Following the slaughter of another black kid, another white man has leant on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in an attempt to avoid a murder conviction. On November 23, 2012, Michael Dunn, 47, shot Jordan Davis, 17, dead in a parking lot after allegedly complaining to him and his friends that their “thug music” was too loud. This happened in Jackonsville, Florida, the same state where the notorious George Zimmerman was recently acquitted for shooting to death Trayvon Martin, a black teenager carrying only Skittles and juice on him at the time. So with at least two racially-fuelled slayings in nine years, the “Stand Your Ground” law already poses as history’s most inefficient case of genocide.
On February 15, 2014, the jury came to their conclusion after four days of deliberation. The New York Times reported that the jurors found Dunn “guilty of three counts of second-degree attempted murder for getting out of his car and firing several times at the Dodge Durango sport utility vehicle in which Jordan Davis, 17, was killed.”
“Three other teenagers, the subjects of the attempted murder charges, were in the car but were not struck. Mr. Dunn continued to fire at the vehicle even as it pulled away.”
These three attempted murder convictions could result in Dunn being sentenced to 60 years in prison. However the jury’s inability to decide whether Dunn had acted to protect himself or was guilty of murder resulted in the Judge Healy calling a mistrial.
Florida’s expansive self-defense laws allow people who say they feel threatened to use lethal force to protect themselves, without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation.
As the New York Times reported, Dunn told jurors that “Mr. Davis had pointed a shotgun at him from the window of the Durango, threatened to kill him and then tried to get out of the car. It was only then…that he reached into his glove box, unholstered his 9-millimeter pistol, put a round in the chamber, and fired 10 times.”
The prosecutors argued that Dunn had in fact “fabricated his story about the shotgun to bolster his self-defence claim”, as the police “never found a shotgun, and no witnesses ever reported seeing one.” Furthermore, the surviving teenagers testified that none of them had a shotgun in the car, the prosecution consolidating this argument with the fact that no one ever shot back at Dunn.
However, as Dunn’s lawyer, Corey Strolla told Rolling Stone, “I don’t have to prove the threat, just that Mike Dunn believed it. This is a family man who never had a violent incident in his life, who acted because of words said by Jordan Davis. He screamed, ‘Fuck you, motherfucker, I’m gonna kill you,’ and was trying to open his door to get out. So absolutely, this is a Stand Your Ground case, based on the law in Florida.”
The “Stand Your Ground” bill was signed by Governor Jed Bush back in 2005. The New York Times reported that it was sponsored by Representative Dennis Baxley after the National Rifle Association “lobbied hard for the bill’s passage”. Baxley declared, “It’s a clear position that we will stand with victims of violent attacks when the law is in their favour…People want to know we stand on the side of victims of crime instead of the side of criminals.” Meanwhile, Governor Bush, a Republican, justified his support of the bill by arguing that when people face life-threatening situations, “to have to retreat and put yourself in a very precarious position defies common sense.”
However, in an agonizing twist of fate, the New York Times reported that immediately following the ratification of the bill in 2005, John Timoney, Miami’s police chief, called the measure “unnecessary” and “dangerous”. He continued, warning that the bill could make gun owners, perhaps drunk or suffering road rage, assume they have “total immunity”. “You’re encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn’t be used.” And yet the alarm bells of sanity fell on deaf ears.
Instead, it was reported that Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice-president, intended to introduce the bill to every state, “start[ing] with red and mov[ing] to blue”. How did the NRA’s clear agenda to have more people carrying (and therefore buying) guns so easily infiltrate the good people of the Florida House of Representatives? Well, the NRA has long possessed a highly influential presence in Florida’s legislature, with the National Institue on Money is State Politics detailing that the gun lobby gave $2.7 million to state lawmakers in between 2003 and 2010.
Since 2005, over twenty other states have ratified a “Stand Your Ground” law, and research by Texas A&M University has shown that in states with “Stand Your Ground” homicides have increased by up to 9 per cent. Meanwhile, as The Age reported, the NRA believes that the greatest danger to Americans are what it calls “gun free zones”—places where it is illegal to carry guns, such as schools, churches, bars and restaurants.
Understandably regular folks are going to get shot by mad folks when one can purchase guns without any background checks at gun fairs. However the legislature has enabled these killers under the guise of increasing public safety, and now the judicial system can no longer hold these mad folks to account, instead perversely inspiring a sense of immunity within them. With no sign of abating any time soon, the nightmare advocated by LaPierre has become an absurdity. God Bless America.