JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Right on the heels of the George Zimmerman trial, another controversial and tragic self-defense case is making its way to court. This time, the scene is Jacksonville, Florida, and the story involves Jordan Davis, an African American teen the same age as Trayvon Martin.
Davis, 17, was shot to death by Michael Dunn in November 2012.
Dunn told police that he asked Davis and three other teens, who were parked next to him at a gas station, to turn down their music. Dunn says he heard threats from the teens and saw a gun in their car. He says he feared for his own safety, and that’s why he grabbed his gun and fired into the vehicle.
Police say that they found no guns inside the teens’ vehicle and that Dunn fired his gun eight or nine times.
Dunn has been charged with first-degree murder in Davis’ death and also faces three counts of attempted first-degree murder for shooting at the three others in the vehicle who survived. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail in a Duval County, Florida, jail. His trial is scheduled to begin on September 23.
Dunn’s attorney, Robin Lemonidis, has told CNN that her client was reacting to what he says was a gun being drawn. “When all the evidence has been flushed out, I believe that it will be extremely clear that Mr. Dunn acted as any responsible firearm owner would have under the same circumstances,” Lemonidis said.
While it’s unknown if Dunn will claim a “stand your ground” defense during his trial, he is claiming that he shot at the teens in self-defense. Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, also said he acted in self-defense when he shot Martin.
On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman called police and reported Martin as looking “suspicious.” The two fought, and Zimmerman said he was forced to draw his gun and shoot Martin. A jury of six women found Zimmerman not guilty Saturday after about 16 hours of deliberation.
Many who followed the Zimmerman case considered race to be one of the key issues at play. Critics accused Zimmerman of racially profiling Martin, and protests were held around the country when it appeared that Zimmerman wasn’t going to be arrested in Martin’s death.
Zimmerman was eventually charged with second-degree murder in April 2012. The case reinvigorated national conversations about race, racial profiling and self-defense laws, and those discussions have continued after the verdict.
However, while there are undeniable similarities between the cases of Dunn and Zimmerman — including that both incidents happened in Florida — the people involved in the case are doing what they can to underscore some key differences.
For example, Lemonidis denies any connection between the Dunn and Zimmerman cases and says her client isn’t a “vigilante.”
And Davis’ mother says she doesn’t want race to be the focus of her son’s case.
“It’s apparent that Michael Dunn is white, it’s apparent that Jordan is Black,” Lucia McBath Davis told HLN’s “Raising America.” “But the issue is the ‘stand your ground’ laws. The issue is not the racial part of it. We’re not going to center and focus on that, because that doesn’t do any good for the country. We’re not going to incite racism in this country. The bigger picture is making a change in the laws so that ... this doesn’t continue to happen.”
With Zimmerman having been acquitted after a successful self-defense claim, could Dunn’s case be headed in the same direction? Lucia Davis has expressed concerns about the Zimmerman verdict to the Davis family attorney, John Phillips.
“It’s been the toughest,” Phillips told “Raising America.” “Imagine having clients, for any attorney out there, that make you get goose bumps and cry. And then, to have 10 minutes after this verdict to be sitting in Sanford to get the text message ‘freaking out about justice and not knowing where to go next’ was just as painful as I’ve ever had.”
Amanda Sloane | HLNtv.com