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Mistrial indeed

So the Dunn jury couldn’t come to a verdict on the killing of Jordan Davis, and the judge declared a mistrial. Some folks are trying to put lipstick on this pig by taking a glass-half-full view of the fact Dunn was convicted of attempted murder of the other kids in the vehicle, and will likely be given a lengthy prison sentence regardless of the eventual outcome of the murder charge.

But the jury could not have been hung unless at least one member of the panel was so thoroughly convinced of Dunn’s claim that Davis had put him in mortal jeopardy that they could not be moved off of that conclusion. Which is absolutely outrageous, since Dunn’s story is clearly transparent bull-shit contradicted by all the other testimony and the physical evidence.

From which I must draw at least two disturbing conclusions:

1. Irrational bigotry, gun lunacy, or the combination thereof remain common enough in Florida that folks with these afflictions are probably going to wind up in every jury pool.

2. Even after the Zimmerman debacle, Conservative prosecutors like Angela Corey remain too chicken-shit to aggressively attempt to weed out the above during voir dire, or to raise the issue of racial intolerance at trial, lest they alienate the wing-nut base of their political allies and patrons (e.g. in this case, FL Tea Party Gov. Rick Scott).

Over on Xena’s blog, Rachael said “I’m glad he didn’t walk.” and then asked, “But is that enough?” I re-post my reply below:

No, it’s not enough.

For that matter, a conviction of Michael Dunn on M1 wouldn’t be enough either.

After all, what we’re talking about here most likely occurred because one or two die-hard bigots and/or gun nuts got onto the jury. A different roll of the dice in terms of who came up in the jury pool could have yielded a different result. But the larger conditions remain the same, and therein lies the problem.

Dunn is a nobody, mere human detritus, and his individual punishment means next to nothing in the big picture. In order to begin to approach “enough” we would need to see some changes in at least one of the various big-picture issues in play here:

a. Persistent wide-spread racist stereotyping of all young Black men as “thugs”.
b. The pernicious influence of the gun lobby and ALEC.
c. The ludicrous self-defense statutes promoted by the above.
d. The ideological orientations that prevent right-wing State Attorneys (e.g. Corey, Guy, et. al.) from prosecuting cases like the Dunn and Zimmerman trials effectively.

While race is obviously a big part of this, IMHO it’s very important to recognize a big part of this, the gun part, is NOT about race at all. The gun lobby wants profit, and like any endeavor ruled by the profit motive, they don’t care where the profit comes from. They would like nothing better for the “lesson” young black men take away from Davis’ death to be, “Damn, Jordan SHOULDA had a shotgun. If I’m going to survive daily life in this sea of gun-crazy crackers, I’d better be able to fight fire with fire.” Whoopee! More gun sales. Back to the Wild West when everybody was packing, no, better than that because in old Tombstone and Dodge it was just all the grown white men who were strapped, and now we’re gonna get EVERYBODY: all the men, women, boys and girls; white, black, brown, yellow, red; straight, gay, trans. No matter what your style, we have a gun for YOU.

The Zimmerman and Dunn trials establish precedent in the public mind if not case law that Florida actually encourages lethal armed response to confrontations. This not only legitimates white-on-black violence (which probably makes up a fairly low percentage of overall violence) but also violence within more homogenous communities. Got a beef with your neighbor, take your gun. Got a beef with your lover or spouse, take your gun. I don’t remember the details or numbers, but I recall hearing that since SYG was passed self-defense acquittals have gone way up, and murder convictions have dropped accordingly. So we have many, many cases that may have involved killers getting off with defenses as thin as GZ’s or Dunn’s, but they never made the news because they lacked the hot-button dramatic appeal of tweaking the racial divide. And with the publicity from the high-profile trials establishing that shoot-first-and-figure-out-your-story-later works, things are only going to get worse. Everywhere, For everybody.

