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On the Killing of Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn
February 16, 2014 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Michael Dunn was convicted on three counts of attempted murder, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the charge of the first degree murder of Jordan Davis. Davis and friends were sitting in an SUV listening to music outside a convenience store, when Dunn initiated an argument with them that ended in Dunn firing 10 rounds into their vehicle, including several as they drove away. Dunn fled the scene and then remained silent for many hours before eventually claiming self-defense. Ta-Nehisi Coates interviewed Davis's mother in the days before the verdict, and in response to the verdict, he writes a sweeping indictment of America's treatment of young black men.
posted by hydropsyche (283 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
21 Things You Can't Do While Black
posted by zombieflanders at 5:51 AM on February 16 [21 favorites]


They're reporting that Jordan Davis would've turned 19 today :(
posted by polly_dactyl at 6:06 AM on February 16


We the jury find you guilty of trying to kill the three guys you didn't kill, but not guilty of killing the guy you did kill.
posted by Flashman at 6:13 AM on February 16 [48 favorites]


Really, I think it's getting to the point where a white person could murder a black person onstage during the Superbowl halftime show and be acquitted.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:14 AM on February 16 [27 favorites]


The gun culture in the US makes me despair. Michael Dunn could have disengaged from what he perceived to be a dangerous situation (not that it was, I believe they were unarmed), but because he was armed, he felt he should escalate the situation. They weren't doing anything wrong, they were young kids playing loud music. Would they have been OK if they'd been playing a different genre at high volume? What is it about this culture that made him think he had to be the lawman?

As a result, a young man is dead and I grieve for his loss.
posted by arcticseal at 6:14 AM on February 16 [35 favorites]


Standing Their Ground
posted by rosswald at 6:16 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Goddammit Florida.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:16 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


On the plus side, he's 47 and what they _did_ convict him on adds up to a 60-year jail sentence, possibly plus another 15.

So Justice did end up in the right place in the end, albeit by setting a horrific precedent in the process.
posted by delfin at 6:17 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


"But it's not for want of trying to reconcile all of this," he said then. "I think we've got some analytical people in there who are trying to do just that -- trying to analyze this from every possible angle."

Having read all the information available, it's extremely difficult for me to understand this.

Or rather, understand it as anything other than, "These people value the comfort of a white man over the life of a black teenager."

.

I was just in Florida last weekend, visiting my mother. We went to have our nails done, as you do. An older woman sat beside me -- a regular who hadn't been in since before the new year. She explained her absence to the technician, saying she'd been in an accident.

At first, I thought she was saying, "I hit a garden" -- her tone was so casual and unconcerned. But slowly it dawned on me that she had hit a gardener -- one of the army of men, usually hispanic, who tend the carefully manicured highway medians. I asked if he was all right, and she shrugged and told me he'd "only" broken his leg, had sued her insurance company for $250,000 but fortunately hadn't managed to get it. "He's fine," she said, then said something about how the sun had been in her eyes and changed the subject.

There is something deeply, deeply wrong with this country, and in Florida that wrongness is on constant and flagrant display.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:20 AM on February 16 [100 favorites]


Why was he charged with first-degree murder in the first place? How does that charge fit in this case? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
posted by NoMich at 6:23 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Why was he charged with first-degree murder in the first place?

What would you have charged him with instead? Manslaughter?
posted by MartinWisse at 6:25 AM on February 16


Also, the jury was allowed to consider lesser sentences if they didn't think he was guilty of first degree murder, so why not go for the highest charge?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:27 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Second-degree murder. This prosecution team has a nasty habit of overcharging these things, it seems.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:28 AM on February 16 [7 favorites]


According to the NYT, "The jury also failed to reach agreement on lesser charges that are automatically included in jury instructions. Those were second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter."
posted by Flunkie at 6:29 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


What would you have charged him with instead? Manslaughter?

I believe there are several stages between first-degree murder and manslaughter. I always thought first-degree murder involved intent and planning for a period of time instead of flying into a rage whipping out gun firing wildly at something in a matter of minutes.

Also, the jury was allowed to consider lesser sentences if they didn't think he was guilty of first degree murder, so why not go for the highest charge?

I forgot about that.

Second-degree murder. This prosecution nasty habit of overcharging these things, it seems.

That was my thinking as well.
posted by NoMich at 6:30 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


That's not to say it isn't crazy to convict him of attempted murder but not actual murder, of course. Just trying to think of how that could fit the facts gives me a headache.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:32 AM on February 16


According to the NYT, "The jury also failed to reach agreement on lesser charges that are automatically included in jury instructions. Those were second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter."

So apparently, the prosecution's big mistake was not including a charge for "leaving the scene of a totally justified shooting" because maybe the jury could have managed to convict Dunn of that.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:33 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


My guess is the fact that he had to go back to his car and get the gun suggested pre-meditation?

I agree that it does seem to more easily and clearly meet the definition of second-degree murder in Florida:
(2) The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual, is murder in the second degree and constitutes a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment for a term of years not exceeding life or as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:33 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


We the jury find you guilty of trying to kill the three guys you didn't kill, but not guilty of killing the guy you did kill.

He was found guilty of three counts of attempting to commit second degree murder against the three kids. The jury hung on whether he was guilty of first degree murder of Davis.

So Dunn was not found not guilty of first degree murder. The jury hung. That means that the jury could not agree on that count. At least one person thought he was guilty and at least one person thought he was not guilty of first degree murder. Dunn can be re-tried on the murder count. While the DA seems to be saying that they will re-try Dunn, I am guessing that if Dunn receives a sentence of forty or more years, they might not do so. They might feel that it is a waste of the State's money to try a case where a guy is already going to spend the rest of his life in prison. If they do decide to re-try it under those circumstances, it will most likely be because of public pressure. If the judge gives Dunn only twenty years, I am sure they will re-try him on the murder.

I'm not really sure whether the jury was instructed that they could find Dunn guilty of either second degree or first degree murder of Davis. There are a couple possible scenarios.

1. The jury was given the option of finding Dunn guilty of first degree or second degree murder. If they can't reach an agreement on first degree, then they hang on the murder charge. You don't step back and say, "Well, they all thought it was at least second degree, so even though they couldn't agree on first degree, we can say they all thought he at least committed second degree. Therefore, he is guilty of second degree." That is not what the law allows you to do. I think it is pretty clear if they were unanimous that he was guilty of those second degree counts that they all did feel he at least was guilty of second degree murder. They just couldn't agree whether it was first degree or not. Perhaps another jury will take another crack at it.

2. The jury was only given the option of finding Dunn guilty of first degree murder because the DA really wanted a first degree conviction. If that were the case, then they might not ask the judge to give the jury an instruction that they could still find Dunn guilty of either second or first degree.

Either way, it is not a fair reading of the verdict to say that he was found not guilty of murder. He was not. It was a hung jury. It is also not a fair reading of the verdict to say that the jury did not think he committed murder. What is fair is to say that all twelve could not agree that this was first degree.
posted by flarbuse at 6:35 AM on February 16 [42 favorites]


FelliniBlank: "Really, I think it's getting to the point where a white person could murder a black person onstage during the Superbowl halftime show and be acquitted."

Don't give them any ideas.
posted by symbioid at 6:35 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Why was he charged with first-degree murder in the first place?

Because going to your car, getting your gun, and loading it is plenty of evidence of premeditation? People have a really bizarre idea of what first degree murder is. You don't have to decide a day ahead of time and file notice of intent; you just have to decide to do it, and that can be moments before.
posted by tavella at 6:36 AM on February 16 [48 favorites]


They declared a mistrial on the murder 1 and he will be retried for that crime. So it's not as if he's gotten away with it.

NoMich: because it seems like a good fit for the crime. Here's a link to Florida State statute 782.04. "Premeditated" doesn't mean "planned it for seven weeks beforehand," but really any sort of situation where a person made a conscious decision to kill someone and then acted on it. Since he is using an SYG defense, it seems almost impossible to me for him to argue that he was just shooting at them in a fit of crazed rage without any intent to kill. He meant to kill people and kill someone he did.

Here's a little squib on premeditation on wikipedia.

Here's an example of jury instructions about premeditation.

The case seems like a great fit for murder 1 to me, and the only reason the guy didn't get sent away for it is race. I am also optimistic that the next jury will get it right.
posted by kavasa at 6:37 AM on February 16 [10 favorites]


Re: the lesser included charges, I agree that the jury should have convicted in one of them, but I wouldn't be surprised if the reason they didn't is because the prosecution wasted its time trying to prove a first-degree charge that they weren't buying.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:38 AM on February 16


Since he is using an SYG defense...

The CNN article says he isn't.
posted by jon1270 at 6:39 AM on February 16


I think probably someone on the jury thought he was "standing his ground" or some such, but standing his ground to the murdered child specifically.

I hasten to note that I'm not in any way saying that's a sensible thing to think.
posted by Flunkie at 6:40 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Furthermore, folks, the prosecution wasn't "wasting its time" - this is exactly the kind of crime you want people to get long prison sentences for. This guy has little to no respect for the value of human life and it's frankly surprising he hasn't killed someone already. He is a danger to society and should be removed from it.
The CNN article says he isn't. [using SYG defense]
You're correct, sorry. He is, however, arguing "self defense," and I don't believe there's any reasonable argument someone could make that they were defending themselves with a firearm and didn't intend to kill. They're arguing that they did intend to kill, but that it was justified.
posted by kavasa at 6:43 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Dunn merely argued self-defense. They didn't use Stand Your Ground as their official defense. Though Dunn's lawyer did reference it throughout the course of the trial.
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:44 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


As for re-trying someone who's in prison for life anyway -- if a prosecutor thought it would up his rate they would dig up someone who'd had the death penalty, prop up their corpse in the courtroom, and go through the motions to put a needle in him again.

As for the hung jury, the only way I can imagine that happening is that at least a couple of jurors adamantly refused to vote for anything other than murder 1, and they deliberately hung the jury on that count rather than affirm a lesser verdict. I might have done that myself had I been on this jury. It's not like he's going home like Zimmerman thanks to the other verdicts, and now the prosecution gets another shot at him.
posted by localroger at 6:53 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


"My client did not wait to become that victim," he said. "My client did not wait to either get assaulted by a weapon or have someone potentially pull a trigger," he said.

Though a weapon was never found, Strolla maintains the youths could have had one and somehow ditched it. He said the key point was that Dunn believed they were armed and that his life was in danger.

"Now, does it sound irrational? Of course it sounds irrational. But have you ever been in that situation?" the lawyer asked.


Such rationalization boggles the mind. What is the difference between this and "shoot first, ask questions later?"
posted by jon1270 at 6:54 AM on February 16 [9 favorites]


Given how "Stand Your Ground" and related statutes ("castle" defense, etc.) work in practice, it seems to me that "second-degree murder" in general would be extremely difficult to prosecute. (Attempted second-degree less so, because there's victim testimony.) Add in racial disparities in the justice system, and I fear what may happen with this case on appeal.

"Now, does it sound irrational? Of course it sounds irrational. But have you ever been in that situation?" the lawyer asked.

Wait, what about the "reasonable person" standard? Doesn't this argument run aground on that that?
posted by kewb at 6:57 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Dunn is going to jail for a long time, probably the rest of his life.The technicalities of whether he should be charged for first degree matter are important, but not as important as Dunn paying for what he did. That feels like a bit of justice, finally and it feels good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:57 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I don't particularly find "it was okay that you killed that black kid, but you shouldn't have left witnesses alive" to be much in the way of 'justice'.
posted by tavella at 7:01 AM on February 16 [23 favorites]


The technicalities of whether he should be charged for first degree matter are important, but not as important as Dunn paying for what he did.

I'd almost go the other way and say the technicalities here, which may affect many future cases, are more important than the fact that the guy who left some victims alive ended up in jail.

On preview, what tavella said.
posted by kewb at 7:04 AM on February 16


This was not a Stand Your Ground case.

He is being retried on the murder charge.

Following localroger, my guess would be that some people were holding out for Murder One and wouldn't budge.

...

"Now, does it sound irrational? Of course it sounds irrational. But have you ever been in that situation?" the lawyer asked.

Wait, what about the "reasonable person" standard? Doesn't this argument run aground on that that?


He's saying that the situation forced his client to behave in a way that might seem irrational to people who weren't in his shoes at the time. I don't buy the argument - and neither did the jury - but he's not defending irrational behavior itself.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:08 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure not going to jail for a crime you committed is exactly the opposite of justice.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 7:08 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


Following localroger, my guess would be that some people were holding out for Murder One and wouldn't budge.

Yes, it would extremely interesting to know what went down in the jury room.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:09 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Again, Stand Your Ground was cited in the defense's closing arguments. Dunn did not seek a separate pre-trial hearing for immunity, "But the jury were nonetheless advised to consider the law when deciding Dunn’s guilt." (Same link as my previous comment)
posted by Roger Dodger at 7:11 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


As Roger Dodger's link indicates, though there was no SYG defense, it was part of the case:

Dunn’s lawyer Cory Strolla cited Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in his closing argument, “His honor will further tell you that If Michael Dunn was in a public place where he had a legal right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” As in the George Zimmerman trial, the Stand Your Ground law was included in the jury instructions.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:11 AM on February 16


On preview, oopsie.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:12 AM on February 16


Actually, it's nice to know someone reads the links down here.
posted by Roger Dodger at 7:13 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Following localroger, my guess would be that some people were holding out for Murder One and wouldn't budge.

Considering the way the verdicts played out, it sounds a lot more like somebody(s) on the jury thought it was OK for Dunn to kill Jordan Davis but less cool to spray the other occupants of the car with gunfire in the process. Which I guess just tells the racists of Florida to spend more time at the target range.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:18 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


I stand corrected about SYG!

...

Yes, it would extremely interesting to know what went down in the jury room.

Yeah, there are all kinds of possibilities there.

FWIW, check out the Jury Deadlock instructions they had received from Judge Healy:
I know that all of you have worked hard to try to find a verdict in this case. It apparently has been impossible for you so far. Sometimes an early vote before discussion can make it hard to reach an agreement about the case later. The vote, not the discussion, might make it hard to see all sides of the case.

We are all aware that it is legally permissible for a jury to disagree. There are two things a jury can lawfully do: agree on a verdict or disagree on what the facts of the case may truly be.

There is nothing to disagree about on the law. The law is as I told you. If you have any disagreements about the law, I should clear them up for you now. That should be my problem, not yours.

If you disagree over what you believe the evidence showed, then only you can resolve that conflict, if it is to be resolved.

I have only one request of you. By law, I cannot demand this of you, but I want you to go back into the jury room. Then, taking turns, tell each of the other jurors about any weakness of your own position. You should not interrupt each other or comment on each other's views until each of you has had a chance to talk. After you have done that, if you simply cannot reach a verdict, then return to the courtroom and I will declare this case mistried, and will discharge you with my sincere appreciation for your services.

You may now retire to continue with your deliberations.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:18 AM on February 16 [11 favorites]


Dunn's attorney seems to be arguing that, regardless of whether there was a gun or not, the fact that Dunn had a belief they had a gun justifies his actions.

That's a legal enshrinement of lynching, right there.
posted by angrycat at 7:33 AM on February 16 [29 favorites]


I'm pretty sure not going to jail for a crime you committed is exactly the opposite of justice.

I'm confused. Isn't Dunn going to jail for attempting to kill to 3 of the kids? There's a hung jury on the death of the 4th kid, which isn't great, but that's up for retrial, which the prosecution may not pursue based on the sentence of the three attempted 2nd degree charges. So not a slam dunk, but still pretty good, IMO. Your mileage may vary.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:35 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Also, I find it not so persuasive the idea that there shouldn't be much upset because the dude is going away for the rest of his life. I mean, that's good, but you still have this wacky legal precedent there.
posted by angrycat at 7:36 AM on February 16


I mean, that's good, but you still have this wacky legal precedent there.
No, you don't. It was a mistrial. He will be tried for murder 1 again. It's not in any way a precedent.
posted by kavasa at 7:37 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


wacky legal precedent

A mistrial is not a "legal precedent" in any meaningful sense.
posted by yoink at 7:38 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


There won't be a complete precedent until the new trial is over.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:38 AM on February 16


That the jury hung on the 1st charge is not a legal precedent. Precedent related to questions of law (that really, unless confirmed or denied at the appellate level is just some random trial court decision) like whether a defense can be used or certain kinds of evidence submitted. A jury deals in questions of fact (did he do x which fits into charge y). There is no "legal precedent" in finding a defendant guilty, not guilty or otherwise. Perhaps you are arguing that such a determination affects the public who might sit in a jury trial in the future, but that's not precedent and I think it's important to use terms of art in the way they are actually defined since they are terms of art.
posted by atomicstone at 7:42 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


There won't be a complete precedent until the new trial is over.

And, even then, it won't really be a "precedent" in the way we normally think of that term in a legal context. Someone won't be able to get up in a courtroom in future and say "well, the jury in that trial didn't convict and my client's case looks pretty similar, so this jury shouldn't convict either." The jury is ruling on the whether the facts of the case fit the law (and, clearly, in this case, at least one member of the jury could not be persuaded that they did). They are, very explicitly, not making rulings on the law itself.
posted by yoink at 7:43 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


I've been reading a lot about this verdict, and not once has this piece of human filth been referred to as a thug. I saw his victims called that a couple times, of course.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:49 AM on February 16 [17 favorites]


Considering the other verdicts, I think it's delusional to think anyone on the jury thought it was OK to kill Dunn. They had no probem turning in verdicts for enough jail time to keep the guy locked up until most likely dead. Everyone who deadlocked on the murder verdict affirmed those verdicts.

