Commentary: Justice Is Finally Served for Jordan Davis

Commentary: Justice Is Finally Served for Jordan Davis

The real problem in this case is "bigger than Michael Dunn."

Published October 1, 2014

Last February, I wrote a column titled "We Continue to Wait for Justice for Jordan Davis." Today, seven months later, justice has finally been delivered.

It was Jordan Davis's mother Lucia McBath who held out hope for a conviction even after a 12-person Florida jury could not reach a verdict on whether Michael Dunn was guilty of murder for shooting her son to death. "We will continue to wait for justice for Jordan," she said at the time.

The first jury convicted Dunn not for murder, but for shooting at the three other young males in the car the night Davis was killed. That jury deadlocked on the murder charge, indicating that at least one juror believed Michael Dunn was justified in killing Jordan Davis, in fleeing to his hotel, in ordering a pizza, in drinking rum and Cokes, in taking his dog for a walk, in misleading his fiancée and in never reporting the shooting to police.

That was an injustice the new trial sought to erase.

In both trials, Dunn spun an inconceivable story that he feared for his life when he drew his weapon and fired at an unarmed 17-year-old boy in a convenience store parking lot. The jury was supposed to believe Dunn even though he never bothered to call police and didn't stop to report the shooting when he passed by a police car as he fled the crime scene.

Some observers blamed prosecutors for their failure to win an outright murder conviction in the first trial, but in both trials they exposed a clear pattern of lies and inconsistencies in Dunn's story that no "reasonable" jury should have believed.

As I wrote back in February, the real problem in this case is "bigger than Michael Dunn." The problem, I argued, is with our attitude toward guns in America, with white racial entitlement, and with the "objectification and demonization of young Black men." Since I wrote that column, I'm sad to say little has changed.

If anything, things have gotten worse. This year, we've seen repeated episodes of African-Americans being demonized, vilified and targeted before they've even been charged with a crime. It's not just Florida. It's America.

We've seen Michael Brown killed on the streets of Ferguson for the crime of allegedly stealing cigars that the officer who killed him didn't even know about. We've seen John Crawford killed in Walmart in Ohio for the crime of shopping for a legal and unloaded pellet rifle on sale at the very store where he was gunned down. And we've seen Levar Jones shot in South Carolina for simply retrieving his wallet from his car as the police officer who shot him told him to do.

Yes, there was a conviction for Michael Dunn today, but it took two trials to convince 12 citizens of Florida that another citizen, an African-American teenager, was a human being whose life had value.

As I wrote in February, I must repeat now: "Young Black men are not allowed the freedom to wear a hoodie, walk in a white neighborhood at night, play loud music in their cars, or get upset in a TV interview without being labeled thugs. And even when they do what society tells them to do, their Black maleness makes them inherently suspicious unless it exists within the ever-changing boundaries that are acceptable for white men who define them."

Of course, today's verdict is good news for those who seek justice. But how many more dead black bodies will be strewn on the ground before America wakes up to the crisis of racial bias in our criminal justice system?

Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes commentary for BET.com each week.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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Written by Keith Boykin

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