So, yeah, the outcome of Dunn’s case has some symbolic significance in all of this. The big picture will indeed get worse if he is not convicted on re-trial. But the best a conviction can bring is to slow the bleeding (figuratively and literally). Action in a broader sphere will be required to begin to fix the problems, begin to heal the wounds. The Martin and Davis families seem to understand this, as their focus appears to be on the SYG laws more than the fates of the individuals who killed their sons. Alas, that doesn’t seem to draw the same kind of media attention and public interest that accrue when you can point at embodied and individually detestable villains like GZ and Dunn. But IMHO, it’s time to stop obsessing about the leaves, and start looking at who’s planting what trees in the forest.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. racerrodig
    February 16, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    Shootings are up approx 70% and even though most do not invoke a SYG hearing, self defense acquittals are up well over 70%.

    What kills me is that to use SYG they must file a SYG motion at least 90 days prior to trial and Corey stated that neither Duhhnnnn nor Fogen filed that Motion. Why ??

    Then they tried to use parts of it at trial, but smoked screened it as self defense.

    This is f’d up of that there is no doubt. I’ve been saying for 40 years that gun ownership is not a birthright. The same as a “Driving Privledge” it must be earned.

    Why don’t we hear about any legitimate “…..man attacked by knife wielding (%$#@&^%) defends himself and his family. The intended victim shot the attacker who died at the scene. ^%$ News Live interviewed several of the WITNESSES who stated the attacker came suddenly from behind a parked van holding a kinfe. He demanded money and according to at least 2 of the witnesses screamed he would stab his wife if he didn’t do so right now. The intended victim, who’s name is being withheld pending the investigation being completed, drew a hidden pistol and during his reaching for his wallet and fired 1 shot.”

    The reason is that they don’t happen. Every one of these has so many issues it’s a joke and yet the courts entertain this and juries enable them. At some point after Fogen murdered Trayvon, a list was posted on SYG likkings in FL and damn near every shooter had the same crap as Duuhhnn & Fogen. That is…..more bullshit than can be stacked in a week, Most were repeat shooters yet they can’t even say that at trial.

    The most distrubing part is that the shootings by a black person were all denied a SYG hearing yet almost all of the white shooters were granted a hearing, many winning the Motion. Mallisa Alexander being one.

    Thank God I don’t live in FL. In NJ none of that crap is entertained. I follow a lot of this and I can say NJ has among the mopst stringent gun laws in the USA. A private citizen cannot buy hollowpoints for the most part. It’s virtually impossible to get a carry permit and proof that it works better than most states is that we don’t have any Fogen or Duuhhnnn trials to follow.

    • February 16, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      I suppose the NRA would argue that if Mark Sokolich and Dawn Zimmer carried AR15s into their meetings with Christie Administration officials, the GW bridge lanes wouldn’t have been closed and the Sandy funds would have been allocated properly. 🙂 (see note below)

      On a more serious note, I’d guess the victims of the black shooters denied SYG hearings were mostly also black, and the victims of redneck shooters granted SYG hearings were mostly also rednecks (?). I wonder if there are white families of victims who could get on the anti-SYG bus, or if they’re all so brainwashed in all the Castle-Law states that they think the moral is just to be as heavily armed as the other guy, as I posited above…

      (note) I lived in Philly in ’83-’84, and I discovered that New Jersey jokes were so common there, the tellers didn’t even have to get to the punch-lines before the guffaws began. All you had to do was say, “In Jersey…” and people would start laughing, no doubt already replaying a favorite gag at the expense of the Garden State in their minds. Not that this was/is a righteous response. As far as I know, a New Jersey mayor has never dropped an incendiary bomb on a house filled with political dissidents, killing 6 adults and 5 children, and causing the houses on the two adjacent city blocks to be destroyed by the ensuing blaze, as the city fire department sat on their hands and watched. What most people outside of Philly never learned about the MOVE fire was that while it occurred in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, it was not in ‘the inner city.’ Rather, it was an area of very well-kept homes belonging to middle-class families… who (and I know you’ll be shocked, shocked!) were never properly compensated for their loses by the city.

