By Charlene Muhammad CHARLENEM
A dispute in a gas station lot results in killing, a closely watched trial and questions once again about value of Black life
(FinalCall.com) – Opening statements began in early February in the trial of Michael Dunn, a White male accused of shooting Jordan Davis, a Black teen, in the parking lot of a gas station in Jacksonville, Fla., because music in the SUV carrying the 17-year-old and three friends was too loud.
Mr. Dunn faces life in prison if convicted on one count of first degree murder, three counts of attempted first degree murder, and shooting into an occupied dwelling–the red Dodge Durango prosecutor John Guy said the White male fired 10 shots into.
Mr. Dunn has claimed self-defense under the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, which allows people who feel an imminent threat to defend themselves, even with deadly force.
“This case is going to be watched very carefully because this guy’s case is like Black people have no rights! It’s going to be Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman all over again,” said Professor Marcella Washington of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. She also doesn’t like the fact the jury’s sequestered because Mr. Dunn doesn’t need one, she said.
Trayvon Martin, also a 17-year-old Black youth, was followed and killed by George Zimmerman. The case drew national and international attention after Sanford, Fla., Police refused to arrest Mr. Zimmerman for the shooting. Local prosecutors also refused to act and a special prosecutor had to be assigned to the case after mass grassroots demonstrations and demands for justice forced officials to take action.
Mr. Zimmerman was finally arrested more than a month after the shooting. He was acquitted by a predominantly White, all female jury.
Prosecutors in the Dunn case say the forensics evidence is bone-chilling and includes surveillance audio and video tapes secured from the gas station where the incident happened, and especially the coroner’s testimony.
That evidence is supposed to refute Mr. Dunn’s claims that Jordan Davis threatened him with a shotgun weapon or lead pipe and that the teen was getting out of the car to attack him. Police found the youth had no guns or weapons.
Defense attorneys charged young Davis threatened to kill Mr. Dunn and homicide investigators made mistakes, including not recording multiple interviews they had with the other victims.
Professor Washington believes the case will put Prosecutor Angela Corey on the spot again. “She is so unsympathetic to the plight of young people, to the plight of Black people, minorities in this city and this district that she represents until it’s unbelievable,” Prof. Washington told The Final Call.
Atty. Corey drew criticism over her handling of the George Zimmerman case as well as Marissa Alexander’s case. In August 2010, the Black mother and her parents say she fired a warning shot to stop an attack from her abusive husband. Yet in early May 2012 Ms. Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison under Florida’s 10-20-life law.
Ms. Alexander walked out of jail on Nov. 27, 2013 after being granted a new trial date of July 28 this year.
“Race, of course, is always a big issue here,” Prof. Washington said of Jacksonville.
After all, it took until December 2013 for the Duvall County School Board to rename the high school named after Nathan B. Forrest High School, the Ku Klux Klan’s first grand wizard, but it took a public and online campaign to help forge the change, and still, campaign opponents almost won, she said.
Prof. Washington also cited some 100 jailhouse letters Mr. Dunn wrote, exhibiting racial animosity towards Blacks. Some have been released to the public and will certainly bear out in the trial, she feels.
In a letter to his grandmother, Mr. Dunn said he is really not prejudiced against race but has no use for certain cultures. He wrote: “This gangster-rap, ghetto talking thug ‘culture’ that certain segments of society flock to is intolerable. They espouse violence and disrespect towards women. The black community here in Jacksonville is in an uproar against me – the 3 other thugs that were in the car are telling stories to cover up their true ‘colors’.”
“We’ve got to see what the action is and how they prosecute that case because once they got their prosecution going, it was clear (George Zimmerman) was going to get off because they set that up,” Prof. Washington said.
Opening arguments in the case started Feb. 6.
“Angela Corey set that up so that they let them really drag Trayvon Martin’s name through the mud and make him street tough, all the things they did to that child, and that man got away with murder,” she continued.
Meanwhile, demonstrators from grassroots and civil rights organizations have planted themselves outside the Duval County Courthouse since jury selection began. They also have drawn parallels between the Davis case and Trayvon Martin, though the Davis shooting hasn’t garnered the same level of national attention.
What happened in the Martin case just can’t happen again, protest organizers say. They plan to demonstrate throughout the Dunn trial.
They want to send a message that what happened to Jordan Davis and his friends was wrong and to call attention to racism and violence that haunts young Black men in Florida, said Pastor Reginald Gundy, chapter president for the SCLC in Jacksonville.
In a statement, Pastor Gundy and the SCLC highlighted Mr. Dunn’s jailhouse letters berating Blacks and showing support for more violence against so-called Black thugs.
Jordan Davis was not a thug, rather, a well-rounded child who did well in school, had never been in trouble with the law, and had a bright future, SCLC argued.
“Michael Dunn seems to be part of a massive subculture in this society that looks at most young Black males as deviants and thugs with the potential to do violence at any time. The SCLC is seeking to battle that mentality,” the statement said.
Pastor Gundy said the community is not just seeking, but demanding justice, and there is concern about media bias, which reared its head in the Trayvon Martin case. Pastor Gundy is also concerned about racial tension.
“The climate is tense down here because it’s not just Trayvon. It’s not just Marissa, it’s not just Jordan. It’s all of the other shootings we’ve got here in this city and all of the other shootings that’s going on in this state … Florida has the worst laws you can think of when it comes to what they do,” Pastor Gundy said.