Two years and two trials later after Jordan Davis was murdered by Michael Dunn while sitting in a car with 3 of his teen age friends, Leland Brunson, Tommie Stornes and Tevin Thompson playing music, Michael Dunn was sentenced today. And justice was finally served. As some say using slang, the judge dropped the hammer on Michael Dunn. Judge Russell Healey sentenced Dunn to a maximum of 30 years, (20 years minimum) each for the attempted murders on Jordan’s three friends which equates to a minimum 60 years and maximum 90 years , 15 years concurrently for the use of a firearm and then life without eligibility of parole after serving those sentences for Jordan’s murder. While often the criminal justice system does not equally dispense justice when it comes to black victims or black defendants versus whites, this time justice was fairly dispensed. Justice is not always fair for African Americans. In the Dunn trial, justice was fair today. He justly got what he deserved.
In a society where African Americans cannot sit in a car playing music, walk in a gated community with candy and iced tea or seek help from strangers at night, without being shot to death, there is something terribly wrong with our society. Mr. Dunn went from his son’s wedding, a joyous occasion to taking another person’s life on November 23, 2012. And Judge Healey addressed it, saying the Dunn case shows how society has lost its way and its “moral compass”. Judge Healey in delivering the sentence tells Dunn, “Mr. Dunn your life is effectively over”. And Judge Healey also addressed Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws upon which these types of defendants rely on to justify their killings. Healey indicated that Stand Your Ground does not mean those like Mr. Dunn have a right to shoot and kill in these situations without a duty to retreat. The Florida law has been widely misinterpreted and used to justify unlawful killings.
Despite the harsh sentence given, for the family of Jordan Davis, nothing will ever be the same. Victims of the family are allowed to address the court through victim impact statements or by testimony before the court. The statements by the Davis family were heart wrenching for all those in court, including 5 jurors who came to the sentencing. Ron Davis, Jordan’s father said his life as he knew it was shattered on November 23, 2012. His mother, Lucia McBath, stated that Jordan was named after the river Jordan in the Bible and prayed many prayers over his life that Jordan would be able to navigate a world with danger. And yet, through it all, Jordan Davis’ mother states she chooses to forgive Dunn for taking her son’s life.
Michael Dunn has 30 days to appeal. It’s a safe bet to say he will appeal. He has nothing to lose. There were two trials since the first trial resulted in guilty verdicts of the three attempted murders and a hung jury or mistrial in the murder of Jordan Dunn. On appeal, even if one appeal is unlikely successful, Dunn will likely remain in jail as the sentences run consecutively and not together. And an appeal is not based on the fact that he is dissatisfied with his sentence handed down by the judge. It must be based on a legal error committed by the trial judge which affected the jury’s verdict and outcome of the trial. The sentences are effectively a death sentence in jail for 47 year old Michael Dunn. The State’s Attorney stated the case did not meet the criteria for the death penalty. Even if it did, the family of Jordan Davis, a religious family, did not want the death penalty on religious reasons.
And so for this time, justice was served for the murder and attempted murders of African American teenagers just acting as teenagers in America. And this time “Lady Justice” got it right.
Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former felony prosecutor who has tried murder cases. She often is seen in the media speaking on law, race and gender issues on BET, C-Span, Fox 5, NBC and CBS affiliates and TV One with Roland Martin.