Considering those jury instructions I think what you have is a situation where at least one person has folded their arms and said that anything less than murder 1 is a moral disgrace, and at least one person has folded their arms and said they simply cannot see that and cannot in conscience vote for murder 1. The usual argument against digging in doesn't hold here since, if you're the holdout who wants murder 1, the only way to get what you want is to hang the jury and force a retrial. The other verdicts remove the risk that he will pull a Zimmerman and go home.

If you're holding out for acquittal and everyone else is cool with 2, the result doesn't make sense because the guy is already spending most or all of the rest of his life in jail anyway over verdicts you have affirmed. So why create a ruckus over something that doesn't much change the end result? You've already sent the guy to most likely die in jail, but you're going to create a humiliating media circus over what amounts to a message?

That only makes sense if the message you want to send is that even 75 years isn't enough.
posted by localroger at 7:49 AM on February 16 [12 favorites]


he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force

There's no evidence (except his own testimony) that there was any "force" for him to meet. He didn't like a carload of black teenagers playing their music so loud; they wouldn't turn it down and words were exchanged.

SYG is a terrible law.
posted by rtha at 7:53 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


This prosecution team has a nasty habit of overcharging these things, it seems.

It's pretty common for prosecutors to shovel-on the charges in most any case, no matter how tenuous the fit. The idea being that something will stick.

Also, when you're on a jury, you have to make your decision based on the actual wording of the law. It's very possible that the requirements for conviction on first-degree murder are written such that a lot of jurors didn't feel it applied in this case. In many states, first-degree murder requires an aspect of pre-meditation, which the jury did not feel applied here, being that it seemed more heat-of-the-moment.

My guess is the jury agreed that he killed Dunn, but enough of them felt the circumstances didn't meet the requirements of a first-degree murder charge. The prosecution should have hit-for-average, rather than swung for the fences on that particular count.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:06 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


The prosecution should have hit-for-average, rather than swung for the fences on that particular count.

But the subtext of what you're saying is that the prosecution should have realized that at least some jurors would be okay with a white man murdering a Black child, and they weren't ever going to get a murder one conviction?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:11 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


I think there were members of the jury who were convinced that Dunn really did feel threatened by the teen, so therefore was justified in his "defensive" firing of the gun. The guilty verdict on the other charges were probably based on the continued attack as the vehicle was fleeing.

My personal belief is that there should be serious consequences whenever you are responsible for taking someones life, no matter what the circumstances. I'm just glad its not me having to decide what those consequences are, but yeah, Dunn definitely deserves serious jail time.
posted by Roger Dodger at 8:12 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


The circumstances meet the criteria for 1st degree murder. Dunn retreated from the argument, retrieved a machine that is designed from the ground up to do exactly one thing, and returned to the argument at best under the delusion that bringing that machine back to an argument from which he had safely retreated would not end up with someone wearing a toe tag down at the coroner's office.

The defense obviousy got someone to believe that Dunn didn't really think of the gun as a one-function Person Killing Machine, but rather as a can of Instant Penis[TM] to add emphasis to his side of the argument. Then he had a shocked moment of total surprise at the realization that he didn't own the world's only can of Instant Penis[TM], and in his shock and surprise did the only thing he could think of, which was to blow his wad.

To me that is the ridiculous reading. Anyone who has actually taken the little course they advise you to take when you buy a one-function Person Killing Machine will have been advised to never point a gun at a person unless you're ready to pull the trigger. It is for this reason I tend to suspect that the Murder 1 holdout(s) might actually be responsible gun owners who know better than to think of a gun as a can of Instant Penis[TM]. That Dunn left the argument, got the gun, and returned is the very essence of premeditation. If he didn't get his way, someone was going to die.
posted by localroger at 8:13 AM on February 16 [31 favorites]


But the subtext of what you're saying is that the prosecution should have realized that at least some jurors would be okay with a white man murdering a Black child, and they weren't ever going to get a murder one conviction?

No, I'm saying there are lesser degrees of murder on which they probably could have won conviction on. I feel they definitely could have won conviction on a manslaughter charge.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:13 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Considering the other verdicts, I think it's delusional to think anyone on the jury thought it was OK to kill Dunn. They had no probem turning in verdicts for enough jail time to keep the guy locked up until most likely dead. Everyone who deadlocked on the murder verdict affirmed those verdicts.

First of all, it'd be great if we could not characterize other users' thinking as delusional. Dunn claimed that Jordan Davis threatened him, not the entire carful of kids. If a juror bought his story, (s)he could easily think Dunn had a right to "stand his ground" and use force against Davis but not proceed to fire two more volleys of shots into the car.

So why create a ruckus over something that doesn't much change the end result? You've already sent the guy to most likely die in jail, but you're going to create a humiliating media circus over what amounts to a message?

This is also the reason why it's unlikely someone would hold out for first-degree murder when everyone else said murder 2. Murder 2 would still say he was guilty and have a massive sentence, so you're going to dig in your heels and let the entire public think he "got off" just to make your point?

I just (completely speculatively) think people are far more likely to take a hard line for a lesser charge or acquittal than to double down on a harsher charge. It's rhetorically a lot easier to convince someone who shares your basic position to modify theirs slightly than to convince someone who fundamentally and substantively disagrees.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:13 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


That Dunn left the argument, got the gun, and returned is the very essence of premeditation.

Quite. To quote The Boondock Saints (which I do not often do), he may not have known exactly what he was going to do, but he had a pretty good idea.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:17 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


you're going to dig in your heels and let the entire public think he "got off" just to make your point?

The only reason anybody thinks he "got off" is because of people who clearly don't understand what happened making ignorant statements. He did not get off of anything; he's spending a long time in jail and he's going to be retried on the murder.

This would probably have gone down more like you say if it weren't for the other counts, which ensure that he won't pull a Zimmerman. Whoever held out on the murder charge was fine with sending Dunn away for a long time. It makes no sense to create a circus over the last charge when you're already cool with that, but it does make sense if you want to make a moral point about how maybe your state isn't as stupid as so many people think.
posted by localroger at 8:18 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Michael Dunn's prison letters
posted by dirigibleman at 8:25 AM on February 16 [5 favorites]


The only reason anybody thinks he "got off" is because of people who clearly don't understand what happened making ignorant statements. He did not get off of anything; he's spending a long time in jail and he's going to be retried on the murder.

If only Jordan Davis had been in that car, right now Dunn would be not convicted of anything and awaiting retrial, which could easily go the same way (and still might), in which case he'd walk away.

Seriously, I'm glad he got convicted and will serve a long prison sentence, but, "Hey, if a white guy guns down a black guy in cold blood, he may actually get convicted of . . . well, OK, not murder but something -- and maybe, eventually, he'll even get convicted for the heinous-ass thing he did" just isn't as comforting a broad cultural message as you might suspect.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:30 AM on February 16 [12 favorites]


This one time, this guy kept repeatedly playing super-loud music (rap, even!) right outside my house despite repeated requests that he turn it down and quit waking up my baby. He did it in the afternoon, in the night, and he got really aggressive and shouty and called me names when I asked him to cut it out. So you know what I did?

That's right -- I called code enforcement. Yeah, bitches, I called code enforcement and they gave that jerk a TICKET.

And then he stopped because he had been informed that the volume of music was violating community norms and he did not like his music enough to pay escalating fines for the privilege of deafening himself with it in violation of those community norms.

Because that's just how we roll up here when we can't settle interpersonal disputes by asking nicely: by turning to the appropriate enforcers of community standards and requesting they come arbitrate our disputes and assign responsibility. You BETTER be scared, because a 20-year-old white-painted domestic car with a City logo on it is rolling down the street and IT IS A MILD-MANNERED MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN WITH A CLIPBOARD THAT SAYS "CODE ENFORCEMENT." Oh, yeah, jackass, she's going to SPEAK POLITELY TO YOU and GIVE YOU A PAPER TELLING YOU TO QUIT THAT AND PAY A FINE. Shit's gonna get REAL.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:30 AM on February 16 [143 favorites]


If only Jordan Davis had been in that car, right now Dunn would be not convicted of anything and awaiting retrial, which could easily go the same way (and still might), in which case he'd walk away.

This doesn't even parse but whatever. I'll take another stab at it.

If you're a juror holding out because you think Dunn is being treated too harshly, that boat has sailed and you shoved it off. You are not sparing Dunn anything by creating a hung-jury circus on the last charge. He is still going to probably die in jail because of other verdicts you just affirmed so he is unlikely to be soothed by your concern for his feelings on the final charge.

On the other hand, if you're holding out because you want to make an example of Dunn and you think your co-jurors are not thinking clearly enough, hanging the jury makes perfect sense because you've already assured the world he won't pull a Zimmerman, and it sets up a clean second shot for the prosecution instead of a lot of grumbling about how those idiot jurors only turned in a conviction for second when he clearly left the argument, retrieved the one-function Person Killing Machine, and deliberately returned.

The other verdicts are a very large part of how this case played out. If the hung dispute was between murder 1 and murder 2 it would have probably been resolved in the absence of other charges. But the risk that there would be no retrial or that the new trial would fall the same way is gone when you've sent him up the river so hard already.

I think a lot of people would prefer to believe an outrage occurred than to understand that this result was probably from someone on the jury expressing the very same sense of outrage. It really makes no sense to hang on acquittal versus m2 when you've already sent the dude up for practical-purposes life, but it makes every sense if you share the outrage that Dunn isn't getting the max and the only way to make your point is to refuse to affirm anything less.
posted by localroger at 8:40 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Dunn retreated from the argument,

That's not what he testified to, and the legal question is whether the state could disprove his claim beyond a reasonable doubt. It's that burden - which is the same in 49 states (not Ohio) - that makes these cases difficult to win.
posted by jpe at 8:42 AM on February 16


[Couple of comments deleted; let's not get into "here's something shitty I imagine someone else might say".]
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:46 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


...hanging the jury makes perfect sense because you've already assured the world he won't pull a Zimmerman, and it sets up a clean second shot for the prosecution instead of a lot of grumbling about how those idiot jurors only turned in a conviction for second...

To put it another way, you've already sent him away for life. A hung jury makes him endure another trial with zero chance of getting out of jail and the only question being will he have more time put in his sentence. It's almost like torturing him in a sense.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:49 AM on February 16


In most jurisdictions I'm familiar with, courtrooms are open. Any member of the public can walk in, sit down, and observe what's happening throughout the day. If you find it interesting to talk about trials on the Internet but you've never spent any time in court, you should do this.

Before a jury begins to deliberate at the "end" of a trial, the judge gives them instruction on the law. (I don't know if this is true in FL. I'm speaking generally.) The courtroom doors are sealed so nobody can enter or leave, so there will be no distraction during this part. That's because it is a fucking nightmare. In a reasonably complex murder trial, jury instruction can take an hour or two. That's ninety minutes (let's just round-off) of sitting and listening to a judge—who may or may not be a skilled recitalist—recite the most boring legalese you can imagine. It is routine for the judge to warn observers they may want to leave the courtroom before jury instructions begin. It is routine for court officers to fall asleep during jury instructions. Jury instructions are boring as fuck. (Yes, that's a technical term.)

This matters. The jury's job during deliberation will be to consider the evidence presented, decide what actually happened, and then apply the law to those facts. That last step is how you get a verdict for murder as opposed to manslaughter, assault, etc. The jurors don't walk into court with an understanding of these distinctions; they need instruction on the law. It's really important. And we give it to them in a fog.

Having said that. Mistrials are an embarrassment, and I tend to be particularly unsympathetic toward hung-jury mistrials. Yes, the evidence was doubtless difficult to decide. Most trials are. Otherwise they would settle. All across the country, juries are making difficult decisions. You can, too.

In my home state, a judge is permitted to compel a deadlocked jury to continue deliberating exactly once. That's the rule, anyway. In reality it's not uncommon for juries to report being "deadlocked" after an hour or so, and the judge will gently remind them of their responsibility and turn them around. That doesn't really count. It's jitters, acclimating, whatever. But if a jury has sincerely deliberated and tells the judge unequivocally, "we cannot reach a verdict," he is permitted to send them back once. Here is what they are told; and here's the excerpt I always reference:
You should consider that it is desirable that the case be decided. You should consider that you have been selected in the same manner, and from the same source, as any future jury would be. There is no reason to suppose that the case will ever be submitted to [six/twelve] persons who are more intelligent, more impartial, or more competent to decide it than you are, or that more or clearer evidence will be produced on one side or the other.
Those three sentences are what's important. If it were up to me, that's all the instruction would be. Like most jury instructions, I think we bury the salient point beneath drivel like, "In most cases—and perhaps, strictly speaking, in all cases..." When you've been sitting for days listening to testimony, and then for hours that feel like days listening to jury instructions, economy counts.

That's my half-sarcastic Sunday morning quarterbacking of jury instructions. Dear Governor's Council, please do not hold this comment against me if someday I am nominated for a judgeship. Yes, I will obey the rules and read jury instructions as they are written by minds smarter than mine. But I nevertheless have opinions on how we should improve those instructions in ways that can help to avoid mistrials. Mistrials suck.
posted by cribcage at 8:51 AM on February 16 [16 favorites]


I'm just thinking here and can't at all understand - is it guns? gun culture? some sort of masculinity thing? what? - how so often in the US "self defense" seems to mean "escalate the situation", that the proper response to feeling threatened is to become the aggressor. The guy thought he saw a gun, then went back to his car and - he did not drive off, but rather got a gun and started shooting. I guess I'm just an emasculated wuss or something, thinking that running away is a pretty good self-defense tactic...
posted by Pyrogenesis at 8:53 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


The world is full of many things, including people who don't think like me, but I don't understand how you could vote guilty for the attempted murder charges, while also thinking that Dunn was justified in shooting Davis. How could he have justifiably killed Davis, but displayed a depraved indifference to life with regard to the other passengers? I'm imagining a counterfactual in which Davis actually had drawn a gun on Dunn - how would it be attempted murder to fire into the car? It's not as if the other passengers were shouting "no!", hostages, small children, etc.

It's speculation on top of speculation, of course, but that's why I think the jury hanging was about murder one vs. murder two vs. manslaughter, as opposed to justified vs. unjustified homicide. I just don't see the internal consistency for the person who thought the killing was justified, but who also thought that attempted murder for the other passengers had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Then again, I've been wrong a million times before, and I'll be wrong a million times again.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:57 AM on February 16


Really, I think it's getting to the point where a white person could murder a black person onstage during the Superbowl halftime show and be acquitted.

I was going to comment on how as long as you didn't expose a woman's nipple during the murder, it would be fine. But then I seem to remember it was Janet Jackson that got more shit for the wardrobe malfunction than Justin Timberlake did.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:59 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


That is assuming another trial happens. On the one hand, yes, he should be specifically punished for his specific crime--but then again, they got Al Capone on tax evasion and I don't think anyone seriously doubts justice was done in that case, even if the exact charges weren't the optimal solution.

So, don't get me wrong here, the fact that anyone in that jury room wasn't in favour of 1st degree murder is horrifying and points out some awful systemic problems that need to be addressed yesterday. But at the end of the day, this guy is not going to breathe free air ever again, so justice in a larger sense has been served, and given that he's going to be in jail forever already, prosecutors with limited budgets might reasonably think that taking him to trial again to lock him up for more forever might not be the best use of tax dollars on a strictly rational basis.

That being said, I think there's a large benefit to society in retrying him on that charge, for the sake of completeness and, frankly, for the optics. No matter how you say it initially, "we are not retrying this white man for murdering a black teenager" is how it's going to come across and that is bad, bad, bad for society.

I also find localroger's argument compelling here. I think if I were on this jury and others were voting for the lesser charge, I'd dig my heels in too and force a retrial, hoping there were more sane people on the second jury. There's literally nothing to lose because he's already in jail, and there's an important social and moral victory that could be won on the second try.

how so often in the US "self defense" seems to mean "escalate the situation"

"The best defence is a good offence" is the basic thinking behind it, is my guess.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:59 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


John Phillips, the attorney for Jordan Davis' family, released video from an interview with a neighbor of Michael Dunn: Interview With Michael Dunn's Neighbor: 'He Always Wanted To Shoot Somebody'
posted by madamjujujive at 9:10 AM on February 16 [8 favorites]


Because that's just how we roll up here when we can't settle interpersonal disputes by asking nicely: by turning to the appropriate enforcers of community standards and requesting they come arbitrate our disputes and assign responsibility.

This, right here, is literally the definition of civilized society. And private gun ownership has no place in a civilized society, except perhaps when extremely tightly regulated for sport. Now, I think it is fair to argue whether owning a gun is ok because where you live may or may not be "civilized" but, in terms of having more safety and more personal freedom, I'll take civilization any day. The reason I don't a gun and the reason I don't live in a place like Florida are one and the same.
posted by Random Person at 9:10 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


This is gross. In the etymological sense. In the horrible sense.

