America is watching Florida, again.
Jury deliberations will continue today in the trial of the 47-year-old Florida man, Michael Dunn, who opened fire on a vehicle of four African American teenagers. One of the teens, 17-year-old Jordan Davis, was fatally wounded. The incident ignited because Dunn perceived the teenagers’ music to be too loud. After the teens verbally refused to heed Dunn’s comments about the music and a heated verbal exchange, he opened fired on the red Durango. Dunn says they had a gun, and he feared for his life, but there is no proof that the firearm ever existed. The teens drove away, fleeing from danger as Dunn continued to shoot. Dunn got in his car, drove to his hotel, walked his dog, ordered pizza and went to sleep.
Dunn faces five charges, including a murder charge and three counts of attempted murder. Three of the 10 shots he fired were as the teens drove away.
Florida, like Mississippi, has a version the “Stand Your Ground Law.” In Mississippi it is called the “Castle Doctrine,” which is the foundation of the “Stand Your Ground”(SYG) statute. Every state in the U.S. has a version of the “Castle Doctrine,” but the specifications for SYG laws vary.
The similar statutes in both MS and FL say that a person as a right to protect one’s self when facing danger that seems imminent and there is reasonable belief that a serious threat has been posed. In this perception of danger, the person has no duty to retreat from home, vehicle, business or anywhere a person has a right to be. Some SYG laws give the survivor immunity from civil law suits and sometimes criminal law suits and even arrest.
In this instance, Dunn’s word and actions don’t satisfy the formula for self-defense as it pertains to SYG, according to prosecutors. Yet Dunn’s lawyers side that he still hasn’t proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
This trial rose on the heels of the highly publicized case in the same state where a White Hispanic man, George Zimmerman, killed an African American teenager, Trayvon Martin. The tones and temperament around the Dunn and Davis case are eerily similar. The actors are similar as well, firearm brandishing, embolden older white males kills lively, vocal young African American males. The misinterpretation, or the self-interpreted perception of the law also creates a haze around both cases.
Lots of people thought Zimmerman would receive a sentence locking him behind prison walls for life, instead he’s out walking the street. He sells art and entertains boxing matches with popular rappers. Some tout him as a celebrity murder. After all, he was celebrated.
The nation will watch as Florida stars in its own “surreality show.” We can only hope that justice will truly be served. We hope that when people commit crimes they face appropriate consequences. What will happen? Like they say in my neighborhood, “Man, I can’t call it.”