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No justice in 'stand' law in Fla.

Byline: Clive McFarlane

A nother black teenager is shot dead in Florida and his killer is absolved of the crime by a jury which has again taken that state's "Stand Your Ground'' law to mean that every white guy with a real or perceived grievance against a black guy can become a one-man lynch mob.

I am referring to the case of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, who was shot and killed in 2012 by Michael Dunn, a software engineer. Dunn had pulled into the parking lot of a gas station and convenience store alongside an SUV that was occupied by Jordan and three other teenagers.

Shortly afterward, he fired 10 rounds at the teenagers, killing Jordan. During his shooting spree, Dunn disembarked from his vehicle, crouched and fired three volleys into the SUV as it backed away from the gunfire.

He said he killed Jordan and shot at the other occupants after they had ignored his request to turn down their "thug'' music, or as he called it on other occasions, their "obnoxious,'' "rap crap'' music, and after he felt threatened by their confrontational response.

"It was Jordan Davis who kept escalating this to the point where I had no choice but to defend myself,'' he said in court.

"It was life or death.''

Dunn said he thought he saw Jordan with a shotgun. The police found no guns at the scene, and no witnesses saw the teenagers with a gun. His fiancee, who was in the store at the time of the shooting, said Dunn never mentioned any of the teenagers having a gun.

Dunn suggested Jordan had gotten out the SUV when he shot him, but the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, said the teenager, who had no trace of alcohol or drugs in his blood, was "sitting in the vehicle and leaning away.''

More likely, according to the prosecutor in the case, Dunn became enraged because the teenagers refused to turn down their music and because they mouthed off to him. And for that bit of defiance, Dunn unloaded his 9mm on the vehicle. He then drove to a motel with his girlfriend, spent the night and drove 21/2 hours home the following day. He never called the police.

Some, nevertheless, will say Dunn got his comeuppance, because the jury did find him guilty of three counts of attempted murder, which could bring him at least 60 years in jail.

I wouldn't rejoice too early. This is Florida. This case will be appealed, and it wouldn't surprise me if a more "enlightened'' Stand Your Ground jury throws out the charges.

The relevant question is why did the jury not found him guilty of premeditated murder or murder in the second degree, or even manslaughter?

They didn't, because under Florida's Stand Your Ground law, Dunn would have been justified in killing Jordan if he believed the teenager was a threat. Apparently enough of the jurors bought Dunn's professed "fear for life'' defense.

Michael Band, a criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor explained the Stand Your Ground law this way to The New York Times: "Whether there was a shotgun is not nearly as important under the law as whether Mr. Dunn believed he saw one and then reacted out of reasonable fear for his life.

"If he really believed there was a gun, then he acted appropriately,'' Mr. Band said.

In Dunn's eyes, Jordan may well have been perceived as a threat, but not because the teenager had a gun, but because he was black. This is the world in which black teenagers live, a world in which their skin color makes them de facto menaces in the eyes of many.

As such, Stand Your Ground laws are nothing more than open invitations to kill these kids first and ask questions later.
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:McFarlane, Clive
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Feb 19, 2014
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