I am so sorry, Jordan Davis and family. I am so sorry.
posted by simulacra at 9:15 AM on February 16


.
posted by Renoroc at 9:53 AM on February 16


The thing that puzzles me the most is why Dunn would confront them in the first place. Teenagers playing loud music at gas stations is an annoying but time-honored tradition. Dunn was only going to be at the gas station long enough to fill up and buy a pack of ho-ho's. So why worry about it when you're going to leave them far behind in 5 minutes and be back at your quiet hotel? It's just weird.
posted by honestcoyote at 10:03 AM on February 16 [17 favorites]


The thing that puzzles me the most is why Dunn would confront them in the first place.

Booze? I think he'd been drinking.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:08 AM on February 16


When you've got a hammer that can shoot people, everything that you want to be a target looks like a nail.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:09 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


It's just weird.

When you feel like people should listen to what you say, and they don't, then that is a bridge too far for some. Especially when those not-listening-to-you people are black teenagers and you are a particular kind of white man. Put a gun (and some alcohol?) into the mix and you've got a recipe for somebody ending up dead.
posted by rtha at 10:13 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


So why worry about it when you're going to leave them far behind in 5 minutes and be back at your quiet hotel?

Watch they interview with Dunn's neighbors in this comment from above and it'll make sense. They say he was a control freak who bragged he was smarter than everyone else and talked about how he dared anyone to defy him when he had a gun.

They expressed little surprise that it was him that did the shooting.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:14 AM on February 16 [11 favorites]


On the plus side, he's 47 and what they _did_ convict him on adds up to a 60-year jail sentence, possibly plus another 15.

What's the over/under on this inspiring an outcry from Faux News and its ilk regarding the outrageous injustice of the same mandatory sentencing laws they've been thrilled to see applied to poor, non-white people for a generation?
posted by scody at 10:16 AM on February 16 [8 favorites]


madamjujujive: "John Phillips, the attorney for Jordan Davis' family, released video from an interview with a neighbor of Michael Dunn"

That neighbor is pretty sharp. Not many people have that much insight about another person's character up close, though I think we all believe otherwise- that most of us think know more about other people than we really do. Michael Dunn sounds like a person with a mess of cluster-B personalty disorder symptoms, especially antisocial and narcissistic, and the way the neighbor handled him was most likely the best option for keeping himself and his own family safe.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:19 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure not going to jail for a crime you committed is exactly the opposite of justice.

Maybe not the exact opposite. I thought it was a basic premise of the US justice system that letting a guilty party go free is far preferable to putting an innocent party in jail. That's a premise that mostly has to do with reasonable doubt, though, and the facts in this case don't seem to be in dispute.
posted by Flexagon at 10:30 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


What's the over/under on this inspiring an outcry from Faux News and its ilk regarding the outrageous injustice of the same mandatory sentencing laws they've been thrilled to see applied to poor, non-white people for a generation?

That's what stand your ground was supposed to "fix".
posted by Talez at 10:43 AM on February 16


I just hope he dies in jail. Peacefully in his sleep. In about 25 years. After crying himself to sleep every night until then at the unfairness of it all.

It ain't justice but it will do.
.

for Jordan Davis.
posted by spitbull at 10:46 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


The sooner these odious stand your ground laws are repealed the better. They give a license to assholes to kill kids of color for being kids. Dunn sounds like a really scary, sick man - not the sort of guy we want carrying a gun and yet here we are - another black kid shot down for being an obnoxious teenager. Well gee - that's pretty much the definition of being a teen and it shouldn't cost someone their life!
posted by leslies at 11:05 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


...hanging the jury makes perfect sense because you've already assured the world he won't pull a Zimmerman, and it sets up a clean second shot for the prosecution instead of a lot of grumbling about how those idiot jurors only turned in a conviction for second...

You should not assume that the jurors knew the penalties for the crimes. I do not believe that is part of jury instructions. For all we know, some jurors may have reasoned that life in prison was too much and that a couple of years for the lesser crimes allowing for redemption was sufficient.
posted by JackFlash at 11:26 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Trayvon, Davis. The list will continue. You could bet on it.

There seem to be less comment this time.
posted by sieve a bull at 11:30 AM on February 16


i... that neighbor video, holy shit. i mean it's just one man's account but the details of this killer's life is, if you don't think it's crass or if you're into that kinda thing, a scathing indictment of dunn's lack of character.

married immigrant wives and threatened to deport them and take away their kids, bullying an effeminate child he was father of (not sure if biological, doesn't matter), domestic violence which the neighbor saw the results of and served as a small barrier-- wives and kid would come over to his house for temporary refuge. allegedly he would put a gun to their heads, threaten to blow their brains out. neighbor went to their house, took and kept dunn's gun in his house for a little while on behalf of the wife, but wife asked for it back b/c she was terrified what would happen when he found out gun was gone. a wife forced to participate in a sex club bc of deportation threats.

dunn asked neighbor for reference to a hitman bc dunn was in a lawsuit. neighbor reported the solicitation to the police, and no one there seemed interested in pursuing it.

he committed insurance fraud to get 30k for an injury. he worked for a psychic network to track people who were susceptible to that type of woo scamminess. he would steal computer rebates from work and turn them in for himself using names of family members, sometimes 40-50 rebates at a time at $50 a pop.

this is a 35min video, and that's in the first 10 minutes. the neighbor knows all this stuff bc dunn was bragging about how he was so much smarter than anyone else.

i want this guy as everyone's neighbor. he also mentions that dunn kinda thought he was cool bc he found out that neighbor had gotten into scrapes in bars and come out on top. in contrast to dunn, this guy who has experience with violence and is capable of it, he speaks at length about how fucked up dunn's mentality was in looking forward to the fight.

he also shows disbelief that dunn went to eat pizza after the shooting. "i run over a squirrel on the road and feel sorry for days."
posted by twist my arm at 11:49 AM on February 16 [19 favorites]


Had Dunn walked, there might be more comment. TNC sort of said it all anyway. Sometimes silence is deafening.

There are a lot of guys like Dunn out there, alienated violent guys for whom the gun is a security blanket and a replacement for a sense of manhood they may never have truly known. The trick is going to be to stop producing more of these guys in future generations, but it's going to be a bumpy ride as the Real America=White America holdouts feel more and more cornered.

That neighbor video makes it clear this cat is a pure and simple sociopath, and as much as Zimmerman fit that bill, Dunn makes him look like an amateur.
posted by spitbull at 11:54 AM on February 16 [9 favorites]


Michael Dunn Trial: White Fear Matters More Than Black Lives
If Dunn had killed Davis and his friends—or if he had killed Davis without shooting afterwards—then, by to the logic of the jury, he would have escaped punishment altogether. Which provides a guide, of sorts, for future killers, racist or otherwise. Claim fear, kill your target, and either do so away from people, or be sure to kill any witnesses. As long as you can portray the witnesses as also threatening, it seems like you could avoid jail time.

Which, you know, is insane, both in what it says about Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law—your best bet for getting away with murder is to shoot first and kill everyone—and what it says about the value of black lives vis-à-vis the state's legal system. According to the criminal justice system of Florida, you are right to fear African-American men, and if you decide to act on that fear with violence, then you stand a good chance of avoiding conviction, on account of a jury that—more likely than not—will sympathize with your fear.

The facts back this up. In states with “Stand Your Ground,” homicides with a white perpetrator and a black victim are most likely to be ruled "justifiable." By contrast, it is least likely—by a factor of ten—for black on white homicides to receive the same designation.

In fairness to Florida, it's not as if this—white fear as an adjudicating factor for black life—is a new thing. It's the force behind the lynching epidemic of the early 20th century, the racial terrorism of the 1920s, and the economic assaults—riots and redlining—of the post-war period. And for all of the real problems of the current moment, there was a belief that we had put that behind us. Which is one reason why this case is so jarring. No, “Stand Your Ground” isn't as egregious as the worst of Jim Crow, but there's no denying that it harkens to a time when you could shoot first and never ask questions, as long as the victim was a black person.

I think I speak for many black people when I say that's terrifying.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:17 PM on February 16 [8 favorites]


by to the logic of the jury, he would have escaped punishment altogether

Except not. The jury couldn't reach a verdict, so he'll be tried again. That isn't the same as escaping punishment altogether, and nobody is helped by articles missing that most salient point.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:22 PM on February 16 [5 favorites]


Michael Dunn has not gotten away with anything. Please stop saying stupid shit like this, stupid media people. He is going to be retried and the prosecutor has already said she will ask for Murder One again. Failing to get a conviction is not in any sense a victory. Getting acquitted is a victory. A mistrial is a non-result. There will be another trial, one where the distinction between murder 1 and 2 will probably be the main point of contention, unlike this one where the other charges were also in the air.

The defense may have created enough reasonable doubt that at least one juror didn't think murder one was justified, but we do not know that any jurors thought acquittal was reasonable. We probably will know soon as the jurors find out about the shitstorm in the media and those who wanted to fry Dunn tell their stories. All we know is that the jurors could not agree on a charge, and that could be (I tend to think much more likely) because of a difference of opininion on whether 1 or 2 is appropriate than guilt or innocence, since after all all 12 of these people voted to convict on the other charges.

There is certainly a problem with the lives of black men not being valued as much and their actions being put under more scrutiny as those of whites. The Martin / Zimmerman verdict was a dismal example of that. This trial, however, is not an example of that. Save your outrage for after the jurors tell their stories and after the new trial on the hung charge. Maybe it will be justified then, but it isn't now.
posted by localroger at 12:25 PM on February 16 [12 favorites]


I think I speak for many black people when I say that's terrifying.

Not when you look at the facts, as has been repeatedly pointed out in this thread. Dunn is going to tried again, with zero hope of going free. It's just a matter of whether he'll die in a prison cell or in the prison infirmary.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:26 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Not when you look at the facts, as has been repeatedly pointed out in this thread.

The author is not calling the Dunn case terrifying in and of itself. What he argues is terrifying is the wider context of what has happened in the wake of Stand Your Ground laws, in which "homicides with a white perpetrator and a black victim are most likely to be ruled 'justifiable.' By contrast, it is least likely—by a factor of ten—for black on white homicides to receive the same designation."
posted by scody at 12:40 PM on February 16 [10 favorites]


Michael Dunn has not gotten away with anything. Please stop saying stupid shit like this, stupid media people. He is going to be retried and the prosecutor has already said she will ask for Murder One again. Failing to get a conviction is not in any sense a victory. Getting acquitted is a victory. A mistrial is a non-result. There will be another trial, one where the distinction between murder 1 and 2 will probably be the main point of contention, unlike this one where the other charges were also in the air.

That's probably accurate (although we don't know for certain if he'll be retried). The thing is, the wider conversation and the wider impact are not about only this case, and it's hard for some of us to react to this solely as an individual instance rather than as one point on a very long line.

It's about people's desire that once, just once, a case that should be open-and-shut -- and indeed would be open-and-shut if this were a 47 year old black man accused of murdering a white teenager -- would actually open and then, you know, shut. It's about everything on the list of 21 Things You Can't Do While Black at the top of this thread. It's about millions of parents who had to get up this morning and tell their kids, again, "No, I'm sorry, the jury did not say 'You murdered that boy and it was wrong," and then explain to their kids, again, why they mustn't play loud music or talk back to angry white people, why they must be ultra-super-careful all the time.

Yes, a mistrial is a "non-result," and I'm sure the jury did its best to arrive at a result and we all understand that, but it doesn't change the fact that people are fucking sick of non-results, and SYG laws only make additional non-results more likely.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:57 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Just because this is another example of deeply-ingrained racism doesn't mean that it's not important to get the facts right.

Dude will be--or at least can be--retried. Either way he's not getting out of jail except in a box. Saying he 'got away with' murder muddies the waters, at best, in a topic where clarity is really, really important.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:02 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Why was he charged with first-degree murder in the first place?

Angela Corey. Same awful state attorney involved in the Martin case. She makes a career out of overcharging and railroading people into prison. Usually they're young black men and nobody pays any attention.

That this guy deserved it is more of an accident than any actual integrity on her part.

I don't get the people yelling about how this verdict is an injustice. He was convicted on almost all the charges. He will be retried on the charge where the jury hung. This is almost as good a result as could be hoped for from a prosecution standpoint. I think people are simply hugely ignorant about how trials work.
posted by Justinian at 1:48 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


although we don't know for certain if he'll be retried

Yes we do. The prosecutor has already said he will be retried and the charge will again be Murder One. There is zero reason to believe she is lying.

Why was he charged with first-degree murder in the first place?

Because if Dunn backed up from the point of the altercation -- and pretty much everyone agrees he "went back to the car" to get the gun -- and you get a lethal weapon and return to the point from which you have retreated, that is pretty much the textbook definition of "premeditation" in the way it's used for Murder One. It was the correct charge. It is up to the state to prove that he did it, but unlike in the Martin case the jury had the option of coming back with a lesser charge this time. Someone on the jury was not willing to do that. Had the other charges not been in place to ensure that Dunn would stay in jail, that holdout might have gone for a lesser charge to get it over with.

I think we will know a lot more about the jury in a few days. It seems likely at least one or two of them will want to clarify that they are not the monsters so many people are painting them up to be.
posted by localroger at 1:52 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I think maybe we should, collectively, ease up on the "Why are you upset about this verdict jeez" stuff in this thread.

Personally, I'm upset because this situation having ended with a mistrial instead of a murder conviction is evidence of some pretty shitty circumstances, including racism in both the cause and the perception of this crime and the terrible "Stand Your Ground" laws in Florida. I think it's reasonable to assume, based on other cases that have been tried in that state, that if the races of the people involved been reversed then the jury would have delivered a guilty verdict on Davis' murder. So that's why I, personally, was very sad to see this news.

Other people have their own reasons, and some of them have explained those reasons in this thread.

This is a charged topic that involves the death of a teenager.

Maybe just....let people be upset. And don't assume that their sadness comes from ignorance.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:59 PM on February 16 [21 favorites]


It's just a matter of whether he'll die in a prison cell or in the prison infirmary.

I'm wondering why the NYT article said Dunn "could be" sentenced to 60 years in prison on the attempted murder convictions. Does the judge here have any flexibility to offer parole as a possibility on those, or to shorten the 20 years for each conviction?
posted by mediareport at 2:00 PM on February 16


I'm wondering why the NYT article said Dunn "could be" sentenced to 60 years in prison on the attempted murder convictions. Does the judge here have any flexibility to offer parole as a possibility on those, or to shorten the 20 years for each conviction?

20 years mandatory minimum per charge and Florida abolished parole in 1983.
posted by Talez at 2:08 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


You can believe a case can be made that a crime meets the technical definition of a murder 1 requirement and simultaneously believe that a guilty verdict was much more likely to be returned if murder 2 had been charged.

That it was a lesser included offense doesn't completely address the issue. The prosecution spent a lot of time trying to prove the elements of murder 1 that could have been used instead to shore up the murder 2 case, Same as in the Martin case. So charging murder 2 was more likely to result in a straight Guilty verdict.
posted by Justinian at 2:11 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


You can believe a case can be made that a crime meets the technical definition of a murder 1 requirement and simultaneously believe that a guilty verdict was much more likely to be returned if murder 2 had been charged.

Possible, sure, but in cases with this fact pattern, the difference does seem to be the race of the murderer and the race of the decedent.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:15 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure the answer to the serious problem of prosecutors regularly overcharging young black men (which Corey in Florida is known for) is to similarly overcharge middle aged white ones. We should stop overcharging everyone.
posted by Justinian at 2:20 PM on February 16


Florida abolished parole in 1983

Wow, I had no idea. Horrifying.
posted by mediareport at 2:24 PM on February 16 [6 favorites]


I'm wondering why the NYT article said Dunn "could be" sentenced to 60 years in prison on the attempted murder convictions.

He could sentence Dunn to serve concurrent instead of consecutive terms (I think you can do this in FL), which means he could be out in 20.
posted by kjs3 at 2:26 PM on February 16


We should stop overcharging everyone.

But was this an "overcharge" (in that sense)? I don't really agree with that -- perhaps it was a strategic mistake, but M1 was certainly justified. And he isn't getting off scott-free, there will be another trial.
posted by smidgen at 2:29 PM on February 16


That's a defensible opinion, yes, though I would still argue for murder 2. Certainly this is a much more ambiguous case in terms of the appropriate charge than the Martin case where murder 1 was absurd and unquestionably a misstep.
posted by Justinian at 2:32 PM on February 16


Uh... They charged Zimmerman with Murder 2.
posted by smidgen at 2:37 PM on February 16


smidgen, I think you mean George Zimmerman.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:37 PM on February 16


Crap, sorry I was thinking about the "Martin case", not Zimmerman the defendant... sigh. Fixed in post.
posted by smidgen at 2:38 PM on February 16


The Zimmerman case had no real witnesses and no evidence, thanks to the cops' cozy relationship with Z and their failure to do an investigation in the immediate aftermath. The Dunn case was a whole other ball of wax.
posted by localroger at 2:40 PM on February 16


Er, yes, sorry I meant murder 2 and manslaughter in the Martin case.
posted by Justinian at 2:40 PM on February 16


Justinian, in fairness to Corey, and I share your opinion of her character in general, the prosecution initially charged Dunn with second-degree murder, and the grand jury indicted for first-degree (very unlike the Zimmerman case). I can't really morally fault her for trying a first-degree case, even if it might have been strategically questionable because proving premeditation is hard.
posted by dsfan at 2:41 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Huh. Wow, dsfan, I guess even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while (with regard to Corey charging lower than the grand jury in this case). Shocking!
posted by Justinian at 2:43 PM on February 16


There may be a retrial. There is no guarantee. What you have is a statement of one attorney's present intent to retry the charge. Any number of things could happen to derail that plan. This is just one reason why it would be irresponsible, as someone suggested earlier, for jurors to intentionally deadlock counting on a second jury to get it right.

