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Fury continues over Michael Dunn verdict

Cyril Josh Barker | 2/20/2014, 10:34 a.m.
Over the weekend, a jury made found Michael Dunn guilty on four out of five counts, including attempted murder, in ...
Rally at the Harlem State Office Building plaza against the Michael Dunn verdict

A rally in Harlem and downtown Manhattan illustrated the angry response felt nationwide about the verdict involving a white man who fatally shot a 17-year-old Black male in Florida.

Over the weekend, a jury made up of four white women, four white men, two Black women, one Asian woman and one Hispanic male found Michael Dunn guilty on four out of five counts, including attempted murder, in the killing of unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Davis. However, when it came to the murder charge, the jury could not come to a decision, leading the way for a retrial.

“We are deeply disappointed by the verdict in the case of Michael Dunn. Though he was convicted for attempted murder and shooting into the car, the value of Jordan Davis’ life was not addressed in this verdict,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton. “The mistrial further sends a chilling effect to parents in the 23 states that have the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law or laws similar.

“It requires the civil rights community to head into Florida, which is now ground zero for a national fight to change that law. From Trayvon Martin to Jordan Davis, enough is enough.”

Many consider the situation a repeat of the Martin verdict, in which George Zimmerman was found not guilty on charges in the death of Martin, another unarmed 17-year-old Black teen in Florida. Dunn used the “Stand Your Ground” law as a defense, stating that he felt threatened by the Black youth he got into an argument with at a gas station.

Reports indicate that on Monday, one juror spoke out about the deliberations and said that within the first hour, two jurors believed Dunn’s violent acts were justifiable.

“A life was taken. There is no longer a Jordan Davis, and there is only one reason why that is. The boy was shot and killed for reasons that should not have happened,” the juror said in a televised interview.

Dunn is facing a long prison sentence that beats to the drum of a 60-year sentence, but the lack of the murder charge is not sitting well with people who say enough is enough.

Sharpton stated that National Action Network (NAN) board member Bishop Rudolph McKissick has been in the courtroom during the trial, including on Saturday night, representing NAN and supporting the family.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the shooting of Davis marks yet another tragic and senseless death of an unarmed, innocent African-American teenager.

“Rather than seeing Jordan or his friends for what they were—ordinary teenagers—Mr. Dunn saw a threat and recklessly acted with lethal force,” she said. “The verdict in Mr. Dunn’s trial does not change the fact that the same pernicious biases and stereotypes about race and dangerousness that led to Trayvon Martin’s death played a central role in Jordan’s death as well. We all must work to roll back laws like ‘Stand Your Ground,’ which foster violence and make it harder to prosecute many murders in which racial bias played a role.”

On Sunday, demonstrators from the Revolutionist Communist Party gathered at the Harlem State Office Building Plaza and Union Square to speak out agains the verdict. Carl Dix, who represented the organization, said that while Dunn is going to jail, the court’s refusal to convict him of murder is unacceptable.

“Look at what happened in this case. This white man got upset at these Black kids because their music was too loud. When they wouldn’t turn it down, he got out his gun and fired 10 shots at them, including shooting at their car while it sped away,” said Dix. “We see it coming down from the system basically saying that the murder of Black youth by white people is not a crime.”