Editor’s Note: Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Florida, who spent the past few weeks covering the Michael Dunn murder trial. Follow her on Twitter @tonyaajw or on Facebook at tonyaajweathersbee.
Tonyaa Weathersbee calls the verdict in the Michael Dunn murder case a hollow victory
Dunn admitted firing into an SUV, killing Jordan Davis, 17, but said it was in self-defense
Dunn was found guilty of three counts of second-degree attempted murder
The Florida jury could not reach a verdict in the murder charge for Davis' death
So it looks like Michael Dunn, a white man who fatally shot black teenager Jordan Davis for refusing to turn down his “thug music,” may be going to prison for the rest of his life.
But that’s a consolation prize. Not a real victory.
It’s not a real victory because the jury that convicted Dunn, 47, didn’t convict him for killing the 17-year-old Davis. They convicted him for almost killing Davis’ three friends who were riding in the Dodge Durango with him. They found Dunn guilty of three counts of second-degree attempted murder and one count of shooting deadly missiles. Each attempted murder count carries a minimum sentence of 20 years.
But it’s a hollow victory.
It’s hollow because it means that, in 21st century America, the notion that a mouthy young black male could be a threat carries more weight with some people than the fact that an impulsive middle-aged white man could be a liar.
Think about it.
Apparently someone on the Dunn jury – a jury that took four days to deadlock on whether Dunn was justified in killing Davis – believed that Davis’ cursing at Dunn and arguing over the volume of his music equaled a serious enough threat to make Dunn reasonably fear for his life.
Someone on that jury saw Davis with a shotgun that likely never existed, but didn’t see the real bullets – 10 in all – that Dunn pumped into the SUV and into Davis’ body, bullets that left Davis bleeding and dying in his friend’s lap.
It’s hollow because it underscores what seems to be a scary trend. I guess now any random white man can confront a black teenager whose style of dress or music he doesn’t like or views as suspect. And when that teenager doesn’t submit to him, or responds to him in a confrontational manner, or in a way that any rebellious teenager is apt to respond, then it’s perfectly fine to exterminate him.
We first saw this with Trayvon Martin.
Martin was walking to his father’s home when George Zimmerman took it upon himself to follow him because he was wearing a hoodie.
Yet just as Zimmerman thought Martin looked suspicious, the 17-year-old thought Zimmerman looked suspicious. But when Martin responded to Zimmerman’s stalking and wound up in a fight with him, Zimmerman fatally shot him.
And he got away with it. Zimmerman claimed self-defense. In a confrontation that he provoked.
So did Dunn with Davis.
Dunn took it upon himself to drive up to a convenience store in Jacksonville and, even with a number of empty spaces available, decide to park next to the one vehicle full of young black men playing some thumping hip-hop music. Rather than avoid music he hated, he parked right next to it.
And when Davis didn’t submit to his wishes to turn it down, he didn’t like it. They had words. He didn’t like that. Michael Dunn was not going to be sassed by a black kid.
So Dunn reached into his glove compartment, pulled out his 9 mm handgun and started shooting at Davis and his friends. And he killed him.
Yet this jury believed that the unarmed black teenager, Jordan Davis, was so scary, so profane that they couldn’t see their way to convict Dunn of murdering him.
So even though Dunn is going to prison, it’s tough to feel good about the verdict.
It feels hollow.
What the verdict says is that in this nation, in the 21st century, some white men still believe they have the right to intrude into the space of young black men and make demands. And if the black man is unarmed – with no weapon except his words – those white men can still kill him. And call it self-defense.
All they need is a jury to buy it.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tonyaa Weathersbee.