He could sentence Dunn to serve concurrent instead of consecutive terms

Depending on Florida law, I would imagine this is exactly what a defense attorney will advocate. The convictions are various but arose from one "crime." That is, it may be argued, why concurrent sentencing exists.
posted by cribcage at 2:46 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Justinian, you seem amazingly invested in the idea that a man who went to his car, loaded his gun, and then blew away a child he didn't know and who had done nothing to him, is a poor widdle victim of overcharging.
posted by tavella at 2:52 PM on February 16


tavella, Jordan Davis did not have a gun. No matter what he said to Dunn, he did not deserve to be shot to death.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:55 PM on February 16


tavella: Yeah, that's exactly what's happening. I refer you to the long Martin case thread where people made exactly the same claim (except angrier) during the trial and events ended up proving me right basically across the board on every point I made.

For whatever reason some people can't seem to make the distinction between "this is how I think things should work" and "this is how I think things do work."
posted by Justinian at 2:56 PM on February 16


tavella, if anything justinian is arguing that Dunn is a beneficiary of overcharging, because instead of getting a conviction he got a hung jury on that count, when a lesser charge might have resulted in a more reliable conviction.
posted by localroger at 2:56 PM on February 16


roomthreeseventeen: Huh? Where did you get the idea that I thought that? Re-read what I said; Dunn prepared to and then killed a child who had done nothing to him, and Justinian thinks the problem here is that Dunn is the victim of a mean prosecutor for being charged with the obvious charge of Murder One.
posted by tavella at 2:57 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I misunderstood.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:59 PM on February 16


Nice try, Justinian. I quote you:

I'm not sure the answer to the serious problem of prosecutors regularly overcharging young black men (which Corey in Florida is known for) is to similarly overcharge middle aged white ones. We should stop overcharging everyone.

You aren't claiming "this is how it works", you are flat out saying that Dunn was overcharged.
posted by tavella at 3:02 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


[Let's dial back the rhetoric and restatement of other people's positions in more extreme terms, please.]
posted by restless_nomad at 3:04 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


In the words of the perp: “This jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs,” he wrote. “This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these … idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior…. The more time I am exposed to these people, the more prejudiced against them I become.”
- csmonitor.com

I'm sure his lawyer loved that.
posted by sieve a bull at 3:06 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Because if Dunn backed up from the point of the altercation -- and pretty much everyone agrees he "went back to the car" to get the gun

Is this accurate? I'm listening to the trial--have only heard his fiancee's testimony so far--but I thought he just reached over and took his gun out of the glove compartment.

His fiancee testified that she didn't think he could have gotten out of the car, as it was parked too close to the SUV.

I"ll keep listening. To me it doesn't make a difference in terms of his guilt; I'm just trying to understand what the jury may have been thinking about in terms of self-defense. I have NO idea how Dunn's shooting at a fleeing vehicle would fit into that.

Will be very interested to hear from the jurors whether your theory is correct, localroger, about why the jury was hung. If it is, that would be encouraging.

The interview in the OP with Jordan Davis's mother is heartbreaking.
posted by torticat at 3:18 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


You aren't claiming "this is how it works", you are flat out saying that Dunn was overcharged.

Sure, and I think he was overcharged. If that makes you upset, oh well.
posted by Justinian at 3:18 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I thought he just reached over and took his gun out of the glove compartment.

That's what I thought it was, too. If he had to leave the altercation to get the gun and then come back, then murder one wasn't an overreach.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:28 PM on February 16


Small point of clarification, Dunn never left his car except to open the door and swivel and/or step out to fire the additional rounds as the SUV pulled away to escape the first volley Dunn fired sitting in his car. The vehicles were parked side by side. Dunn pulled in and parked on the passenger side of the SUV. Jordan Davis was in the back seat behind the front passenger.

Somewhere (I don't have a cite) it has been suggested that there may be a plea negotiated in order to avoid another trial.
posted by maggieb at 3:31 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


His fiancee testified that she didn't think he could have gotten out of the car, as it was parked too close to the SUV.

Dunn never left his car except to open the door and swivel and/or step out to fire the additional rounds as the SUV pulled away to escape the first volley Dunn fired sitting in his car.

Except that this doesn't fit ANYTHING. It doesn't fit how gas stations are laid out, and it doesn't fit how Dunn is described by his neighbor.

Think about it. Gas station architects know you might have two pickup trucks side by side, you need room for someone pumping gas between the pump and each vehicle, and each vehicle needs to be able to open a door facing the center gap between the vehicles. When was the last time you saw a gas station where there wasn't at least 10 feet between the vehicles in that situation?

And sitting in his car doesn't fit what the neighbor says about Dunn, who would want to draw himself up to height and use his physical presence to menace you. No way someone like that negotiates from the seat of a car with someone in a SUV. He would have gotten out so as to be taller than the other person.

Also, he claims to have thought he saw a shotgun. How does he see a shotgun in a SUV from the driver's seat of his car? That makes no sense. No, he got out of the car and made his will known to the folks on the passenger side of the SUV, and when they dissed him he ducked back into the car to get his can of Instant Penis instead of moving to another pump. There's your basis for first degree, although you do have to prove it.

The whole thing makes no sense at all with Dunn in the car until he starts blasting. If there is a retrial (I can see Corey accepting a plea to murder 2 under the circumstances, but nothing less) then those details will be front and center. In this trial they were kind of incidental to the more basic question of whether he killed anyone at all and whether shooting at the fleeing vehicle was a crime.

It probably never occurred to anyone that the jury would hang with such a range of charges available. Now that they know it's a problem there are several ways for them to fix it in Trial 2.0.
posted by localroger at 3:46 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Also, on the topic of a plea -- however much sense it might make for all concerned, a plea agreement is only possible if Dunn accepts the offer. His lawyer can't make him and considering how butthurt he seems over how badly he's been misunderstood, I can't see him admitting to murder without a further fight. He probably thinks the hung jury on the murder count is the only thing that went right for him.
posted by localroger at 3:50 PM on February 16


In this trial they were kind of incidental to the more basic question of whether he killed anyone at all

How is that? This was a self-defense case not a "I didn't do it" case.
posted by Justinian at 3:52 PM on February 16


Gas station architects know you might have two pickup trucks side by side, you need room for someone pumping gas between the pump and each vehicle,

No, they didn't pull up to the pumps. The two cars were parked side-by-side in regular parking spaces just in front of the convenience store, in the positions maggieb described. At least that's what the fiancee testified, and I assume it's backed up by the surveillance video.

She said the cars were close enough that she didn't think Dunn would have been able to open his door. I don't know where all the stuff about his returning to the car to get his gun comes from. I don't think he left it.
posted by torticat at 3:57 PM on February 16


Right, he pulled the gun out of his glove compartment and opened fire. That's the crux of the charging issue.
posted by Justinian at 4:05 PM on February 16


To put it another way, if this is a first degree murder case how is any murder not a first degree murder case? Unless you think he pulled in next to the car already intending to kill someone.
posted by Justinian at 4:09 PM on February 16


Doesn't opening the glove compartment to get the gun satisfy premeditation? There's a pretty clear decision->action step there. Whether he leaned over or took 10 steps, he still had an intermediate step of obtaining the weapon.
posted by fatbird at 4:14 PM on February 16


Point taken if they were in the regular parking spaces instead of at the pumps, but the rest of it still doesn't make any sense and isn't consistent with how a person like Dunn operates. I don't see him rolling down the window and requesting a volume reduction from his own driver's seat if he had the option of standing up. And even if he did, he gets dissed, so he turns around and goes for the glove box at which point the SUV occupants have probably forgotten about him. But instead of dropping it or going about his business he brandishes Mr. Instant Penis, the kids go holy shit this guy's nuts and Dunn thinks he sees something longer and pointier than his long and pointy thing and blam.

I still think the point where he turns away to get his gun provides for premeditation. Nobody has suggested that the kids were piling out of the SUV or otherwise offering any kind of threat except for musical assault until Dunn "saw the shotgun" that didn't exist.
posted by localroger at 4:17 PM on February 16


You'd be arguing that any murder not committed with your bare hands is first degree then. If you already have a weapon in hand you obviously planned ahead, and if you picked up a nearby weapon you formed pre-meditation when you picked it up. And so on.
posted by Justinian at 4:17 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


You'd be arguing that any murder not committed with your bare hands is first degree then.

Not at all. I think the central question would be whether Dunn felt this dreadful sense of threat before he reached for Mr. Instant Penis or after when the kids had a chance to see it and react.

I suspect the prosecution didn't spend a lot of time exploring this sequence of events because they had thought to provide for the lesser charges and figured they'd get Second or at least Manslaughter if the pickier charges didn't stick. What they didn't figure on was deadlocking over the degree itself. I would expect Trial 2.0 to really pick apart this story about how it went down second by second in ways that weren't pursued in Trial 1.0.
posted by localroger at 4:21 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Me too. Which is why I think they would have been better off just picking 2nd degree or whatever in the first trial and hammering it home instead of this dumb scattershot approach where you throw it all up on the wall and see which sticks.
posted by Justinian at 4:23 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


A couple thoughts:

1. Is Florida law unusual in it's distinctions between 1st and 2nd degree murder? Not all states define them the same way. By most states' definitions, what Dunn did wasn't 1st degree, but clearly 2nd degree.

2. Why is the media not correcting people to act as if a mistrial is an acquittal? It isn't. Mistrials aren't uncommon in high stakes cases. Retrying in a mistrial isn't double jeopardy.

3. To all the people talking about gun culture and carry permits and how horrible they are: the percentage of people who have carry permits who get charged or convicted of any gun crime is much lower than the percentage of the general population that gets charged and convicted of gun crimes.

Michael Dunn is an exception. There's clear racial profiling if not outright racism in the way he killed, as well as a total lack of judgement and impulse control.

The overwhelming cases in which a law abiding gun owner uses a gun in self defense are cases where the gun owner displays the weapon and the party they have a conflict with flees.

Cases in which law abiding gun owners with carry permits misuse their guns in an offensive manner are relatively rare.

And for the record, one of those rare cases happened in 2007 when a guy with a carry permit murdered my aunt after mental health officials returned his gun upon discharging him from an inpatient facility that he checked himself into.

Having been through that and looked into it on pretty deep level, I've concluded (as have many law enforcement experts and criminologists) that carry permits neither make us statistically safer nor make us statistically more at risk.

Essentially, I think that if the retrial convicts Dunn, or if they try him and convict him again on murder 2, what we'll have is a situation in which the Florida justice system appropriately punished a man who abused his right to carry. I'll reserve judgement until the next trial is over.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 5:55 PM on February 16


21 Things You Can't Do While Black

"Have a stroke" should also be on that list.

I don't live in the US, but my baby sister is a med student in New York. She's the black Hermione Granger, has a decade's worth of school badges for like, sweetness and helpfulness, and has tried to make me talk to her by appointment for years because whenever she's not at school or work she's out building humanity a habitat or teaching rocket science to refugees. Every time I hear another one of these stories, I just feel like I'm going to die a little sooner.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:57 PM on February 16 [5 favorites]


"Wolfson also pointed out that Dunn left the scene after the shooting and, even after he saw on the news that he had killed someone, did not contact police."

I don't get why he also wasn't charged with leaving the scene / failure to report or whatever - why is that not a crime?
posted by madamjujujive at 6:02 PM on February 16


The other verdicts remove the risk that he will pull a Zimmerman and go home.

George Zimmerman says he is homeless and suffers from PTSD
posted by homunculus at 6:07 PM on February 16


I don't get why he also wasn't charged with leaving the scene / failure to report

I don't know. I can tell you generally, however, that it tends to be a mistake for prosecutors to play that game where they analyze the alleged fact pattern and then charge every crime that fits any of the facts. That's an excellent way to pass the bar exam and an equally excellent way to confuse a jury. Just charge the crime. If the defendant committed murder, don't worry about whether his driver's license was also suspended.

There are exceptions. For instance, there may be some component of the defendant's behavior you want the jury to hear about but that wouldn't be admissible unless you added a particular charge to the indictment. But as a general rule, you don't earn points for playing throw-the-book. KISS.
posted by cribcage at 6:15 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


2. Why is the media not correcting people to act as if a mistrial is an acquittal? It isn't. Mistrials aren't uncommon in high stakes cases. Retrying in a mistrial isn't double jeopardy.

Is "the media" reporting this in any way other than a mistrial?
What media?
Who is acting as if Dunn was acquitted?

3. To all the people talking about gun culture and carry permits and how horrible they are: the percentage of people who have carry permits who get charged or convicted of any gun crime is much lower than the percentage of the general population that gets charged and convicted of gun crimes.

Where's the data on this?
What does "carry permit" mean? Conceal carry permit? Just a handgun license?
Which jurisdiction(s)?
How many people charged with "gun crimes" are using a gun that is not required to have an active "carry permit" but that are legally owned (hunting rifles, shotguns)?
How many of those in the "general population" charged with gun crimes are using weapons that would require a "carry permit"?

The overwhelming cases in which a law abiding gun owner uses a gun in self defense are cases where the gun owner displays the weapon and the party they have a conflict with flees.

How many is "overwhelming"?
How many actual cases of legitimate self-defense with a firearm happen annually?
posted by ndfine at 6:19 PM on February 16


Cribcage has it. Yeah, sometimes you have to charge Al Capone with tax fraud but usually it just muddies the waters and makes convicting the serious stuff less likely. Juries are full of dummies with short attention spans.
posted by Justinian at 6:40 PM on February 16


How many is "overwhelming"?
How many actual cases of legitimate self-defense with a firearm happen annually?


The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) has estimated that there are between 60,000 and 105,000 DGUs per year. Between the years 1992 and 1994, the NCVS reported there were in total 116,000 DGUs.

Summary here.

There's plenty more out there on this if you care to do some deep googling. I did a while back and my previous statements are based on data I found, not conjecture. I invite you to do the same, but I feel no obligation to do it again myself, I know what I saw.

Fundamentally, if you try to work with hard data, you'll find there are some deep flaws with both right wing and left wing gun dogma.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:52 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Who is acting as if Dunn was acquitted?

A lot of people in the social justice twittersphere/blogosphere seem to feel that the lack of a murder 1 conviction at this moment proves that there's a miscarriage of justice.

It's one thing to look at Dunn as an example of white male entitlement gone horribly wrong. I completely agree with that. But the trial isn't over yet, and as such, this is not an example of an unfair justice system yet. There are plenty of other examples to work with to show how unfair our system is, why jump on a weak one prematurely when it isn't necessary to make the broader point?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:56 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


George Zimmerman says he is homeless and suffers from PTSD

I'm sure if he looks around he can find someone to shoot to fix that right up.
posted by localroger at 7:15 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


George Zimmerman says he is homeless and suffers from PTSD

I saw that. The money quote was "I just want my life back."

You. Don't. Fucking. Say.
posted by spitbull at 7:26 PM on February 16 [25 favorites]


It's one thing to look at Dunn as an example of white male entitlement gone horribly wrong. I completely agree with that. But the trial isn't over yet, and as such, this is not an example of an unfair justice system yet. There are plenty of other examples to work with to show how unfair our system is, why jump on a weak one prematurely when it isn't necessary to make the broader point?

Because of the previous 5,000,000,000 examples. It may make no practical difference for there to be an official piece of paper saying "Michael Dunn murdered Jordan Davis," but symbolic value shouldn't be underestimated. My students are mostly just a few years older than Davis, and y'know, someday I'd like them to start feeling a little less as if their lives are cheap.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:30 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


White Men's Freedoms and Black Men's Lives

When George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin, I put up a post reviewing a study on stand your ground laws. The research found that these laws increase the likelihood that a homicide will be considered “justified,” but only in cases where a white person is accused of killing a black person. Here is the data: (contains a striking graph)

(And yes this isn't strictly a SYG case but the point has been made upthread well enough that these are parts of a whole.
posted by Rumple at 7:58 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


George Zimmerman says he is homeless and suffers from PTSD

Meanwhile, Trayvon Martin is still dead.
posted by winna at 8:00 PM on February 16 [5 favorites]


To all the people talking about gun culture and carry permits and how horrible they are: the percentage of people who have carry permits who get charged or convicted of any gun crime is much lower than the percentage of the general population that gets charged and convicted of gun crimes.

No one here was talking about carry permits AFAIK. And anyway, it's not about the crime rates for CCL holders, it's about accidents, the sense of intimidation that goes along with carry (both open and concealed), and as you point out the lack of evidence that CCL is a direct contributor to reducing crime. In any event, the whole CCL/OCL debate is a fairly large derail for this thread, since the gun wasn't on him initially.

