The failure of a Florida jury to convict Michael Dunn of first-degree murder was deeply disappointing.
The verdict in the trial of Michael Dunn was a wholly disheartening one. It’s true, the jury convicted Dunn of three counts of second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. However, the judge declared a mistrial on the first-degree murder charge.
And that is at the core of what makes the outcome of this trial so deeply disturbing. By failing to convict Dunn, a 47-year-old white man who shot the unarmed Black teenager in a dispute over loud music, the jury essentially determined that there would be no sense of justice for the death of the teenage Jordan Davis.
There are undoubtedly many Americans who will argue that since Dunn is likely to be sentenced to as much as 60 years in prison, that he will be forced to pay a price for his actions on that fateful day in Florida two years ago. But that entirely misses the point. The jury in Jacksonville failed to hold him accountable for the death of Jordan Davis and that is what makes their deliberations deeply disappointing.
Dunn was convicted of shooting at a car filled with teenagers. But by failing to convict Dunn of the premeditated act of killing the 17-year-old, the jury was sending a message to the nation that it is perfectly acceptable for a man to kill this young Black teenager who had clearly offended his killer by arguing with him.
The fact of the matter is Dunn’s case seemed to stand on pretty flimsy footing. Dunn’s story of self-defense hung on the notion that young Jordan Davis pointed a shotgun at him, leaving the older man fearing for his life. But police said no shotgun was found, the other teenagers insisted none was used. Most stinging, Dunn’s fiancée testified that he had never mentioned to her anything about having a firearm pointed at him, a fact that relegates his story of self-defense to the category of being totally preposterous.
What is tragic here is that, once again, the life of a young Black man is treated as relatively inconsequential. Jordan Davis was a high school student, a son of devoted parents and a typical teenager. He would have undoubtedly headed to college, filled with dreams and ambition.
It was clear that Dunn, a man with a propensity for racist musings who labeled the teenagers’ choice of tunes as “thug music” somehow didn’t see Jordan Davis as a youngster with potential. The devaluation of young men of color like him has been a disquieting and unrelenting theme of the times we live in.
One can only hope that the prosecutors will indeed retry Dunn on first-degree murder charges, as they have indicated they would. It only means that justice for the death of Jordan Davis will have to wait even longer, as has been the case with so many young Black men who have lost their lives in senseless acts of violence.
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(Photo: The Florida Times-Union, Bob Mack, Pool)