Capitol Report – The “500-Pound Elephant” in the room
By State Representative, Leon D. Young
Michael Dunn is going to jail. For some, this is good news.
However, for many others, particularly in the Black community, the verdict is a legal sham and a slap in the face.
Dunn, a 47-year-old software developer, was convicted last Saturday of attempted murder for shooting into a car full of teenagers after an argument over loud music. A Florida jury reached a verdict on 4 of the 5 criminal counts against Michael Dunn.
However, the jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on count 1, the most serious charge, murder in the first degree.
Dunn was charged with shooting 17-year-old Jordan Davis, of Marietta, Ga., in 2012 after the argument over loud music coming from the SUV occupied by Davis and three friends outside a Jacksonville convenience store.
Dunn, who is white, had described the music to his fiancée as “thug music.”
He claimed that he acted in self defense, testifying under oath that Davis threatened him and that he thought he saw a gun sticking out of the vehicle in which Davis was a passenger.
After more than 30 hours of deliberations over four days, the 12 jurors found Dunn guilty of three counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of count of firing into an occupied car.
The legal wheels are already in motion for a new trial. State Attorney Angela Cory has indicated that her office would seek a retrial of Dunn on a first degree murder charge.
Meanwhile, defense attorney Cory Strolla said he plans to appeal based on several issues, including how the jury could reach guilty verdicts on four counts and deadlock on another.
The Black community’s sense of disbelief and outrage stems from the fact the jury rendered a hung decision on count 1 – the first-degree murder charge.
In this instant case, Dunn’s legal strategy was to assert his right to self defense.
This meant that the defendant (Michael Dunn) was admitting to all the elements of what would constitute a crime, absent legal justification.
Here’s how the Castle Doctrine/Stand Your Ground Laws can help someone who is “alleging” that he used deadly force in self defense by establishing that his use of force was justified.
In general, under Florida law, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.
This brings us to the extreme public ire over the verdicts in the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis cases, in which both George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn claimed self defense, and justified their use of deadly force under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Statutes. However, in reality, Stand Your Ground Laws are the menacing public policy that’s having a disproportionately lethal impact on young Black males.
These laws are the proverbial “500-pound elephant” in the room, which must be repealed – posthaste.