There's plenty more out there on this if you care to do some deep googling. I did a while back and my previous statements are based on data I found, not conjecture. I invite you to do the same, but I feel no obligation to do it again myself, I know what I saw.

The CDC report on DGU you cite doesn't really tell us much about it, actually. The link you provided says as much when it states "the CDC report said very little about DGU, and made no useful recommendations for the further study of DGU in America," for starters. Plus, the NCVS is a self-reported survey, rather than a statistical study, and it has a lot of other stuff to say:
[The report] cited four studies, three involving criminal justice professor Gary Kleck of Florida State University, who was on the committee.

But it also pointed out that effectiveness of such tactics likely varies depending on the type of victim, offender and circumstance. "So further research is needed, both to explore these contingencies and to confirm or discount earlier findings," the report said.

It also pointed out that "even when defensive use of guns is effective in averting death or injury for the gun user in cases of crime, it is still possible that keeping a gun in the home or carrying a gun in public — concealed or open carry — may have a different net effect on the rate of injury.

"For example, if gun ownership raises the risk of suicide, homicide, or the use of weapons by those who invade homes of gun owners this could cancel or outweigh the beneficial effects of defensive gun use."
It should be noted that Gary Kleck's reliability/reputation when it comes to gun studies is...troublesome, to say the least. Combined with the note (also from your link) that there is a body of research that Kleck and the CDC seemed to have skipped over for some reason, there's nothing convincing there about DGU at all.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:14 PM on February 16


For those of you continuing to speculate about the gas station, here it is. It's awkwardly situated on the parcel, everything is crammed too close together, and the traffic flow around the pumps and the parking spots in front of the convenience store is horrendous.

Depending on where he was parked and the direction he was shooting (which, I can't figure out from the news coverage), the following things were possibly in the line of fire, starting north and heading clockwise:It's so incredibly obvious that Dunn had very little regard for the safety of anyone in the vicinity.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:55 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Depending on where he was parked and the direction he was shooting

The two cars according to testimony were parked where the two cars are above the label "GATE gas station." The SUV was in the spot where the white car is pulling out. Dunn was parked to the right, where the gray-green car is in the photo.

Dunn fired out of his car to his left, and then behind him as the SUV pulled away.

FWIW, regarding the discussion of the jury's reasoning--the NYT reports that the jury believed Dunn could no longer have felt under threat as the SUV retreated, and convicted him of attempted murder for those last three shots. But they were hung on whether the first shots could have been fired in self-defense under the law (the story suggests).

I'm not sure if that first part about the attempted murder convictions is speculation on the part of the NYT reporter. Without hearing from the jurors, I don't know how the NYT could know their reasoning.
posted by torticat at 12:13 AM on February 17


Florida abolished parole in 1983

Wow, I had no idea. Horrifying.


Well, so has the federal government, for federal crimes (with four key exceptions). It looks like parole was generally abolished in at least 16 states.

By the way, a data point regarding this:
Is Florida law unusual in it's distinctions between 1st and 2nd degree murder? Not all states define them the same way. By most states' definitions, what Dunn did wasn't 1st degree, but clearly 2nd degree.

A road rage case in my city where a (white) motorcyclist shot into an SUV and killed a (white) passenger resulted in a 45-year sentence on the charge of first-degree reckless homicide. In Wisconsin this is similar to manslaughter but requires the intent to take actions that may cause death or great bodily harm. I don't know myself if this distinction was available in Florida but it seems relevant.
posted by dhartung at 12:33 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Michael Dunn's prison letters

There are links to three of the letters in full in the middle of this article (warning, auto-play news report).

In addition to the racism... he sounds utterly confident that he will get off, that the state has nothing on him. The arrogance is pretty astounding. And the complete lack of sorrow or remorse, apparently, for having taken a kid's life.
posted by torticat at 12:38 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Why was he charged with first-degree murder in the first place?

Because going to your car, getting your gun, and loading it is plenty of evidence of premeditation? People have a really bizarre idea of what first degree murder is. You don't have to decide a day ahead of time and file notice of intent; you just have to decide to do it, and that can be moments before.


You're right that premeditation does not require a calligraphed writ filed months in advance, but it is not necessarily true that loading a gun is evidence in itself of premeditated murder.

Between Murder One and Murder Two for Florida, the difference can be very blurry in practice, especially with regard to what had actually been proven in court.

Let's look at the relevant statutes.

The relevant portion of Florida's Murder One:
The unlawful killing of a human being...[w]hen perpetrated from a premeditated design to effect the death of the person killed or any human being.
The relevant portion of Florida's Murder Two:
The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual[.]
Particularly as it applies to this case, the difference seems fine-grained and fact-specific. Note the argument upthread about how the cars would have been parked.

I could easily see reasonable people disagreeing as to whether it had been proven that Dunn had had a premeditated design to effect the death of any human being ("ah, you see, the reason why I am shooting this gun is in order to kill Davis"), or whether he was "merely" evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life ("I'M SO UPSET THAT I'M SHOOTING AT YOU WHO GIVES A FUCK IF YOU DIE THIS IS COOL BECAUSE I'M A SOCIOPATH THBBBT FRRRT").

Put another way, the mens rea for murder in Florida appears to be effectively purposeful (the defendant had actually, consciously thought, "I am doing this in order to kill"), and not merely knowing (reasonable people know that victims almost certainly die when they are shot at such a range).

Based just on what I've heard, I believe that this was Murder One - that Dunn had actually meant to kill Davis - but I would understand if somebody felt that intent had not been proven. If I was on the jury, and if it was a choice between unanimous Murder Two or hanging the jury, I would vote Murder Two without a moment's hesitation.

...

Is Florida law unusual in it's distinctions between 1st and 2nd degree murder?

I don't know how unusual Florida's murder statutes are in the grand scheme of things, but IMHO I personally don't like murder statutes which require the prosecution to prove a purposeful mens rea, as opposed to a purposeful or knowing mens rea. The Model Penal Code agrees with me. Many states don't. The world spins on.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:39 AM on February 17 [3 favorites]


A bit of a sidebar, but whenever I hear people carry on about how "hate crimes" legislation criminalizes a bigoted state of mind rather than abusive action and how un-American that is, I always cite the distinctions between murder 1,2, 3, and the various levels of manslaughter, which entail juries figuring out the interpersonal psychology of the moment of violence as well as the general mental disposition of the accused.

This was most definitely a hate crime by my understanding of the term (although the letters and other evidence that would prove it, like the neighbor video) were not admitted in court.

I am just surprised no one has yet tried a "black panic" defense. Because you know, good old white guys with guns just can't help being afraid of young African American men with Skittles.
posted by spitbull at 6:23 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Hmm.

Reading this interesting piece in the Daily Beast by Jamelle Bouie, I see his analysis is that in fact Dunn's defense was "black panic." If fear justifies violence, then the question becomes what is it legitimate to fear and when? Dunn's defense appears to claim that a white guy always has reasons to fear young black men, especially in groups, and especially if they are playing music or otherwise acting "black." And at least this jury appears to agree with that given the twisted logic of their verdicts (which Bouie analyzes very nicely as coming down to "you should have killed them all in the first few shots, and then you'd walk free!").

So disgusting. Here's a great quote from the Bouie piece:

Which, you know, is insane, both in what it says about Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law—your best bet for getting away with murder is to shoot first and kill everyone—and what it says about the value of black lives vis-à-vis the state's legal system. According to the criminal justice system of Florida, you are right to fear African-American men, and if you decide to act on that fear with violence, then you stand a good chance of avoiding conviction, on account of a jury that—more likely than not—will sympathize with your fear
posted by spitbull at 7:02 AM on February 17 [9 favorites]


If fear justifies violence, then the question becomes what is it legitimate to fear and when?

Yeah.

Dunn's police interview (day after the shooting) is worth watching, at least from when the two detectives start to put the pressure on, about 28:00 in this video. They challenge him on why he didn't call 911, whether there were actually death threats, why he would get OUT of his own car if he believed the kids had a shotgun, why Jordan Davis would have tried to get out of his car considering he was unarmed, and perhaps most pertinently, why Dunn felt he was in such danger when there was in fact no weapon.

One of the detectives tells him, "I can't shoot someone because 'in my mind' they got a weapon... if I walk up to someone and have a confrontation with him, and I think they have a weapon, the law doesn't allow me to shoot him because I think he has a weapon."

I realize that Florida's self-defense law may be interpreted more broadly by a jury than this cop is suggesting to Dunn; but still it's refreshing to hear him laying on a little common sense.

In light of that video, it's baffling why Dunn was so confident he would be acquitted. Either he is insanely entitled or his attorney is an idiot for predicting a certain outcome (or both).
posted by torticat at 9:09 AM on February 17 [6 favorites]


Dunn's police interview (day after the shooting) is worth watching, at least from when the two detectives start to put the pressure on, about 28:00 in this video. They challenge him on why he didn't call 911, whether there were actually death threats, why he would get OUT of his own car if he believed the kids had a shotgun, why Jordan Davis would have tried to get out of his car considering he was unarmed, and perhaps most pertinently, why Dunn felt he was in such danger when there was in fact no weapon.

Wow. If he had just shut his mouth and had an immunity hearing he probably would have gotten off. It was his own hubris that gave the state enough evidence to convict.
posted by Talez at 9:19 AM on February 17


The New York Times article echoes much of my own reasoning. I mean, it's possible the jury deadlocked because they couldn't agree on just how severe the murder was. But considering just how frequently you can get away with killing black people and claim you felt frightened, I think it's more likely that they deadlocked on whether or not Dunn had a reasonable fear for his life. Young black men are inherently threatening and their lives less than by virtue of having black skin. However implausible Dunn's story there is always going to be that reasonable doubt for at least one person. Cops have known this works for decades, now we've got average citizens getting in on it.
posted by Danila at 9:30 AM on February 17 [6 favorites]


Charles Pierce: The Dunn Verdict
Tell me again that the Zimmerman verdict wasn't a hunting license. Yeah, he's going to jail for a long time, but, as Coates points out, the fact remains that Michael Dunn picked a fight over music he didn't like and opened fire because his wishes were not heeded by kids who were perfectly within their rights to tell him to go piss up a rope. Except, of course, the kids were black, and in a gun-drunk culture, and in a state that has completely surrendered itself to violent confrontation, that makes all the difference.

Tell me again that it wasn't a hunting license. Tell me again about teachable moments.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:47 AM on February 17 [9 favorites]


Tell me again that it wasn't a hunting license.

Doesn't the bit where he's going to jail make this particular reading inoperative? What kind of "license" is it which forbids you, on pain of penal servitude, from doing the thing you're supposedly "licensed" to do? It does feel a bit like everyone's fighting the last war over this: the scripts are all already written and people are playing them out, despite the fact that so far as we can tell nobody in the jury room thought this guy was in the right. The most we have reason to suspect is that at least one person in that jury room thought he was guilty of 2nd degree murder and not 1st degree murder.
posted by yoink at 12:17 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


Doesn't the bit where he's going to jail make this particular reading inoperative?

Because - very technically speaking - he's not going to jail for the killing. He's going to jail for merely attempting (and presumably, failing) to kill the others.

I don't know how the jury felt that his fear was reasonable - his interview with the cops was as mealy mouth dissembling ex-post facto justification as I ever saw. That bit about the gun was made up whole cloth and he clings to that like a dog to a fresh bone.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:41 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


I don't know how the jury felt that his fear was reasonable

Where do we have any evidence that any member of the jury did feel that?
posted by yoink at 12:44 PM on February 17


Right, the fact is he's going to jail for a portion of the crime that was *not* homicide, just attempted homicide. So the concern is that the precedent here is that you can win a SYG case as long as you don't leave any witnesses.

I really think we're mixing up "Dunn is going to jail" with "this episode does not mean you can kill black kids with impunity in Florida."

I for one am willing to give Angela Corey the benefit of the doubt and wait for her to bring the promised retrial on murder charges. But she's got 2 outs and is in the bottom of the 9th already based on her record.

Still won't erase the horror of Trayvon's murderer's acquittal, and the problem here is not Charles Dunn, who is, yes, going to jail; the problem is the climate and the legalization of vigilante gun violence as long as you can make a SYG case. The fact that he couldn't (at least on the Attempted charges) in this case is a blessing to be sure. The fact that it was even part of the rhetoric of his defense is chilling. The fact that the jury hung on the murder charge is very, very concerning.

None of this makes it any less delightful that he will spend the rest of his life in a box. But the mistrial on the murder charge is a significant fact that is significantly outrageous in its own right prima facie.

The takeaway is still that you can kill a black kid in a way that is obviously intentionally murderous and not be convicted of that crime, and in a certain way the convictions on the other charges only drives that point home.
posted by spitbull at 1:14 PM on February 17 [4 favorites]


the problem is the climate and the legalization of vigilante gun violence as long as you can make a SYG case

Quoted for truth. I genuinely don't understand how this continues to be unclear as the real issue at stake here.
posted by scody at 1:17 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


But the mistrial on the murder charge is a significant fact that is significantly outrageous in its own right prima facie.

So far as I'm aware (and I may have missed some relevant reporting on this; if so, I'm sorry), the mistrial may mean nothing more "outrageous" than that there was disagreement in the juryroom about whether or not this was 2nd or 1st degree murder. In other words, so far as we know, every single person in that jury room was convinced that Dunn was guilty of murder, but they were unable to compromise on a fairly technical point which was entirely unrelated to the SYG elements of the defense.
posted by yoink at 1:20 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


very technically speaking - he's not going to jail for the killing.

Setting aside Michael Dunn for a moment, this is a theme that permeates our criminal justice system. It would be nice if there were always a perfect 1:1 between what occurs, what's prosecuted, and what's punished. There isn't. What's worth considering, however, is that although the police may not catch the guy who broke into your house, you can rest assured that he will spend time in jail. Try to make peace with the technical distinction that it won't be specifically for committing that crime.

I have this pet theory that you can illustrate just about any concept from our legal system using OJ Simpson. Here's an example. From the victims' perspective it well and truly sucks that OJ was acquitted in 1995. Yes, he played some golf and had some opportunities he wouldn't have and maybe shouldn't have. But criminals gonna crime, and hey look, now he's sitting in a cell.

It's perfectly valid to hold the opinion that a community can benefit from retrying and convicting on a particular charge. In general I tend toward the other direction. Violent crime is horrible and nothing whatsoever about our reaction to it will ever be perfect. It's important to continue moving forward.
posted by cribcage at 1:24 PM on February 17


the mistrial may mean nothing more "outrageous" than that there was disagreement in the juryroom about whether or not this was 2nd or 1st degree murder.

What? From earlier in the thread:

According to the NYT, "The jury also failed to reach agreement on lesser charges that are automatically included in jury instructions. Those were second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter."

The jury decision seems incoherent to me. If Dunn is not guilty of first degree, second degree, third degree murder or manslaughter, how could he be guilty of attempted murder, again?
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:43 PM on February 17


Because it has to be one or the other. If I'm pulling for first degree murder and you insist on second, the result is a hung jury, not second degree murder as the highest common offense.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:57 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


If Dunn is not guilty of first degree, second degree, third degree murder or manslaughter, how could he be guilty of attempted murder, again?

That's easy. The jury could have deadlocked over whether the initial gunfire constituted self-defense but agreed that the shots he fired as the victims were driving away could not possibly constitute self-defense and thus were proof of attempted murder.
posted by Justinian at 2:04 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


The NYT article about the jury is pure speculation, no different than anything that has been written here. It even includes the magic phrase "until one of the jurors comes forward..." in case of future wrongness.

If Dunn is not guilty of first degree, second degree, third degree murder or manslaughter, how could he be guilty of attempted murder, again?

And this is why I find it inconceivable that the jury was hanging over as basic an issue as whether Dunn was justified. They already handed Dunn a great big plate of You Fucked Up, and I don't see anyone who handed him that bitch-slapping thinking he had been quivering in terror until the SUV went into reverse.

Anyway, as the NYT said in its most accurate statement, we'll know when the jurors speak out.
posted by localroger at 2:10 PM on February 17


If the jurors were going to speak out wouldn't one of them have done so by now?
posted by Justinian at 2:13 PM on February 17


Not necessarily. They have to get makeovers, ghost writers, literary agents, and all that jazz after all. It took a week or so for the Zimmerman jurors to start to pop up.
posted by localroger at 2:14 PM on February 17


That's easy. The jury could have deadlocked over whether the initial gunfire constituted self-defense but agreed that the shots he fired as the victims were driving away could not possibly constitute self-defense and thus were proof of attempted murder.

Attempted Murder Two is much more severe than merely firing without justification, or even mere recklessness. Not that juries get it right every time, but the statute itself says right that there Murder Two means that the defendant has evinced "a depraved mind regardless of human life".
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:28 PM on February 17


yoink, I think we're talking past each other. The mistrial is outrageous without respect to any dynamics in the jury room, because the verdict is illogical on its face, and because the precedent it sets is hideous. They could have been the most conscientious jurors in American history, and it wouldn't matter to my point.