      • racerrodig
        February 16, 2014 at 8:46 PM

        “….As far as I know, a New Jersey mayor has never dropped an incendiary bomb on a house filled with political dissidents, killing 6 adults and 5 children, and causing the houses on the two adjacent city blocks to be destroyed by the ensuing blaze, ”

        True, Milton Milan the mayor of Camden was involved in a drug ring, corruption and God knows what else…..and, well see for yourself…

        Three Camden mayors have been jailed for corruption: Angelo Errichetti, Arnold Webster, and Milton Milan. (Wiki this)

        I remember watching the MOVE fiasco on TV for months…..it happened les than 1/4 mile from some friends of ours in the Darby area. It happened in what is roughly SW Philly. A fiasco of Biblical proportions.

  2. wassointeresting
    February 16, 2014 at 6:47 PM

    I don’t necessarily think that somebody was holding up the verdict by insisting on a not guilty verdict on count 1. If they were all willing to convict on second degree ATTEMPTED murder on the three teenagers who are still alive, then I’m sure they would all not have a problem with AT LEAST manslaughter or murder 2 for Jordan. I rather think that at least one or more on the jury believe firmly in guilty on murder 1 and would not be willing to drop down to murder 2 or manslaughter.

    • wordsalad2009
      February 16, 2014 at 6:59 PM

      @wassointeresting,

      Yup, I agree; they may have been hung up not on guilty/not guilty, but rather on the exact degree of guilt.

      I know what happened was not precisely justice, but right now it looks like Dunn is going to have a lot of time to think, hey, maybe he isn’t so clever.

      Much better than the outcome of the GZ trial.

    • racerrodig
      February 16, 2014 at 8:53 PM

      Yep …In my opinion, and it’s just that, I think the dissident vote was M1 or MS and the others M2 or visa versa. But…..hey, what do I know.

      I think if one holdout was purely NG, they would have hung on everything. Just my opinion.
      I can’t imagine a diehard racist saying not guilty on Count 1 but guilty on 2, 3 & 4. Maybe guilty on # 5 alone, but it was a single holdout racist that convinced the other Fogen jurors let his fat ass walk.

      The movie “12 Angry Men” in reverse.

    • February 17, 2014 at 12:47 AM

      During the deliberations, the jury sent a question to the judge, asking (I paraphrase) ‘if self-defense applies to one count, does it apply to all counts?’ The judge replied that it does not, and the jury was instructed to consider each count separately. Thus, in terms of the law as interpreted by The Court, a vote for conviction on the attempted murder charges is not only consistent with a vote of not-guilty for the murder of Jordan Davis, but essentially required.

      Dunn and Strolla seem to have failed to understand this matter of law, thinking that if they could establish reasonable doubt on the State’s assertion that Dunn was NOT in reasonable fear for his life, then anything and everything Dunn did after that would be OK. Which makes no damn sense of course, and apparently even Florida law isn’t THAT insane.

      I haven’t seen Dunn’s whole testimony, only selected media, but AFAIK he claimed Davis threatened him verbally, claimed Davis brandished a shotgun, and claimed Davis advanced on him by exiting the SUV, yet made no claims whatsoever that the other three young men evidenced any form of aggression towards him. He fired three shots into the rear seat of the SUV, paused and then continued firing at the other young men as the SUV pulled away. By SYG the first three shots at Davis can theoretically be justified. The additional shots cannot.

      I’d guess that the question to the judge sprung from a juror who was committed to a Not-Guilty vote on the count of Davis’s murder, was looking to extend that to a Not-Guilty on all counts, and would happily have done so had the judge ruled differently on the law. But given the instruction to consider the counts separately, and with Dunn not having concocted an additional set of lies to cover his actions PAST the fatal wounding of Davis, the jury really had no discretion at all, and regardless of whatever biases they may have harbored, the Guilty verdicts on Attempted Murder were a fait accompli.

