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Michael Dunn's Trial on Trial
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2014-02-20 11:29:06
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Saturday 15th of February 2014 a verdict was rendered by a Florida jury on Michael Dunn’s murder of an unarmed black teen-ager whose only offense was that of playing the music in the SUV he was riding in too loud for Dunn’s delicate ears. With the victim were three other teens who were also targeted by 10 rounds of an automated repeat gun which perforated the vehicle as it left. Dunn left the scene and never called the police; the police had to call him. He and his fiancé returned to the hotel where they ordered pizza and wine.

This is the second time within two years that an unarmed black teenager is gunned down in Florida like a rabid dog under the so called law of “stand your ground.” The first time the perpetrator, a vigilante patrolling a housing complex, George Zimmerman, walked scot after murdering a 17 year old Black teen and then claiming self-defense. This time around it was different: Mr. Dunn was found guilty of attempted murder of the three surviving teens and will probably have to serve a sentence of 60 years plus 15 for shooting to the back of a car for a total of 75 years; practically a life sentence.

At first sight this may appear as justice long delayed. But wait a minute! The jury actually failed to convict  Dunn for the killing of the unarmed teen ager. They were deadlocked on that count claimed that there was a reasonable doubt that his was premeditated murder rather than self-defense and fear for one’s life. So in effect the jury is saying that Mr. Dunn was justified in punishing the teens who failed to obey his orders to lower the music in the car.

Now imagine if you will that the teenager had been white and the aggressor with a gun had been black. Would the jury results have been the same? One wonders. So the suspicion remains that there are two justice systems in place in Florida and elsewhere in the US: one for the whites and one for the blacks and the “stand your ground law” only reinforces such a suspicion. If Dunn did not like the loud music which he characterized to his fiancé as “thug music” he could have easily changed spot on the parking lot rather than stand his ground, resort to violence and take the law in his own hands. He did no such thing, he kept cooly on shooting round after round, ten rounds all together, after killing Jordan Davis and then simply left the scene  of the crime and went back to his hotel with his fiancé expecting that nobody would trace him and bring him to justice.

To return to the verdict, in effect Mr. Dunn did not get convicted for a first degree murder but on a lesser count of attempted murder against the other teenagers who did escape the onslaught of Dunn’s automatic gun. So we are back to the fact that we are awash in guns and they provoke incidents like these. The reality is that justice was not rendered to Jordan Davis albeit it was rendered for his surviving companions. Sounds inconsistent, but then racism has its own twisted logic. In this case the message is not so much that one goes to jail for attempted murder but that in the state of Florida it is still possible to kill an unharmed black teen-ager without getting a conviction for it. The message in fact for those gun toting vigilantes running around the state may well be that it is better to do a thorough job and kill all “thugs” playing “thug music” and then one will have a better chance of getting away with murder claiming that the “thug music” created anxiety over one’s safety. The fact remains that Mr. Dunn is not going to prison for killing Davis but for attempting to kill his three companions, thus justice has been denied Davis.

Well, if there's anything to take away from the trial of Michael Dunn, it's that—in the state of Florida—this is possible. You just need to be more thorough than Dunn could manage in his initial rage, when he killed Davis for being a "thug" who wouldn't bend to his will. The jury has held him for shooting at three teen-agers but not for killing the fourth one.  If Dunn had simply killed Jordan Davis and stopped shooting, then by the jury’s logic he would have escaped punishment all together. This is certainly a message for future racist killers of “thugs who play loud music” and it is this: next time be more thorough and kill all in a car blaring loud music, may even the witnesses around so that nobody will write down your tag number and you will simply get away from justice altogether without even going through the bother of a trial and having to portray those you shut at as threatening and provoking fear for one’s life.


Lynching in Marion, Indiana in 1930

It all sounds slightly insane but the insanity is based on the logic of the “Stand Your Ground” law which allows people to take the law in their own hands and dispense “justice” with one’s gun: shoot first and don’t even ask any questions later. As per this law within the criminal justice system of Florida, one can legitimately fear African-American young men, and if you act on that fear with violence, you have a good chance of avoiding conviction and walking free since the jury, which is predominantly white is likely to sympathize with your fears. The facts back up this terrifying logic: in Florida killings with a white perpetrator and a black victim are more likely to be ruled justifiable, while it is least likely, by a factor of ten, for black on white homicides to be given the same sentence. And all this, mind you, while a Black president sits in the White House and a black Attorney General oversees the justice system. One begins to wonder is the racism is exacerbated by that very fact.

Finally, one is led to question if it is indeed a delusion within an illusion that we have left behind the good old days of white fear as an adjudicating factor for black life, the lynching epidemics of the early 20th century, the barbaric racial terrorism of the 1920s, Jim Crow, and the redlining  of the post-war period. Have we really put it all behind us or are we inexorably returning to “shoot first and ask no questions later?”  If the answer to that question is yes, that would unfortunately augur badly for the social peace, justice and cohesion of our country and would amply prove, if proof is indeed needed, that not everything that arrives at the end of an era is necessarily progress. Some of it may be pure unadulterated regression.


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Emanuel Paparella2014-02-20 15:48:51
The word "unarmed" is misspelled repeatedly. Typos are almost unavoidable; in any case, I apologize to the readers.

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