How do you find someone guilty of attempted murder, but not of murdering one of the four guys you say he attempted to murder? Any set of laws, jury instructions, or deliberations that produced such an irrational result is outrageous. As many commentators have said, it sends the message that if you are going to shoot at black kids, make sure you kill them.

I get the legal niceties and the philosophical defense of the jury trial system and the American system of law as imperfect. But for black people it has never been as imperfect as much as it has been unjust. The common sense reason to be outraged at this decision is that a guy got away with murder, or has SO FAR gotten away with murder, even if he didn't get away with attempted murder. A legal system that produced such results once in a while as a byproduct of a bias toward defendants would be one thing. But when history is replete with literally thousands and thousands of lynchings, and when a significant segment of American society seems to be defending the practice of lynching under the guise of gun rights, there is no benefit of the doubt among millions of Americans for that system. This episode is not happening in a vacuum of legal abstraction. It's happening in Racist America, adding to an endless string of dead young black boys (and girls) for whom there is never any justice.

I get it that a mistrial is a technical outcome that means nothing. I will, however, continue to be outraged by it, until I hear the new trial has reached a guilty verdict on at least murder 2 for the killing of Jordan Davis.

I'm outraged by many other aspects of the American penal and legal systems, which we all know are systematically racist in every dimension. But I'll let this mistrial stand for the whole damn mess for now.
posted by spitbull at 2:40 PM on February 17


How do you find someone guilty of attempted murder, but not of murdering one of the four guys you say he attempted to murder?

That's been repeatedly answered in this thread, though no one knows the exact circumstances in this particular instance.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:51 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


The Washington Post / Volokh Conspiracy: "Stand Your Ground had nothing to do with the Dunn verdict in Florida"
Because the jury convicted Dunn of three counts of attempted murder, it is certain that the jury determined that Dunn was not acting in lawful self-defense. Stand Your Ground is a rule about one detail of when self-defense is lawful.

Accordingly, the assertion that Stand Your Ground may have been a reason why the jury hung on the first degree murder charge is totally implausible. The three convictions for second-degree murder show that the jury had determined there was no self-defense; ergo, jury confusion about self-defense was not the reason why the jury deadlocked on first-degree murder.

Moreover, Stand Your Ground played no part in the legal theory of the case, as presented by the prosecution or the defense.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:04 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


The mistrial is outrageous without respect to any dynamics in the jury room, because the verdict is illogical on its face, and because the precedent it sets is hideous.

This makes no sense to me at all. If what happened, as seems most likely, is that a roomful of jurors got into an overly technical dispute over whether this was first or second degree murder and failed to arrive at a consensus about that, what makes that a "hideous" outcome?

And no, there's no "illogic" in the verdict whatsoever. It is entirely logical to say "we could agree on these charges, but we could not agree on this other charge." The question of whether or not the murder was murder in the first or second degree is not logically dependent on anything you resolve about the charges of attempted murder.
posted by yoink at 3:15 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


Accordingly, the assertion that Stand Your Ground may have been a reason why the jury hung on the first degree murder charge is totally implausible.

I think that unless you were in the room as a juror, ruling anything out as "implausible" is wild speculation. You can maybe talk about what should be implausible, but jurors are not robots and even excellent jury instructions cannot prevent them from sub- or not consciously framing things in a particular way.
posted by rtha at 4:00 PM on February 17


That's easy. The jury could have deadlocked over whether the initial gunfire constituted self-defense but agreed that the shots he fired as the victims were driving away could not possibly constitute self-defense and thus were proof of attempted murder.

Yes. And following this logic, if Jordan Davis had been killed by the second volley of shots instead of the first, Dunn would have been convicted of his murder (1 or 2, I don't know).

It does seem fucked up, but it isn't illogical or implausible. You could believe that Dunn had reason to be terrified at first, when he was more or less "trapped" in his car by the position of the SUV, but that firing at a retreating vehicle was egregious.

Sadly, having watched most of the testimony at this point, I think it's likely one or more of the jurors did come to that conclusion (as opposed to deadlocking over 1st vs 2nd degree). That Jordan Davis was "escalating" the conflict by continuing to yell & cuss at Dunn wasn't disputed by his friends. There wasn't any solid testimony that Dunn said anything back to him except "Are you talking to me?" Tevin Thompson, who was in the front passenger seat, acknowledged the music was loud enough that Davis could have verbally threatened Dunn's life and Thompson didn't hear (although he didn't believe this happened).

It probably added up to reasonable doubt in some juror's mind. I hope I'm wrong about that. In any case I agree with spitbull that the underlying problem is the law and the legalization of vigilante gun violence. If as a juror you can look at the law, the facts, and the testimony and conclude that what Dunn did may have been within the bounds of the law, it should tell you something is really seriously wrong.
posted by torticat at 4:41 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


I think that unless you were in the room as a juror, ruling anything out as "implausible" is wild speculation. You can maybe talk about what should be implausible

I agree with this completely. Jurors tend not to be applying any sort of rigorous, logical analysis. They'll be making their decision for all sorts of bullshit reasons. Whether they convict or not.
posted by Justinian at 4:57 PM on February 17


It seems to me the prosecution should have the option to drop the first degree charge and accept a second degree conviction if the jury is deadlocked between first and second.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:01 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


I have to say I think the idea that the jury is deadlocked between first and second to be implausible. It's not impossible, obviously, but I think it's much more likely that they are deadlocked between acquittal and conviction.
posted by Justinian at 5:33 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


I have to say I think the idea that the jury is deadlocked between first and second to be implausible. It's not impossible, obviously, but I think it's much more likely that they are deadlocked between acquittal and conviction.


Same here: I can't imagine 12 people who all agree that the guy committed wilful murder but can't manage to compromise on the degree. They ALL agree he purposely killed that kid, but they're willing to go back into the courtroom and say "we can't reach a verdict" in front of Jordan Davis's parents?

I dunno, maybe so; god knows I'm no expert on human nature. But I think someone(s) was holding out for either self-defense or manslaughter.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:38 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Yeah. Like I said in the Martin thread the short term solution here is to get rid of the CRAZY GUN NUT VIGILANTE law (as I like to refer to SYG). The long term solution would be to get rid of racism. But in the meantime maybe we don't want stupid assholes feeling like they can shoot people if they get looked at funny.
posted by Justinian at 5:43 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


Like I said in the Martin thread the short term solution here is to get rid of the CRAZY GUN NUT VIGILANTE law (as I like to refer to SYG).

There is no connection between this case and SYG. There just isn't, it was a never an issue, never came up and court, and never played any part at all except -- and this is complete and utter conjecture -- perhaps somehow in the minds of the jurors, in a way that we can't possibly ever analyze, and which a million other things also compete.

There are arguments against SYG but this case isn't relevant to any of them.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:27 PM on February 17


It is also possible it played a part -- and this is also complete and utter conjecture -- in the mind of Dunn.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:34 PM on February 17


There is no connection between this case and SYG. There just isn't, it was a never an issue, never came up and court, and never played any part at all except -- and this is complete and utter conjecture -- perhaps somehow in the minds of the jurors, in a way that we can't possibly ever analyze, and which a million other things also compete.

That's inaccurate, according to this source (cited above by Roger Dodger):
Dunn’s lawyer Cory Strolla cited Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in his closing argument, “His honor will further tell you that if Michael Dunn was in a public place where he had a legal right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” As in the George Zimmerman trial, the Stand Your Ground law was included in the jury instructions.

Alluding to public controversy of the law, Strolla added, “It’s not because I wrote it. It’s not cause I like it. We’re not here to change it and we’re not here to fight it. We’re here to apply it.”
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:51 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]


So the argument for changing the law is because it might, hypothetically, have figured into the motivation for a criminal act, even though it didn't actually provide even the smallest modicum of actual defense, nor was it designed to?

What you're basically saying is that because the possibility exists that Dunn's misunderstanding of the law -- again, unsupported conjecture, and one that we would imagine his lawyers might have raised at trial if it was actually the case, but whatever -- contributed to his criminal act, that we should get rid of the law?

That's ... novel.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:55 PM on February 17


The mistrial is outrageous without respect to any dynamics in the jury room, because the verdict is illogical on its face, and because the precedent it sets is hideous.

Every single verdict returned in the Dunn case so far has been a conviction. I feel like you don't understand what a mistrial is.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:03 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


The argument for changing the law is that the law is insane.

As noted by FelliniBlank, Dunn's lawyer did indeed invoke SYG. Since Dunn was claiming self defense, the SYG statutes did come into play in the case. We still don't know for sure if the jury might have deadlocked on the murder charge because they believed self defense did in fact apply to the initial gun-fire but not the following-on fire. But even if this jury did not buy a the claim of self-defense, a different jury may have

And yes, the fact that many may believe, true or not, that they have a good chance at getting away with shooting at someone if they are able simply to provide convincing testimony to the police, and a jury if necessary, that they were in fear for their lives is a good reason not to have SYG laws.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:15 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


There is no connection between this case and SYG. There just isn't, it was a never an issue, never came up and court

Apart from being read to the jury immediately before deliberation, sure, never. Well, hardly ever. Secondly, the law create an atmosphere where puffed up yahoos feel like they can mall ninja out and get away with it.

Self Defense laws are fundamental and I support them fully. But removing a duty to retreat when outside your own home is going well beyond what is healthy.
posted by Justinian at 8:19 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


George Zimmerman says he is homeless and suffers from PTSD

He may have PTSD, but the idea he ever needs to be broke is farcical. the NRA will pay him to be their poster child for "God didn't make men equal, Samuel Colt did" for the rest of his life. He's their wet dream. Maybe he's too stupid to grasp that, but that's a different issue.
posted by kjs3 at 9:24 PM on February 17


Jurors tend not to be applying any sort of rigorous, logical analysis.

Jury deliberations are something we don't know a ton about. But I can tell you I've had a couple different unique opportunities in my career to gain insight into jury deliberations, and I was uniformly impressed by how much care and attention those people were applying.

“His honor will further tell you that if Michael Dunn was in a public place where he had a legal right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.”

I'm not familiar with Florida's rules, and I don't have any comment on this particular line. But it might be worth adding to the mix that generally speaking, lawyers need to be very careful about "instructing" jurors on the law during closing arguments. That's the judge's job. In simple terms a closing argument's purpose is to persuade jurors to see the evidence in a particular way. If you cross the line into telling jurors what the law is then opposing counsel can absolutely object, assuming the judge doesn't stop you himself.

Depending on the trial and the judge, that line can be flexible.
posted by cribcage at 9:42 PM on February 17


Jury deliberations are something we don't know a ton about. But I can tell you I've had a couple different unique opportunities in my career to gain insight into jury deliberations, and I was uniformly impressed by how much care and attention those people were applying.

Does actually serving on juries constitute opportunities to gain insight into deliberations? 'Cause that's all I've done.
posted by Justinian at 10:25 PM on February 17


I assume that's sarcastic, but I'm not really looking to debate. I've been on a jury as well, and that's one interesting perspective on the process. I've had a few others. If your experience was that jurors make their decisions based on "bullshit reasons," I think that's unfortunate. Speaking as somebody who does this for a living, I can tell you it's my opinion that most juries are diligent.

Just thought I'd add that perspective to the conversation. Folks can take it or leave it.
posted by cribcage at 10:42 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


"The jury also failed to reach agreement on lesser charges that are automatically included in jury instructions. Those were second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter."

This doesn't have to be, though, because no one in the jury wanted to convict him, or even that one person wanted him to get off scot-free. It could easily have been something like: 10 people want to convict for first degree murder, two for second degree murder. The two aren't budging. The ten aren't budging, and they know if there's a hung jury, it will be tried again, and they think they can get first degree murder. Because it was the charge, they're holding out for it. You can't go up in charges, only down.
posted by corb at 8:30 AM on February 18


But what I'm actually most interested in here is this little tidbit:
In what prosecutors called a “wow” trial moment, the fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, shaking on the witness stand, said that Mr. Dunn had not mentioned to her in the night and day they spent together before his arrest that any of the teenagers had a shotgun
His fiancée clearly thought what he did was wrong, and she would not cover for him. That's incredible bravery, and I think for every moment of focusing on people who are terrible, it'd be great to look at those moments too.
posted by corb at 8:40 AM on February 18 [11 favorites]


Michael Dunn and open season on black teenagers:
Yes, I know that Jordan’s killer may spend the rest of his life in prison. But this is not about jail time. This case, like the case of Trayvon Martin, hinges on whether white fear legally outweighs and is therefore more legally defensible than black life. The day before Jordan Davis would have turned 19 years old, a court failed to affirm the value of his life, his right to exist in space enjoying music with his friends, his right not to be harassed by someone while doing something as mundane as sitting in a parking lot at a gas station.
posted by scody at 10:42 AM on February 18 [5 favorites]


And that's another quote ignoring that we don't have a end to this story yet, unless someone can point to the State refusing to put on another trial for the remaining count.
posted by agregoli at 11:11 AM on February 18


And that's another quote ignoring that we don't have a end to this story yet

It's painfully obvious that a lot of people assumed that there would be an acquittal and had articles written up and ready to go. When that didn't happen, they published them anyway.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:25 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


And that's another quote ignoring that we don't have a end to this story yet, unless someone can point to the State refusing to put on another trial for the remaining count.

And that's another comment that seems to have ignored the broader context brought up in TFA.
posted by scody at 11:26 AM on February 18


No, scody. I don't think anyone here is ignoring the broader context, which is horrific.

But the reality is, we are in exactly the same position right now as before he was even charged. There is quite literally not one iota of legal decision that has been made about poor Jordan Davis' life or the value thereof. We don't know what happened in the jury room, and "I want Murder 1" vs "I want Murder 2"with intransigence on both sides more than explains what happened here.

The time to say "a court failed to affirm the value of his life" is after the second trial, if this racist shitbag isn't convicted.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:35 AM on February 18 [4 favorites]


Exactly. I know its hard to have faith in our legal system, but it hasn't failed yet in this case.
posted by agregoli at 11:42 AM on February 18


Just thought I'd add that perspective to the conversation. Folks can take it or leave it.

Ok, your experience is your experience obviously. Just sayin' in my experience many of the jurors couldn't even fill out basic forms correctly much less do any sort of serious analysis.
posted by Justinian at 1:30 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Exactly. I know its hard to have faith in our legal system.

Well, if you're black, why should you?
posted by spitbull at 1:44 PM on February 18 [7 favorites]


His fiancée clearly thought what he did was wrong, and she would not cover for him.

Yes, I think Rhonda Rouer must have a complicated relationship with this whole sorry story. She appeared to be far more upset by the shooting than Michael Dunn was. On the other hand, she's still engaged to be married to the guy. If she didn't have knowledge of his racist side before, she surely does now.

She appeared to be truthful (and traumatized) on the witness stand. On the other hand, she had told prosecutors early on that Dunn never mentioned a gun to her (he talks about it in one of the letters he wrote her while in prison), so I'm not sure they ever had a chance to get their stories straight before she'd gone on the record.

Dunn seems never to have been particularly remorseful about any part of the shooting, except for the massive injustice of his having been charged with a crime at all. His letters are all about double standards, reverse discrimination, media misrepresentation, and the ineptitude of the state. He consistently referred to Jordan Davis as "my attacker" in his letters and in court. I think he genuinely has brought himself to believe the situation couldn't have gone down in any other way, and that the shooting was unfortunate but entirely Davis's fault. (Although he did say in the police interview that it occurred to him later that he should have just reversed his car. But I don't think he ever brought that up again.)

In any case, he was absolutely confident that he would be acquitted in court. His plan after that (again from his letters) was to sue the state, accept a settlement, and use the money to buy a house for him and his fiancee. He considered a counter-suit in civil court against Davis's family, but his attorney and family talked him out of that.

He comes across as completely self-involved.
posted by torticat at 2:21 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]


How stupid is Dunn? He's either very stupid or had complete confidence that Rouer would back up whatever story he decided to tell the cops and was blindsided when she would not back him up. I don't see any other options.
posted by Justinian at 2:24 PM on February 18


On the other hand, she's still engaged to be married to the guy.

That may only be because it's hard to break up in prison. I'll bet you a shiny nickel that never comes to pass.
posted by corb at 2:25 PM on February 18


How stupid is Dunn?

I don't know, it seems crazy. Here is the letter in which he talks about it to Rouer. The second part of it is redacted--no way to know if he was trying to influence her testimony there, but I'd sure like to see what it says.
posted by torticat at 2:45 PM on February 18


Dunn seems never to have been particularly remorseful about any part of the shooting, except for the massive injustice of his having been charged with a crime at all.

Democracy Now!
Dunn wrote family members that he thinks the justice system is biased in favor of African Americans. He wrote, quote, "This jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs. This may sound a bit radical, but if more people would arm themselves and kill these [bleeping] idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior." But that was never brought up in court, Michael Skolnik.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:53 PM on February 18


Because the jury convicted Dunn of three counts of attempted murder, it is certain that the jury determined that Dunn was not acting in lawful self-defense. Stand Your Ground is a rule about one detail of when self-defense is lawful.

Accordingly, the assertion that Stand Your Ground may have been a reason why the jury hung on the first degree murder charge is totally implausible. The three convictions for second-degree murder show that the jury had determined there was no self-defense


I've been mulling over this quote from the Volokh Conspiracy since I read it, trying to make sense of it. The only way it makes sense if the writer is unaware that there were two sets of shootings, or maybe more accurately, that the circumstances were changing during the shooting.