      • wassointeresting
        February 17, 2014 at 4:36 AM

        Well, you’re right that it’s POSSIBLE based on the law as read to them that a juror could find guilty on the attempted M2 (counts 2-4) but not guilty on count 1. I’m just saying that logic (I know, this is florida, the “let’s let GZ go” state) would dictate that if you think Dunn was guilty of attempted M2 against 3 individuals when he fired at the retreating SUV, then he should be guilty of at least manslaughter for Jordan, who was also in the vehicle at the time and could have been killed by any of the shots that constituted an atttempted M2 conviction for the other three teens. I think they separated the first “volley” of shots as the ones that killed Jordan, and the latter set of shots as the ones that could have killed the others. So I guess If Jordan had died from a gunshot that went through the back window as they were driving away, they would have convicted on count 1? Nuts. I’m hoping that in the re-trial of count 1 alone that if a jury is not forced to think about attempted murder on the others, that they would consider the entire set of 10 shots as being directed towards Jordan and some of them leading to his death. Talk about depraved mind.

        • February 17, 2014 at 1:10 PM

          “So I guess If Jordan had died from a gunshot that went through the back window as they were driving away, they would have convicted on count 1?”

          Yup. ‘Self-Defense’ can only apply if you can argue that you’re defending yourself. So it can’t apply if you’re shooting at a car that’s moving AWAY from you.

          To get a conviction at retrial, the prosecution will need to do a better job at voir dire, and a much better job of explaining how the physical evidence belies Dunn’s version of events (e.g. the bullet holes in the rear door of the SUV establish BRD that Jordan could NOT have been exiting the vehicle and advancing on Dunn at the time Dunn began firing.)

  3. February 16, 2014 at 7:28 PM

    But IMHO, it’s time to stop obsessing about the leaves, and start looking at who’s planting what trees in the forest.

    That says it all!!

  4. February 17, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    I normally avoid HLN due to it’s tabloid style, and because Nancy Grace and Jane V. Mitchell both turn my stomach. But since HLN is covering the Dunn trial aftermath while MSNBC is showing early-round Women’s Hockey mismatches, I’ve been watching HLN, and I like Vinnie Polian’s commentary for the most part.

    Earlier today, he did a breakdown of ‘what you have to believe to accept Michael Dunn’s claim of self defense.’ It was good, in that it kept piling one questionable “AND” upon another. Politan’s conclusion was, essentially, the evidence against Dunn was so strong that you can’t blame the prosecution for the mistrial, and the fault must be laid at the feet of the jury.

    JVM then appeared, and disagreed. She said she wished Politan had been prosecuting the case because he had just offered a MUCH stronger closing than Guy did at trial. She then went on to expound a bit and offer a few more critiques of the prosecution, which struck me as on-point even though presented in her usual obnoxious style.

    Hopefully, I’ll find the time and psychological energy to watch at least Dunn’s testimony and cross, and the closing arguments in full before the re-trail, and write a post any specific points where I feel the prosecution failed to present the case against Dunn as powerfully as they could have. My hypothesis is that Mitchell is right, and the prosecutors failed to press Dunn on the details of his story, and how it conflicts with the physical evidence, and then failed again to ‘connect those dots’ in the closing arguments (just as they did in the Zimmerman trial).

    For now, though, I must note an issue with the argument Politan presented… He did an extremely effective job of showing how unreasonable it would be at this point to believe that Jordan Davis did have a shotgun, or a gun of any kind for that matter. Of course, the problem is that Dunn only needs to claim he reasonably BELIEVED Jordan had a weapon. So let’s assume the word “reasonably” matters — that if Dunn just hallucinated a weapon due to the DTs from his day of boozing, that’s not good enough — and reframe Politan’s question to ‘what do you have to believe to conclude that Dunn actually thought he saw a gun?’

