The sting of the George Zimmerman verdict is not quite healed yet for many and Florida faces another Stand Your Ground case with another white man killing a young black teenager. This time, it’s not about a suspicious person wearing a hoodie but a SUV with black teens playing loud music that caused the death of Jordan Davis, age 17. Defendant Michael Dunn faces murder and several attempted murder charges for shooting into the SUV of Jordan Davis when he asked him to turn down the music. On its face, the case seems simple as even the defendant’s fiancé testified against him. The defendant claims that he shot the Davis multiple times for his own self-defense. Michael Dunn claims that he had to shoot in self -defense because he saw a gun pointed at him and feared for his life. His fiancé states he never mentioned seeing a weapon in Davis’ SUV. No weapon was found in Davis’ vehicle.
Now that the jury has entered into the deliberations phase of the Michael Dunn trial, it’s difficult to wait and see what the outcome will be. For some, they believe that a guilty verdict is inevitable for a man who shot and killed a black teenager for playing his music too loud in the car. For others, they believe that Dunn should be found not guilty based on the jury instructions and the law on Stand Your Ground. Of course, those voicing opinions online are not sitting on the jury.
Where opinions differ depend on how much subconscious racial bias exists. While many people refuse to see that racial bias exists in just about everything in America, there’s a reason why the jails are mostly filled with black men who make up 6% of the population and yet 40% of the prison population. And that’s the part that concerns me about whether the jury will be able to reach a guilty verdict based on the evidence and lack of credibility on the part of the defendant. Or if the jury will rely on their internal bias and find the defendant not guilty due to Stand Your Ground instructions. Using their common sense would be a great help in reaching a verdict. Mr. Dunn never bothered to call 911 to say he had shot someone. The police found him. Dunn probably never bothered to call the police about the shooting because he thought he had gotten away with murder, while coming home from a wedding with his fiancé in the car. And the second reason is probably because shooting a black youth for disrespecting a white man is not worth reporting in Dunn’s view.
There is no perfect case with all the witnesses testifying the same way. And the Dunn case is no different. As the prosecutor, John Guy stated, yes the same prosecutor John Guy in the George Zimmerman case, a real trial is not like TV where the stories fit perfectly. But at the end of the day, a real trial is one where a jury should use their common sense and set aside their internal bias and find justice.
Finding justice where a young black man kills an older white man is one thing for a majority white jury. The composition of the jury is 8 whites, 2 blacks, 1 Asian and 1 Hispanic. Finding justice on the same set of facts in reverse is where the jury’s internal bias may work against finding a guilty verdict. And justice should be blind. But justice rarely feels blind to many minorities when it comes down to a white person referring to young blacks as “thugs’ and “gangstas”. These are just the new words to replace the “N” word. And how much those subtleties will affect the mostly white jury is where the problem lies. And coupled with the fact that Michael Dunn used all the buzz words to support a Stand Your Ground defense. He stated he feared for his life and he saw a weapon pointed at him. And he reached for his gun and shot and killed Jordan Davis.
The Michael Dunn trial has not been as publicly viewed as the Zimmerman trial. However, the result may end up the same way. Regardless of the outcome of the Michael Dunn verdict, what are we, as a society, going to do about Stand Your Ground laws that give some segments of the population a right to kill others and walk away without a conviction, is one issue. And what are we going to do about race relations in America is the real issue.
Postscript: As of 2:00 PM February 15, 2014, the jury is still deliberating.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, member of the Supreme Court bar and former prosecutor who addresses gender and race bias in the media. She is frequently seen in the national and international media on BET News, RT America, News One, Sky News, and Fox, CBS and NBC affiliates. She also contributes to the Huffington Post and Women’s Media