If all of the charges were based on Dunn's sitting in his car and shooting indiscriminately into the SUV next to him, it would make sense to say his actions couldn't have been self-defense with regard to one victim but not the other three. But that's not what happened. First he aimed at Davis. Then he got out and continued to fire as the car pulled away.

If a person gets into a confrontation with two other people, shoots one to fend him off and then shoots the other in the back while he's running away, obviously those two shootings have to be evaluated separately. The Volokh writer doesn't seem to realize that's similar to what happened here. (Well, I don't mean to suggest the firing at Davis was legitimate either; just that that is how the jury could have seen it.)
posted by torticat at 6:25 PM on February 18


The majority of the jury wanted to convict on the murder charge, and it looks like the minority bought the self-defense BS. If that's the case, that's kind of gross and hypocritical on their part.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:20 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


Relevant passage from the above link:
Valerie said the jury's first vote was 10-2 in favor of a murder conviction. Over nearly 30 hours of deliberations, the vote became 9-3.

Attempted murder conviction
Ultimately, the jury convicted Dunn on the charges of attempted murder.
Valerie said all the jurors felt Dunn crossed a line when he continued to fire at the SUV as it fled the scene. In their minds, any threat Dunn may have felt before had passed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:23 AM on February 19


The problem is that a quarter of a supposedly impartial jury thought that being black in a car with loud music was a deadly threat. That's an extremely strong suggestion that the bias would be higher in the general population, something borne out by both Florida's justice system and the justice system at large, and which all available evidence says is exacerbated by SYG and similar laws.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:46 AM on February 19 [14 favorites]


I don't like that 3 people couldn't bring themselves to convict. It's still weird to me that the jury was still unanimous regarding the attempted Murder Two convictions - I would think that somebody who had felt that shooting Davis was justified would carry that defense over to the other victims, or at least view the "second bout" of shooting as being something less severe than attempted Murder Two - but the world is full of weird things, many of them bad.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:32 AM on February 19


Wow, I correctly called the numbers, though not the reason for the split! I promise, no inside track on the jury box. I don't think that it's weird at all that the jury was unanimous on the Murder 2 for the attempts, though - I think it's pretty universally acknowledged, even among the most strenuous self-defense advocates, that once the person's actually fleeing, you have achieved your purposes of self defense and anything on top of that is for your pleasure rather than safety.

I do wonder though about these jailhouse recordings and jailhouse letters that they release. I know that they were released by the prosecution, but it seems like it's too easy for the person in jail to skew things. I don't know if I'm just mentally associating them because they're placed next to each other in the article, but calls of him talking about what a victim he was might seem (not necessarily really, but might seem) to show that he believed himself that he was threatened.
posted by corb at 6:49 AM on February 19


The article isn't clear whether they couldn't convict on Murder Anything or just on Murder One, though. Were those 3 votes for acquittal or just for Murder 2/3/Manslaughter?

I think it's interesting that after deliberation someone who believed it was Murder One changed their mind. I imagine that has to influence the prosecutors' refiling of the charges.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:54 AM on February 19


Al Jazeera: Mixed verdict in Dunn trial result of ‘Stand Your Ground,’ experts say
Thomas Blomberg, a dean and professor at Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, told Al Jazeera that the apparent discrepancies in the partial verdict can be attributed to applying a confusing law to the facts of the case.

"The 12-member jury may have genuinely thought Dunn was initially justified in firing the first several bullets to defend himself from Davis but then went too far by continuing to shoot as the fleeing teens drove off. By then, the sense of emergency had passed, so it’s easier to come to an agreement on those charges.”

He added, “They were trying to interpret the jury instructions, and they clearly struggled with it, having deliberated for 30 hours. Normally, you don’t shoot first and ask questions later. But the conduct promoted by ‘Stand Your Ground’ creates a different context, and that’s what the jury struggled with.”

Donald Jones, a law professor at the University of Miami School of Law, said “Stand Your Ground” protects an initial aggressor. “In this case, Dunn could have moved his vehicle. He didn’t have to subject himself to the loud music,” he said. “But the law promotes the idea that you can use force whenever you feel threatened.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:05 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


More from Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Logic Of The Michael Dunn Jury
...I do think it's important that we be clear on the facts where we can be. As it stands, the facts hold that three jurors believed that the killing of Jordan Davis was just, and nine did not. My contention is that that belief is inseparable from our racist heritage which dictates African-American life is of lesser value.

Put modestly, from the mid 17th century until the mid-20th century, the policy of our ancestral colonies, and the policy of this country, proceeded from this assumption. Perhaps the most amazing feature of our current era is the belief that 300 years of such policy gives no tell on our daily lives. The second most amazing feature is the belief that juries are somehow beyond reproach and capable of cleaning up our shit.

That is unfortunate. This is not about the jury, this is about our constitution. This is not about Michael Dunn, individually. This is not about George Zimmerman, individually. This is about me and you and everyone American we know. This is about whether we will live in candor or live in flattery. This is about whether we will continue the dishonorable tradition of leaving uncomfortable business to be inherited by our children:
...and 'tis our fast intent
To shake all cares and business from our age;
Conferring them on younger strengths, while we
Unburthen'd crawl toward death
A very wise man wrote me the other day and said he would have been happier if Dunn had been convicted of first degree murder, gotten 15 years, and then was released to try to pick up the pieces of his life. And I think that really gets to the point. This is not about the ruination of white people--individual or collective. This is about regarding coping with a heritage of regarding black people as subhuman.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:11 AM on February 19 [6 favorites]


There's this persistent myth that stand your ground is something you need to explicitly claim, thus if it didn't explicitly come up in trial (it actually did here) it wasn't a factor in the decision. That's not true. Stand your ground is an implicit part of a self-defense claim. No matter the protestations by the gun extremists and libertarians, it's clear now that those three jurors believed Dunn was justified in killing a young black man (an ab initio threat in the United States of America) and had no duty to stand down or defuse the situation. If there's another trial, there will be another mistrial, or even aquittal.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:34 AM on February 19 [5 favorites]


There's this persistent myth that stand your ground is something you need to explicitly claim, thus if it didn't explicitly come up in trial (it actually did here) it wasn't a factor in the decision. That's not true. Stand your ground is an implicit part of a self-defense claim.

I think that myth comes from the idea that you can claim immunity under SYG to civil complaints against you? And Dunn didn't do that as I understand it.

However, I agree with you that SYG is implicit in a self-defense trial. Well, explicit in that the judge read it as part of the jury instructions. But implicit also because it affects the arguments the prosecutor can make. E.g., Dunn volunteered to the police that he could have backed up his car but that he didn't think of that at the time. I imagine the prosecution couldn't capitalize on that admission because, under the law, Dunn had no duty to retreat anyway. Which the defense was careful to note in their closing.
posted by torticat at 10:00 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


The article isn't clear whether they couldn't convict on Murder Anything or just on Murder One, though. Were those 3 votes for acquittal or just for Murder 2/3/Manslaughter?

I believe that self-defense would apply equally to 2/3/manslaughter, and that that would have been included in the jury instructions. You can't say it was self-defense against 1st degree murder but that he is guilty of 2nd degree. Self-defense = acquittal.
posted by torticat at 10:07 AM on February 19 [6 favorites]


That is true, if depressing. Thanks, torticat.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:19 AM on February 19


I agree with you that SYG is implicit in a self-defense trial

quoting myself...I wanted to clarify that I meant SYG is implicit in states that have that provision, not in all self-defense trials. I think those states are nuts not to include a duty to retreat in self-defense law.
posted by torticat at 10:57 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


My contention is that that belief is inseparable from our racist heritage which dictates African-American life is of lesser value.

I've really been thinking a lot about this lately, in particular since Golden Eternity's informative ideas elsethread - are situations like the above the result of racism, or gun laws, or other cultural and societal forces.

While the South in particular does have trouble with a legacy of racism, I wonder if the legacy here is not of race but "culture of honor" society (white paper here), SYG laws in particular being merely an expression of that.
Though frontier conditions in the South disappeared and the herding economy has become less and less important, culture- of-honor norms appear to have persisted into this century. Brearley (1934), for example, argued that in much of the South of his day it was impossible to convict someone of murder if(a) the killer had been insulted and (b) he had warned the victim of his intent to kill if the insult were not retracted or compensated. Nisbett and colleagues recently have shown that violence stemming from culture-of-honor norms is still part of the southern legacy today (Nisbett, 1993; Nisbett & Cohen, 1996; Nisbett, Polly, & Lang, 1994; Reaves & Nisbett, 1994). White male homicide rates of the South are higher than those of the North, and the South exceeds the North only in homicides that are argument- or conflict-related, not in homicides that are committed while another felony, such as robbery or burglary, is being performed. Such findings are consistent with a stronger emphasis on honor and protection in the South.
I think about these things, in particular, coming from an entirely different (and much further South) culture of honor upbringing. And I wonder how much they impacted the ideas of jurors in the case.
posted by corb at 12:21 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


I'm sure a bunch of cultural forces enter into why there are SYG laws, why people commit SYG killings, and why they receive the penalties or non-penalties they do, but racism is certainly part of the picture. For instance, according to a study of 200 Florida SYG-related cases by the Tampa Bay Tribune, "defendants claiming 'stand your ground' are more likely to prevail if the victim is black. Seventy-three percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white."
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:24 PM on February 19 [7 favorites]


The problem is that the Southern "culture of honor" is greatly informed by racism in this country. So no, SYG laws are not an expression of that culture as divorced from the idea of race, merely or otherwise. They were lobbied for by a group (the NRA) whose management has a storied history, especially since 2009, of stoking a fear of minorities as thugs requiring a more proactive form of armed self-defense by removing the duty to retreat. They were passed over the objections of both law enforcement and members of the judicial system. They haven't been proven to reduce or deter crime. They have been shown to have discriminatory outcomes when it comes to whites and blacks. They may even result in higher levels of homicide, for which the outcomes are biased. A large body of the research on SYG points to it as being a product of a combination of implicit and explicit bias and reactions using force, as well as political and social/cultural motivations (including that of the prosecution), of which race is a major component (emphasis in original):
(1) “Stand your ground” laws are inherently biased against black people, and should be ruled unconstitutional on that basis alone. The shooter bias phenomenon means that innocent black people are more at risk of being shot for no reason, because they are mistakenly seen as a threat—even by people who are not consciously racist . Thus, any law that increases split-second decision-making will inherently put black lives at risk more frequently than other races. By removing the duty to retreat, this is precisely what “stand your ground” laws do.

(2) Implicit racial bias is not an excuse. In today’s polarized atmosphere, we can expect that any mention of racial bias will be turned back on itself—”Well, if all whites are biased, then you can’t blame him specifically”. But this is no reason to stay silent. Dunn, even more blatantly than Zimmerman before him, exhibited explicit racial bias. That’s completely different from implicit bias. In fact, the only way we can move forward as whole society is by confronting the challenges of implicit bias and developing ways to correct for it—such as the inclusion of black people in jury pools, as shown by the study mentioned above. In turn, the more progress we make in overcoming the ill-effects of implicit racial bias, the more starkly explicit racial bias will be isolated in contrast.

(3) The Florida prosecutors were profoundly misguided. Another “All In” guest on the previous segment, author Lisa Bloom, noted:
“There are a lot of similarities, including two of the prosecutors from the Trayvon Martin case prosecuted this case. And as in that case, they’ve been afraid to talk about race in that courtroom. Race is a key element of this case. Including this is a defendant that wrote explicitly racist letters from prison. He said, ‘The more I get to know those people [referring to African Americans] the more prejudice I become.’ I’ve been a civil rights lawyer for decades, it’s very rare that you get an explicit statement like that from someone. Well, they had it here and they didn’t use it. Because they don’t like to talk about race in these courtrooms. I think that’s a problem.”
Bloom weighed in again immediately after the verdicts were announced, saying the prosecutors should be replaced by a team “who are going to bring in, for example, the racist letters that this man wrote behind bars calling African-Americans ‘thugs,’ ‘gangsters,’ saying ‘the more I get to know them, the more prejudice I am,’ etc. those letters should be brought in. This jury should not have had the very limited view that they got of Michael Dunn that he was gentle and peaceful according to all the defense witnesses, unrebutted by the state.”

The evidence is overwhelming: Colorblindness doesn’t work. Trying to pretend that race doesn’t exist does not work. Yet, in case after case, the Florida prosecutors persist in this pretense. This is abominably incompetent lawyering. What’s more, their refusal to openly confront explicitly expressed racism aids and abets the process by which implicit and explicit racism become confused and co-mingled in the public’s mind. Instead of isolating and stigmatizing explicit racism, they further it by their silence.
At this point, regardless of a racial component in intent of the law (for which there is a good deal of persuasive evidence), there is certainly a racial component in the results of the law. And that's a huge problem which shouldn't just be handwaved away.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:44 PM on February 19 [13 favorites]


It's really interesting that Valerie the juror said race didn't come up as a topic during the deliberations. Talk about an elephant in the room.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:07 PM on February 19 [3 favorites]


There were even two African Americans on the jury unlike in the Zimmerman case.
posted by Justinian at 3:06 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


If you talk about race, who knows, a random white person might suddenly feel threatened and go on a killing spree.
posted by bleep-blop at 6:05 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


“Stand your ground” laws are inherently biased against black people, and should be ruled unconstitutional on that basis alone. The shooter bias phenomenon means that innocent black people are more at risk of being shot for no reason, because they are mistakenly seen as a threat—even by people who are not consciously racist . Thus, any law that increases split-second decision-making will inherently put black lives at risk more frequently than other races.

I think you're right, that implicit bias means that people making quick decisions will often wind up being unintentionally prejudiced. But I don't think that this perception of threat and criminality is confined to SYG, but rather, affects how each and every law is applied. Laws against shoplifting are not responsible for a guard in a store deciding that the black teen who stole a thing of makeup is a hardened criminal and calling the police, while deciding the white teen who stole the same makeup is troubled and calling their parents. Laws against drugs are not responsible for police arresting and charging black teens for smoking pot while giving a stern paternal talking-to to white teens. And laws alllowing self defense are not responsible for people feeling the need to defend themselves physically against black individuals, while white individuals might have gotten a stern lecture.

The problem is the implicit bias, and automatic othering of foreign cultures and individuals - a problem which is hardwired into humans, and needs to be overcome through effort. It cannot be achieved through dissolving the laws.

And the problem is that our justice system inherently allows for emotional judgments. Juries are staffed by unskilled individuals who cannot completely extricate their feelings from the case and are not asked to do so. Judges have broad leeway at sentencing, and need to, because circumstances are always different and need different outcomes.
posted by corb at 6:45 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


The problem is the implicit bias, and automatic othering of foreign cultures and individuals - a problem which is hardwired into humans, and needs to be overcome through effort. It cannot be achieved through dissolving the laws.

While I agree that the overall problem is better served by effort, in the case of SYG it really does need to be dissolved, for two reasons. First, it's a law on top of law, basically--it's building on extant self-defense law, but in practice it invariably encourages escalation (by removing the obligation to retreat) in situations it should be discouraged. Gun-rights advocates like to point out that guns are supposed to be a last-ditch solution meant to dissuade rather than antagonize, and right now that is the exact opposite of both the intent and outcome of current SYG standards. And second, even when it's not directly invoked, it has a noticeable negative effect on the judicial fallout. If we take SYG out of the equation, we lessen the problems with both implicit and explicit bias while retaining the viability of self-defense. We also remove the ambiguity, complications, and much of the emotional factors that (as you point out) are already a problem with unskilled juries.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:47 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/02/the-life-of-jordan-davis/283964/
posted by RedShrek at 8:52 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


Juries are staffed by unskilled individuals who cannot completely extricate their feelings from the case and are not asked to do so.

This is false - juries are specifically asked to separate their feelings from the facts of the case and from the laws they are supposed to follow. They may not be able to, but they are required to try.
posted by agregoli at 9:15 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


In every voir dire I've been through, prospective jurors are asked if they think they can keep their personal feelings separate from what will be presented during the trial. And during the trial itself, for the jury I served on, we were reminded frequently that we were there to weigh the facts of the case, not indulge our feelings about what we were hearing.

Of course it was difficult to keep some of those (very upsetting!) feelings separate, but we were explicitly asked to, often.

And I don't know what you mean by unskilled - unskilled in what, exactly? The law? Analytical skills? Ability to tell when someone is lying? Being a human? I dunno. My jury had grad students, stay-at-home parents, business owners, an engineer or two, and like that. All of us were skilled in various ways and disciplines.
posted by rtha at 9:24 AM on February 20


If we take SYG out of the equation, we lessen the problems with both implicit and explicit bias while retaining the viability of self-defense.

I would be very interested in figuring out how to lessen the problems with implicit and explicit bias while retaining the viability of self-defense, and think it'd be great if the self-defense statutes were completely rewritten in order to do this. But the problem is that "Duty to Retreat" also harms people. It harms people by making them be afraid to fight back against violence (or sexual assault) for fear of being arrested for the consequences. In legal terms, a duty to retreat means that my rapist's life is more important than my bodily integrity. This sort of thing is especially a problem in areas of the country that have no discretion in sentencing, and must deal with mandatory minimums.

