundry, I have little doubt he would have walked, too.

        1. I should have been more clear, all that’s required for the police is the magic words, “I feared for my safety”. I’m pretty sure they cover that at the academy.

      3. Which is of course a lie and astoundingly ignorant but it’s what one expects from the anticop bigot who does not understand case law, due process, use of force, or any of the factors relevant in analyzing deadly force

        1. Demonstrated past history is not on your side.

        2. There are too many cases to the contrary to consider your statement as containing any validity whatsoever.

          In the past week or so cops gunned down a wino waving a BB gun. While normally I would give the cops a pass on that because of the appearance of a deadly threat, in this case the police had been told well in advance that the wino had a BB gun with emphasis on the information that it was NOT A REAL GUN.

          Minutes later cops unleashed a fusillade of lead turning the victim into hamburger. This was followed by cops “fist-bumping” over their joint murder of the victim.

          If cops were not allowed to tell the jury they were cops – that is, if they were actually treated like any other citizens – there would be thousands of them in prison right now… instead of out roaming our neighborhoods committing new crimes.

  4. Whoa, the “awful” stand your ground law? What’s so bad about it?

    1. It allows people who aren’t part of the privileged class to exercise the fundamental human right of self-defense.

      That, obviously, cannot be allowed.

    2. The headline is referring to other peoples’ (mis)characterization of the law.

    3. I believe that Reason is using the word to highlight the difference between what the people who attack the law as awful say is happening, and what has actually happened. Neither this case nor the Martin shooting had a damn thing to do with “stand your ground”, and that the people who dislike it as a legal principle have to try to drag both cases in suggests that the facts of cases where it does apply don’t favor their side.

    4. “Awful” should be in quotes in the title. “Stand Your Ground” should not.

  5. Your lunch time derp:

    I got a response from the office of my congress critter about my protest against the USDA’s silly, intrusive demands for personal information. Long story short, I unwittingly moved into an apartment controlled by the USDA and so every year, I have to send a 10 page form of all my personal and financial information.

    The guy at the other end said I must supply this information because it is stipulated in my lease. I said “But these regulations are ridiculous. I thought your party was supposed to be against this kind of thing.” His response was basically rules is rules, fuck you that’s why. He actually said this is the way it’s always been (which is NOT true) and if I don’t like it, I should leave.

    Thanks a lot, Team Purple!

    1. I unwittingly moved into an apartment controlled by the USDA and so every yea

      Huh?

      1. The original lease I signed was long and intrusive and I overlooked the part about the USDA. I thought they were just nosy assholes. I let it go because I needed a place to stay and this apartment is within walking distance of my job.

        1. Sorry, my question was more on the line of Playa’s. The unwitting part didn’t concern me, the “apartments controlled by the USDA” is what confused me.

    2. *raises hand*

      Why does the USDA control apartments?

      1. Hell if I know. It’s called the rural development program 3560. It was apparently created by a communist because the stated goal is population growth in rural areas.

      2. Plank 9 of the Communist Party Manifesto: “gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of population over the country.”

  6. Good article

    Contrary to what The ignorati think, depending the right of self-defence does not mean defending murderous scum like this guy and case after case that the guys try to fit into the stand your ground peg don’t support what they are trying to claim

    They were wrong When they said shall issue concealed Carry would result in blood in the street and they are wrong here

    While there are many cases where either tactically or morally a person should retreat it is not therefore follow that in those circumstances there should be a legal duty to do so

    I tend not to carry a firearm concealed or openly when off-duty but it is comforting to know that if I do the law will regards my actions fairly me if I need to use a gun in self defense or defense of others

    1. We both know you never needed to worry about self defense at all. As a cop you can walk up to someone’s house and start blasting when they open the door and you’ll get off just fine.

  7. That’s some 1st degree alt-text murder, for sure.

  8. Ah, I see the bigot’s be out in force today. It warns tge cockles (heh he said cockles) of my heart.

    Sure we have to worry about self defence that’s what officer safety is and almost always we do it correctly.

    I have been feloniously assaulted (2 concussions, ouchies, etc) , somebody tried to stab me, I’ve had a butchers knife thrown at me , I’ve had the business end of a shovel thrown at me, been kicked, punched etc

    2 of my friends and coworkers been killed.

    Smooches

    1. Gene Williams, from my former agency, Maui pd , was run over by a drunk driver, actually to be more technical and legal alien drunk driver without a license slammed into a car that Gene had stopped while directing traffic and that car ran over him burst into fire and killed him.

      My other friend was shot in the head by a gangbanger piece of shit member of the BGD’s.

      Three guys in my former unit were all shot in one incident but since we wear vests, have a survival mindset, usually get quick medical care, etc there are about 15 officers shot and wounded for every officer shot and killed

      I’ve had many uses of force but never a UOF complaint!

      That’s partly because I do the right thing, partly because I talk to people with good verbal judo skills and I always always treat them with love and respect and partly just because a sheer luck.

      The reality is because of what we do even if we do it absolutely 100% correctly it’s still quite likely we will get complaints and thank God we have unions and binding arbitration etc.

      1. We accept the risks but we make the risks much smaller by using proper officer safety and thank God society totally respects us and respects our right to do so just like any other person has the right to use self-defense

        We also take it upon ourselves to take certain risks such as the medal for valor I received for running into a burning building and clearing the entire second floor prior to the arrival of the fire department. Two of the cops on scene and none of the civilians would take that risk but fortunately one of my partners would and together we did it

        I love my job it’s rewarding as fuck and no amount of know nothing bigots can change that

        The polling data proves and of course none of the people who claimed otherwise have ever said oh I was wrong because ideologues will never admit they were wrong no matter how much data is presented, proves that we are near some other top professions in terms of how they view us as as a whole

        Facts trump bigot false assertions

        Honor, brah. It’s what we know

        http://www.odmp.org/officer/15…..e-williams

        Smooches

  9. I followed the Zimmerman trial quite closely. “Stand your ground” was not rationally related, since SYG deals with the “duty to retreat”. Since Martin attacked Zimmerman, knocked him to the ground, jumped on top of him and began raining “MMA style” blows to his head and bashing his head on the concrete, Zimmerman’s opportunity to “retreat” was never an issue.

  10. – cont –
    Ample evidence indicates that Trayvon Martin was a violent, drug-addled, gang-banger wannabe who thought it was fun to beat people up.

    The most interesting part of Zimmerman’s account is how few contradictions it contained. His story didn’t change. It was consistent from start to finish, over time and when challenged by detectives. One particularly salient bit of testimony from a detective involved an effort by that detective to trip Zimmerman up by informing him that there was a security camera that had recorded the entire event. There actually was a security camera and the detective made sure Zimmerman knew it. Someone who was making up a story – or even fudging the facts – would have tried to make sure any discrepancies between the video and his account were explained away, or begin to backtrack on their account. Zimmerman’s response? He was RELIEVED that there was a video record that would back up his story. Unfortunately, the camera wasn’t working at the time of Martin’s attack on Zimmerman – else the entire world would know that it was Martin, not Zimmerman, who was the aggressor.

  11. – cont –

    Of particular importance was the fact that Zimmerman had an explanation for his every action – though much of what happened has been lied about by Martin supporters. The most damning piece of evidence – for Martin – was that it was clear that he was away and safe from any perceived threat – yet chose to return and engage Zimmerman.

    Trayvon Martin is not the poster boy for racial profiling or anti-SYG. Trayvon Martin is the poster boy for personal use of lethal force to eliminate an eminent threat and take a POS off the street for the good of society.

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