    A. You’d have to believe that there was some object in the car that by virtue of shape and color could be mistaken for a shotgun, despite the fact that no testimony or evidence suggests anything of the kind.
    AND
    B. You’d have to believe that Jordan Davis brandished this not-a-shotgun in a way that appeared threatening
    AND
    C. You’d have to believe that despite the two cars vehicles being very close together, Dunn was unable to discern the difference between the not-a-shotgun and the real thing.
    AND
    D. You’d have to believe that the other kids in the SUV ditched the not-a-shotgun in the moments after the shooting, despite the fact they would have no reason to imagine any object that was not-a-gun would be incriminating in any way, and despite the fact that NOTHING was found anywhere near anyplace they could have stopped to ditch something.

    Now, it strikes me that if Dunn had claimed he saw a HANDGUN, a plausible (albeit unlikely) scenario for the above could be offered. Teenagers could conceivably have a water pistol or a paint-ball gun in their vehicles for goofing around. AND we could imagine a brash young man courting danger by trying to scare a belligerent asshole with a fake gun. AND even though toy guns of all kinds are now explicitly designed to NOT resemble real guns so that kids will not get shot by mistake, its possible to imagine that with a few good bumps in his gut Dunn’s senses weren’t sharp enough, and/or Jordan moved the fake gun too quickly, for Dunn to grasp the distinction. AND it’s possible, if there had been a toy pistol in the car, That Jordan’s friends would have ditched it, knowing that it would muddy the water. AND it’s possible to imagine some kid walking by the ditched object, saying ‘Cool, a neat toy!’, picking it up and not telling anyone about it, never imagining that it could have anything to do with a murder case.

    But, as far as I can imagine, even this all-but negligible possibility vanishes in light of the fact Dunn not only specifically said he saw a shotgun but went so far as to venture a description of its gauge. Thus, by his own account, he had a good enough view of this alleged weapon to be able to tell that it wasn’t a hand gun, wasn’t any other kind of long gun, and therefore Jordan Davis couldn’t have been holding any object that resembled either of those categories on a glance.

    So, to accept Michael Dunn’s claim of self-defense you have to believe that Jordan Davis either had an actual shotgun, or something that looked VERY MUCH like a shotgun. And if you want to present the latter as a possibility, Mr. Strolla, can you name me one single object, just ONE, that meets that criteria and could plausibly have been in the Durango that night even down to a 1 in 10,000 chance?

  5. wassointeresting
    February 19, 2014 at 12:55 AM

    Wow, I stand corrected on the jury’s split verdict. In the Nightline interview with one of the jurors (white female who voted to convict) said that the initial jury vote was 10 guilty, 2 not guilty. By the end of the deliberations, it actually went to 9 guilty, 3 not guilty. HUH? Somebody was actually persuaded to give up a guilty verdict for not guilty? She also said there was yelling and cursing during the deliberations, people were passionate. So it wasn’t just a single holdout. This isn’t looking good for a retrial since it seems all too easy in florida to scoop up a few people who are going to be able to put themselves in Dunn’s shoes and say, Yup, I’d have done the same. SMH.

    • February 19, 2014 at 3:17 PM

      Head shaking, neurons vomiting, spirit pummeled…

      I mean, I know what’s what. It’s not like I find this at all surprising. It still shakes me to the bone, anyway.

      • wassointeresting
        February 19, 2014 at 4:46 PM

        Actually, let me correct that initial jury vote. Some secondary news sources were wrong about that. It was initially 2 not guilty, 2 undecided, and the rest (8) were guilty and split between manslaughter, M2 and M1. So they were all over the place. That juror didn’t say how many thought he was guilty of M1.

  6. wordsalad2009
    February 19, 2014 at 9:15 PM

    Just sad. How many more people have to be killed by somebody who later conveniently say they felt ‘threatened?’

    I feel ‘threatened’ by manipulative bullies like Dunn, but I don’t plan on killing any of them.

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