Unfortunately, it is really, really hard to write law such that it protects only the people you want to protect, while disallowing the situations you want it to discourage. I completely agree that in many cases, people are probably utilizing the knowledge of SYG to know that they can say, "I was in fear for my life" and get away. At the same time, there are probably real people who genuinely were in fear for their life or bodily integrity, and didn't see a good exit. "Duty to retreat" means you have to try to get away even if it is a bad idea or you are unlikely to suceed. One of the things you learn in self-defense courses is that running away is usually a bad idea - it puts you in a more vulnerable position to your attacker.

In every voir dire I've been through, prospective jurors are asked if they think they can keep their personal feelings separate from what will be presented during the trial.

Oh, this is certainly true - I'm more thinking of "Beyond a reasonable doubt" as a standard - it seems designed to appeal to a feeling or instinct, rather than pure evidence. If you have doubt, you're not supposed to convict - and that doubt may not be there for purely logical reasons.
posted by corb at 9:47 AM on February 20


I'm surprised it hasn't been linked here yet, but National Treasure Jessica Williams's response Tuesday on The Daily Show to the Dunn verdict made me angrier about the injustice than I thought possible.
posted by psoas at 9:55 AM on February 20 [6 favorites]


Yeah, sorry, but if a statute can't be written without legally sanctioning murder provided the killer can credibly claim they felt threatened, then the statute cannot exist in a civil society.

And it's not like someone who has a gun already is required to retreat with their back toward the assailant and expose themselves to harm. They can draw the weapon, fire a warning shot, whatever, and remain in a position to defend themself without pulling the trigger. If they were legitimately in danger, and did end up using lethal force to defend themselves, I am certain someone who did this under pre-SYG self-defense law would have sufficiently fulfilled the requirements of retreating.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:44 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


[Do not turn this into the same old stand your ground argument.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:00 AM on February 20


fire a warning shot

There's no such thing as a warning shot if you're not law enforcement.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:01 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


But the problem is that "Duty to Retreat" also harms people. It harms people by making them be afraid to fight back against violence (or sexual assault) for fear of being arrested for the consequences.

Is this just an emotional appeal, or do you have anything to back this up? It's certainly not something most anti-violence or anti-sexual assault groups say. Indeed, among the members of the NRA's "enemies list"--outside POC and women's rights groups, among others--was at least one group dedicated to stopping domestic violence. If this was as much of a problem as you claim, it seems that not only would these groups be on board with SYG, they'd be publicly and loudly embracing it.

In legal terms, a duty to retreat means that my rapist's life is more important than my bodily integrity.

Oh, come on. It says no such thing. And the rape analogy here is just as awful as it was in the Trayvon Martin thread. It has no bearing on this case at all, for one, seeing as how the situation is if anything reversed. It's also not something most people interested in preventing rape claim.

Unfortunately, it is really, really hard to write law such that it protects only the people you want to protect, while disallowing the situations you want it to discourage. I completely agree that in many cases, people are probably utilizing the knowledge of SYG to know that they can say, "I was in fear for my life" and get away. At the same time, there are probably real people who genuinely were in fear for their life or bodily integrity, and didn't see a good exit.

Actually, we definitely know that people are utilizing the knowledge of SYG as self-defense. This case is pretty much a textbook example of it. And while there may be people that didn't see a good exit, if it's true then they would be protected by non-SYG self-defense laws. If it's not, then they're just using it as an excuse for deadly force. And on that count, it has continuously proven to be a net negative for both individuals and groups as a whole.

"Duty to retreat" means you have to try to get away even if it is a bad idea or you are unlikely to suceed. One of the things you learn in self-defense courses is that running away is usually a bad idea - it puts you in a more vulnerable position to your attacker.

Retreat as a legal term doesn't mean "you must literally turn your back on your assailant and run away." It means you don't use deadly force while removing yourself from the situtation. Again, if you can't remove yourself from the situation, then regular self-defense laws protect your actions. Whether or not a self-defense course tells you actually running away is a bad idea, one that doesn't tell you to at least try to remove yourself from the situation isn't really interested in teaching defense.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:02 AM on February 20 [8 favorites]


psoas: "I'm surprised it hasn't been linked here yet, but National Treasure Jessica Williams's response Tuesday on The Daily Show to the Dunn verdict made me angrier about the injustice than I thought possible."

Same here, but the closing line is gold. Sad, sad blood soaked gold:

See John, the 'stand your ground' defense is like bleach., it works miracles for whites, but it will ruin your colors.
posted by Big_B at 11:20 AM on February 20 [4 favorites]


one more dead town's last parade: " There's no such thing as a warning shot if you're not law enforcement."

OK, well my point with that clumsily-expressed comment was that there are a lot of steps between running away with your back turned and killing the other person, and the minimal amount of force should be encouraged. If pre-SYG self-defense statutes would have led to a non-lethal shot in the air being used to convict for attempted murder, then we can talk about relaxing those statutes -- especially in light of the Marisa Alexander case. But simply letting someone say they were fearful and kill people just can't be the answer.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:21 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


There's been at least one case where SYG was invoked and the perpetrator was not charged, although he did not stand his ground - he chased after the guy who had stolen something from his car and stabbed him to death. How can it possibly be self-defense in fear of your life if you are chasing the person you are so afraid of and who is attacking you....by running away? And yet, a Florida judge said it was.
posted by rtha at 11:34 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


I must have missed the apparently widespread prior-to-SYG problem of people being forced to submit to their mugger/murderer/rapist because they couldn't chase them down and shoot them 17 times or whatever.

Self defense was already legal. SYG was nothing but a way for terrible politicians to suck up to terrible people. The type of person who thinks Ted Nugent is an okay guy but a little too laid back in his opinions.
posted by Justinian at 11:38 AM on February 20 [9 favorites]


The problem is the implicit bias, and automatic othering of foreign cultures and individuals - a problem which is hardwired into humans, and needs to be overcome through effort. It cannot be achieved through dissolving the laws.

That's as may be. But dissolving these awful, hideous laws means that fewer white dudes will think they have carte blanche (ahem) to shoot black kids, and that they will go to jail if I do. This is a good thing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:59 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised it hasn't been linked here yet, but National Treasure Jessica Williams's response Tuesday on The Daily Show to the Dunn verdict made me angrier about the injustice than I thought possible."

What's the word for something that makes you laugh because of how it's presented but cry at the same time because of how painfully, awfully, true it is?

The Trayvon Martin threads from a while back contained links to all sorts of poignant stories and wisdom blacks in America will have to pass on to their young children, and this video I saw today (via BoingBoing) illustrates why 3 people thought Dunn was justifiably fearful for his personal safety:

The difference between a white guy and a black guy breaking into a car.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:38 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


For want of a nail.
posted by Sphinx at 2:32 PM on February 20


Initially, she said, two of her colleagues had believed Dunn’s self-defence argument that Davis charged out of his car at him after being asked to turn the music down, with the defendant then taking his 9mm pistol from his glovebox and firing at the teenager.

That number rose to three, she added, during almost 30 hours of deliberations in which they scrutinised jury instructions containing an explanation of Florida’s controversial stand-your-ground law, which states that a person has no duty to retreat from an attack.

“It said if he believed that he had an eminent threat to himself or his fiancee, so that was a thing that those two folks believed … [that] he was frightened and there was no other option for him in regards to Mr Davis,” Valerie said.
There is no question that the stand your ground law contributed to the hung jury. There is no question that prosecutorial overcharging had nothing to do with the hung jury. There is no question that a quarter of the jury believed Dunn's fear meant more than Jordan's life. Those of us who were able to infer these things from the start were not delusional, guilty of misplaced outrage for the sake of outrage, following outdated scripts (rather than offering genuine opinions based on past experience) or being unfair to the jury.
posted by Danila at 12:29 PM on February 21 [12 favorites]


Mea culpa. I would still consider it a mistake to consider the current result discouraging. It was not all that long ago that twelve of twelve jurors thought Zimmerman acted in self-defense, and without their now explicit consideration of Florida's SYG law this one would probably have been a conviction.

The prosecution goes into the do-over knowing what the problem was, and without the distraction of the lesser charges. It's hardly a slam-dunk that the result will be the same.
posted by localroger at 12:38 PM on February 21


Also, Danila, you might want to make it clearer that those you are calling out had much more divergent opinions than one might infer from your phrasing. For example, I never thought Dunn was overcharged for murder 1, and agree wholeheartedly with the prosecutor's intent to go for it again.
posted by localroger at 12:41 PM on February 21


I'll continue to consider it discouraging that so many people (backed by law) think that all it requires to take someone's life is for the killer to be afraid.
posted by rtha at 3:23 PM on February 21 [11 favorites]


There is no question that prosecutorial overcharging had nothing to do with the hung jury.

That's not true in any way. To pick just one single example, if the case hadn't been overcharged the jury would have been SIX people instead of twelve. It's a lot easier to get six people to agree than twelve.
posted by Justinian at 6:02 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


I'll continue to consider it discouraging that so many people (backed by law) think that all it requires to take someone's life is for the killer to be afraid.

I agree. I think too that, when there is no duty to retreat, too big a burden sits on the jury's evaluation of the defendant's "reasonableness." It's no longer just about whether a reasonable person would have felt a need to defend himself, but whether that person could justifiably have gone on the attack.

The jury instructions don't help; they read like this:
In deciding whether defendant was justified in the use of deadly force, you must judge [him] [her] by the circumstances by which [he] [she] was surrounded at the time the force was used. The danger facing the defendant need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force. Based upon appearances, the defendant must have actually believed that the danger was real.

In a racist society that's just not good enough when it comes to justification for standing one's ground and opening fire. Many people believe it is quite reasonable to be fearful of young black men. The jury instructions do not explain that race-based fear is not "reasonable." Jurors' judgment/perception on these things is always going to be an issue, of course; but without the duty to retreat, the stakes are much higher.

What's more, I don't even believe those jury instructions are coherent with SYG. If a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force, doesn't that mean that retreat was not an option? How is a jury supposed to reconcile a person's right to stand his ground with the requirement that lethal force be used only as a last resort?
posted by torticat at 9:30 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Does this second juror interview suggest that Creshuna Miles (one of the two black jurors) was one of the three "self-defense" votes? I think it does but am not sure.

I think that when she says she believes Dunn was not guilty of 1st but of 2nd degree murder, she might have been referring to the 2nd degree attempted murder charges he was convicted on. Although that's not exactly what she says.
posted by torticat at 11:45 PM on February 21


No, I don't think so. Both her and Valerie talk of the split coming down to convict vs acquit on the murder charge. Here's Valerie:
Two and then three jurors ultimately believed Dunn, 47, was justified in the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Valerie, who wanted a murder conviction
[...]
According to Valerie, the jurors who believed Dunn was guilty were split between first-degree, second-degree and manslaughter – but because they were unable to unanimously overcome the issue of self-defense, the jury was deadlocked.
and here's Creshuna:
Miles, 21, said she believes Dunn is guilty of murder, but not as charged. She thinks he was guilty of second-degree murder[...]Like Juror No. 4, who spoke to ABC News' "Nightline," Miles said that the jury was split over the issue of self-defense.
[...]
"I really did try. I tried to fight for his son. We, everyone that felt he was guilty, we fought and we fought and we fought, and I saw the look on his dad's face when we came to nothing," she said.
(emphasis mine in both)

Both of them mention being in the group that voted for "guilty" on the murder charge on either 1st or 2nd degree, which wasn't able to convince others to drop self-defense. A vote for self-defense would be a vote for acquittal regardless of the degree (or manslaughter for that matter), and neither of them wanted to acquit.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:18 AM on February 22 [3 favorites]


Yeah I know, that's what was confusing. However, she also said she thought it was self-defense until the Durango started to pull away and he kept shooting.
posted by torticat at 8:38 AM on February 22


That was a bit weird, true, but that's the major problem with SYG obfuscating the issue just by existing. Otherwise, she makes it clear elsewhere that self-defense didn't apply to the murder charge at that point, and her story lines up with Valerie's in terms of convict vs acquit.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:45 AM on February 22


It makes sense that they didn't bother to address the split between first degree, second degree, and manslaughter. Unless you're going to convict on something that distinction doesn't matter and as long as a single juror is clinging to acquittal you're not convicting on anything.

I wish one of the holdouts for acquittal would step up and let us know his or her (I'm guessing "his") thought process. Unless we know that we can't form a real picture of what was going on.

Is it illegal for a juror to publicly reveal which of the other jurors were for acquittal? Or merely a seriously asshole move?
posted by Justinian at 4:49 PM on February 22


Officially the jurors are "Juror 1" through "Juror 12." I think there is some seriously bad legal karma for outing a juror's RL identity without their consent, but "Juror 10" could definitely complain that "Juror 4" was being an ass about it.
posted by localroger at 6:28 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]


The Fears of a Black Mother: The Michael Dunn Verdict
Why Are White Men Like Michael Dunn So Angry? - "A crisis in white masculinity is killing black teenagers and, history says, the violence is likely to continue."
Michael Dunn and Our ‘Dirty Harry’ Epidemic - "The narratives of Dunn and Zimmerman reflect a cultural near-consensus on the idea of the threatening black criminal — and the white man who has no choice but to stop him"
21 Things You Can't Do While Black
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:02 AM on February 24 [3 favorites]


Ta-Nehisi Coates again, in another conversation with Davis's mother, this time accompanied by his own 13-year old son: "I am still called by the God I serve to walk this out." Heart. Breaking.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:19 PM on February 25 [3 favorites]


And I feel bad for it, but I keep failing to say that Jordan Davis's mother's name is Lucia McBath, and having survived breast cancer and the murder of her child in the same year, she is now an outspoken advocate for gun control.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:24 PM on February 25


There Have Been 8 Executions In The U.S. In 2014 — And The Victim In Every Case Was White - '“You’re much more likely to get the death penalty if you kill a white person than if you kill a black person — even controlling for the crime differences.” Two more executions are scheduled for Wednesday; both people were convicted of murdering white victims.'
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:55 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, (insert next)
posted by cashman at 9:11 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


“You’re much more likely to get the death penalty if you kill a white person than if you kill a black person — even controlling for the crime differences.”

Although Blacks constitute approximately 50 percent of murder victims each year, 80 percent of the victims in death penalty cases were white, and only 14 percent were Black. Of the over 18,000 executions that have taken place in this country’s history, only 42 involved a white person being punished for killing a Black person.
posted by scody at 10:55 AM on February 26 [9 favorites]


“Stand Your Ground” Nation:
The gun lobby has single-handedly made certain that the very definition of what one might reasonably expect from an altercation at a Walmart, a movie theater, or a gas station has changed. By seeking to arm everyone in America, the NRA has in fact changed our reasonable expectation of how fights will end, into a self-fulfilling prophecy about how fights will end. It should surprise you not at all to learn that of the 10 states with the most lenient gun laws in America, seven support “stand your ground.” In those jurisdictions shooting first isn’t merely “reasonable.” It borders on sensible.

And it’s not just cultural expectations that are shifting. We’re also shifting what we ask of our jurors. Under “stand your ground,” we are asking jurors to impose a subjective test about whether the shooter was experiencing a profound moment of existential panic. We are asking them whether—in a country seemingly full of people who are both armed and terrified that everyone else is armed—shooting first makes sense. By redirecting jurors to contemplate whether people who are armed and ready to kill are thinking reasonably about others they believe to be armed and ready to kill, we have created a framework in which one’s subjective fears about the world are all that matters. Or as the father of one victim explained to the Washington Post, “Somehow, we've reached the point where the shooter's word is the law.”
posted by scody at 1:35 PM on February 26 [14 favorites]


On that article, one point that jumps out at me is that concealed weapons permits have tripled since SYG was enacted. I'd be wary of that number, particularly as it doesn't seem to control for Floridian residents vs Floridian non-residents.

Due to the way CCP reciprocity works, Florida is, or at least was, known as the go-to place to get permitted if you are in a hurry, even if you're a nonresident. They're relatively inexpensive, only require proof of having completed a safety class (or been a veteran) and fingerprinting, and if you check the reciprocity map, and weirdly, they're honored in 3/5 of the states in the US. (Partially because reciprocity laws usually require reciprocity, and I believe Florida honors more states than anyone but Utah).
posted by corb at 8:51 AM on February 28


“Stand Your Ground” Nation

Homeowner Who Shot Unarmed Elderly Man With Alzheimer’s Wandering His Property Won’t Be Charged
posted by homunculus at 4:04 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


NRA Urges Senate To Reject Surgeon General Nominee Over Gun Violence Prevention Stance
posted by homunculus at 4:19 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


Be Careful What You Wish For

Fuck Angela Corey.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:48 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm really uncomfortable when people think Angela Corey prosecuted because she had any interest in justice. (Not that that's you, tonycpsu, it just reminded me.) The whole Marissa Alexander situation is a damn travesty. I'm glad they're talking about a warning shot exemption, but I really hate that it's like "legislate thrice, cut once" in terms of any kind of reasonable legal solutions.
posted by corb at 6:36 PM on March 3


Tampa Bay Times: One nation, under no duty to retreat
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:39 AM on March 11


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