February 17, 2014
The jury in the case of The State of Florida v. Michael David Dunn was not able to return a verdict on the charge that he murdered Jordan Russell Davis, a 17 year old African American. The jury found, however, that Dunn was guilty of three counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting his gun into the car in which Davis and three other African American youth were passengers. The jury consisted of 4 white men, 4 white women, 2 Black women, one Asian woman and one Latino man.
They were reportedly split over whether the murder of Davis was First Degree Murder, Second Degree Murder, or Manslaughter.
Leaders of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression characterized the verdict as only a “partial victory” in the struggle against white supremacist vigilante violence, and called for mass protest and action to defend civil rights.
“This verdict should spur all of us,” the Alliance said, “regardless of color, gender, or nationality, to act to demand that the U.S. Department of Justice intervene and seek an injunction against so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws in Florida and elsewhere. They are in violation of the 14th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1875, U.S.C. Article 18 Section 242. These laws, in practice, grant armed vigilantes license to kill African American youth.”
Observers have noted with alarm that in every case, only white vigilantes have apparently been authorized to use deadly force by these laws. No one has mentioned that Trayvon Martin, murdered last year by George Zimmerman, or Jordan Davis had any right to stand their ground in the face of a clear and present danger to their lives, proven by the murders of these unarmed young men.
Davis’s mother and father, Lucia McBath and Ron Davis, expressed some relief when interviewed after the verdict, that Dunn would spend at least 75 years in prison – a minimum of 20 years on each attempted murder charge and 15 years on the shooting charge. They also expressed deep anxiety that Dunn ultimately must be held to account for the murder of their son.
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey told reporters after the verdicts were announced that the state would retry Dunn on the charge of first degree murder of Davis. “Justice for Jordan Davis is as important as it is for any victim,” Corey said.
“It’s sad for Mr. Dunn that he will live the rest of his life in that sense of torment, and I will pray for him,” Lucia McBath said. “And I’ve asked my family to pray for him.” But this is not enough, she added. She and her husband demand justice for their son as well.
In a statement signed by Clarice Durham, Ted Pearson, CAARPR Co-chair people, and Frank Chapman, Field Organizer and Chairperson of the Organizing Committee to Stop Police Crimes, the Alliance declared:
“The verdicts in the case of the murder of Jordan Russel David and the attempted murder of three others by Michael David Dunn in Florida are only a partial victory in the struggle against white supremacy. They can offer only mild satisfaction, in that Dunn faces a mandatory sentence of at least 75 years in prison for attempted murder of three African American youth with a gun.
“But even though he may spend the rest of his life in prison, the failure of the jury to find Dunn guilty of killing Jordan Davis says to the people of the world that in Florida, and elsewhere in the U. S., the lives of young Black men can be taken by armed white men without fear of consequences. We can never forget that it was in Florida that Trayvon Martin, who was also 17, was murdered by white vigilante George Zimmerman, who received no punishment for his crime.
“This verdict should spur all of us, regardless of color, gender, or nationality, to act to demand that the U.S. Department of Justice intervene and seek an injunction against so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws in Florida and elsewhere. They are in violation of the 14th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1875, U.S.C. Article 18 Section 242. These laws, in practice, grant armed vigilantes license to kill African American youth.
“The Alliance supports the stated determination of Florida State Attorney Angela Corey to press for a second trial on the First Degree Murder charge against Dunn. A conviction on this charge is the only way that Jordan Davis’s family can feel vindicated, and to let the people of our country know that Florida will no longer allow racists to use ‘Stand Your Ground Laws’ to justify murdering Black people.
“We agree with CNN Anchor Don Lemon and CNN Legal Affairs Legal Analyst Sunny Hostin, who expressed dismay on the air after the verdicts, over the inability of the jury to convict Dunn on any of the murder charges. Lemon and Hostin, both of whom are of African descent, made it clear that they took the verdict very personally. Hostin stated that as the mother of a Black male, she could not but worry that her own son remained in greater danger by the failure to convict Dunn.
“We suggest to Atty. Corey that she recognize, and present to the next jury, the obvious fact that white supremacist racism drove Dunn to commit this crime. Otherwise the next jury may also be unable to resolve this issue.
“Actually, no family, regardless of color, can feel that their children are safe from racist vigilante attack. It is incumbent upon all people, Black, brown and white to unite and fight for justice in this case.
“The NAACP has already ask the DOJ to intervene in the Travon Martin case. We must now add Jordan Davis, and continue to protest and press forward our demand that the wanton and senseless murder of African Americans be vigorously prosecuted.
“Here in Chicago we have 72 cases of killings of Black and Latino men, most of them unarmed, by Chicago Police Department officers just since January, 2009. This is on top of the hundreds who are killed every year by gangs that seem to be tolerated by the police.
“Police in the U. S. have always conducted themselves with impunity and disdain for the communities they are supposed to protect. These same disdainful attitudes and behavior have been adopted and accepted by many white people and vigilantes outside of the police force. This is reminiscent of the days before the civil rights movement, when gangs of klansmen in white sheets terrorized African Americans. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement has reported that in 2012 a black person was killed by police or a vigilante force every 36 hours. In 2013 this worsened to one killed every 28 hours. The message here is clear: ‘Thou shalt not kill’ does not apply when the victim is a certain color, religion, or economic group.
“All this just underscores the necessity to bring the police under the control of an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council, such as the one we are proposing. We the people, must have the power to ensure that our police are held accountable for the crimes they commit and that they act morally, to effectively reduce crime in our communities.