[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]
Recently Michael Dunn, the Florida man accused of murdering 17-year-old Jordan Davis in a parking lot in Jacksonville, was found guilty on three counts of second-degree attempted murder of the other victims. The first-degree murder charge ended in a mistrial.
Seemingly, the only thing Dunn got wrong was missing the others.
The three charges that stuck pack quite a punch. Florida is very hard on this penalty. Dunn, 47, faces up to 20 years per charge, which means he could very well spend the rest of his life in prison.
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State attorney Angela Corey said the state wants to retry Dunn on the murder charge: “We intend to fully push for a new trial. … Justice for Jordan Davis is as important as it is for any victim.”
No matter how things play out, Dunn will be doing time. It is said that the judge, Russell Healy, can be very strict with sentencing.
It is probably not surprising that the case was watched closely by millions of people. Florida. Young black male shot and killed. Ms. Corey, who was the prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin trial. “Stand Your Ground” law (not used in the Dunn defense but now synonymous with the state and dead teenagers).
As both sides made their closing arguments and the case went to the jury, I did not think Dunn was going to be found guilty on the murder charge. My understanding of first-degree murder is that premeditation needs to be proven. To show that Michael Dunn drove into a gas station parking lot, looking for someone to kill, is a heavy lift. This might be what hung the jury up. The jury had the option to convict on lesser degrees of murder, but the prosecution went with a first-degree posture, pressing the unwieldy idea of premeditation. Why?
I don't want to be that cynical, but Corey is the same prosecutor who put Marissa Alexander in prison for 20 years for discharging a gun into a wall of her garage as she was being menaced by her ex-husband, who had defied his restraining order. She strikes me as rather premeditated. If Dunn is tried again in the same manner, a jury might act the same way as the previous.
Dunn's attorney obviously felt confident enough in Dunn's story to allow him to take the stand. The term “self-defense” seems to mean a great deal in contemporary law. Observe someone from the vantage point of your vehicle as they walk down the street? Music too loud? Shooting the offender seems to be the way to handle these common occurrences.
Dunn's testimony, what I heard of it, sounded extremely coached, I thought Vince Lombardi was going to materialize in the courtroom. On the stand, Dunn was absolute in his “I was afraid for my life” point of view. I wasn't there, maybe he was. However, his statements, the testimony of his girlfriend and the evidence were continually at odds.
Post-verdict, America is talkin'. It is this conversation that I find fascinating and vital. It is who we are – a highly opinionated, multimillion-voiced choir with Internet access.
I know some might think that spending time reading what a bunch of people post in relative anonymity is a waste of time. I think the anonymity allows people to honestly state what's on their mind. The ugly Americans and all the rest came out to play.
I read a few warnings to anyone adopting the “gangsta” lifestyle. Real sage chunks of wisdom like, “Live like a gangsta, die like a gangsta.” Wow, that's pretty deep, thanks. If playing music loud in the parking lot of a gas station convenience store is part of the “gangsta lifestyle,” then we have some problems.
From jail, Dunn wrote the following in a letter:
“The 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 fucking idiots when they're threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.”
I wonder if this will be entered as evidence in Dunn's retrial.
I read the posts of several Internet theorists, who cast forth pithy inquiries such as: What if a black man had shot 10 times (the number of rounds Dunn shot) into a car full of white teens? Would the murder charge have stuck? Only one way to find out, dipshit. I understand the frustration, but it doesn't get anyone anywhere.
What made me curious was the open-ended “people have a right to defend themselves” posts. I agree but it's the perceived “threat” that becomes the endangered species. In Florida, it seems to be unarmed people.
So what does one advise to young African-American males in order to keep them safe from a “good guy with a gun”? No hooded sweatshirts? Pull your pants up? Turn the music down? Should they avert their eyes and shuffle their feet when de boss man come by?
Perhaps they should never leave their dwellings, lest some angry white man find them threatening, go into the glove box of his car, grab a gun and shoot them. Maybe it's better to not inconvenience upright citizens like Michael Dunn at all, and self-incarcerate at the nearest correctional facility before making babies out of wedlock or hanging out at gas stations with the music up too loud.
There's the solution. Young African-American males: Stop existing. It could get you killed.
There is no “rehabilitation” for Michael Dunn. He won't get “better” no matter how long he is incarcerated. He is not aware that he did anything wrong. Millions of Americans agree with him. Jordan Davis is never coming back. His family will agonize over the loss for the rest of their lives. Their public composure is a lesson to us all. I still don't understand what the threat is.