No Justice in Trial of Killing of 17-Year-Old Jordan Davis

Feb 22, 2014

Posted in Equal Rights/EquityPolice-Public Safety

By Tasion Kwamilele

In the wake of the killings of Oscar Grant in Oakland and Trayvon Martin in Florida, Bay Area residents are again witnessing the emotional uproar over the killing of another young Black man, which once again raises the question if Black lives are less valued in America’s judicial system.

The verdict in the murder case of 17-year old Jordan Davis, apparently shot and killed in a dispute over loud music, caused the same emotional uneasiness as in the other cases.

Although Michael Dunn, 47, was found guilty on three accounts of attempted murder and for firing into an occupied car, the jury was hung on the first-degree murder charge of Davis.

How is possible to find him guilty of attempted murder but not on the main charge of murder?

“This is the third recent case in Florida where the ‘stand your ground’ law has apparently complicated rather simple cases of murdering young Black teenagers,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson in a statement released this week.

San Francisco Defense Attorney Damone Hale says ultimately Dunn’s defense attorney, Cory Strolla, “outplayed the prosecution.”

“A trial is a battle of impressions,” Hale said. “A good defense attorney is going to paint the picture that Davis posed a threat.”

Davis was reported to have argued with Dunn, described as getting out of the car, which under Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground Law’ could support Dunn’s fear. However, when the vehicle is pulling away there is no reasonable danger caused since the person is leaving, which then explains the jury’s verdict on the attempted murder charges but not the murder charge.

The jury deliberated for 30 hours, which Hale says shows the back and forth limbo, but ultimately the defense was able to get at least one non Black juror to relate to a time when they saw a young Black male in a mall or store and felt threatened.

But given the evidence, he believes a seasoned prosecutor could have destroyed Dunn, Hale said.

“Our system works when the pieces do their job and part of the prosecutors job was to tell the story,” he added. “The prosecutors in Florida are looking like amateurs.”

Rev. Jackson also raised questions about the “competence of State Attorney Angela Corey who has refused to address one of the central issues in both the Jordan Davis and the Trayvon Martin trials – the issue of race.”

“Race was central to all three trials yet Ms. Corey has been reluctant and has refused to bring the relevant issue of race into the two trials of Davis and Martin,” he said.

Unlike Florida’s subjective ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law, which focuses on what a person believes, Hale says California’s law examines if a person’s actions are reasonable.

Based on the facts of the case, he believes if the case tried in California, the only way Dunn would have been able to avoid a life sentence would be if he were offered a plea deal.