Once upon a time Florida was known primarily for being the home of endless sunshine, golden beaches, and no state taxes. Today, those items are still true, yet none of them springs to mind when I think of the Seminole State. Whenever I hear anyone mention Florida, I think, immediately, of the State’s Stand Your Ground Law.
Of course, it is important to point out that such statutes are commonplace in the contemporary American milieu. Yet, no State in the Union has had more or more controversial shootings in which the law was a key element of the defense. The Trayvon Martin (armed with a bag of Skittles and a beverage) case may be the instance that gained the most notoriety. The Chad Oulson (armed with a bag of popcorn and a cell phone) case may be the most recent incident. However, the Jordan Davis (yet to be determined whether a weapon was present) case is currently unfolding in trial.
During the days of the Old West, Tombstone, Arizona, in Cochise County, was the epitome of the television version of the Wild, Wild West. Tombstone was a place where the notion of Stand Your Ground was the order of the day. It is the real live location of the Earp Brothers’ (Wyatt, Virgil, Warren, and Morgan) famous “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.” Stand Your Ground was a way of life…and/or, unfortunately, death.
I do not equate Florida today with 19th Century Arizona. However, it seems some people do. Moreover, it appears that far too many of those who do, not only have the weapons to prove it, but the will, and more important, the desire, to demonstrate their convictions.
Mr. Michael Dunn is currently on trial in Jacksonville for the death of young Mr. Davis. The case is under litigation, and I do not presume to know the likely outcome. The George Zimmerman (Trayvon Martin) case reminded us that the jury will make the ultimate call. In the interim, there are a few items worth noting.
Among points stipulated, we have the following:
• A 47 year-old white male standing his ground in November 2012
• A 17 year-old black teen shot to death during the encounter
• A shooter claiming self-defense and fear for his life
• No weapon found on the victim, in the vehicle, or on the other passengers
• The shooter fired up to 10 shots, three of which hit the victim
• The shooter continued to shoot after the teens fled
• The shooter and his fiancé left the scene & spent the night in a hotel
• They did not call police that night
• They saw on TV the next morning a teen had been killed in the incident
• They did not then call police
• The shooter pleaded not guilty to all charges stemming from the incident
• The shooter has been charged with murder and attempted murder
• The shooter testified he left the scene so his dog could potty
• The shooter said he told his fiancé he saw a gun
• His fiancé said he did not
• The prosecution provided a letter in which the shooter wrote, he did not
• The shooter said he heard Davis call him a cracker and a m……….r
• The shooter said he heard Davis threaten to kill him
• The shooter said the victim got out of the car
• The shooter said he then began firing
The above items are a sampling, and do not represent the entirety of events of the first eight days of Mr. Dunn’s trial. They comprise a view largely representative of the Prosecution’s angle because the Prosecution was presenting its case during this time. Undoubtedly, the Defense will vigorously work to construct a distinctly different narrative as it presents its case.
In addition to the items above, sources report Mr. Dunn wrote a number of letters that contain controversial, if not combustible statements. In one letter to his daughter, he is alleged to have written, “This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these **** idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.” (As reported by WNET News)
He also wrote, “As you can imagine, I’m not getting much sympathy from the press. The’re (sic) a bunch of liberal b…..s. North Florida is more like the Deep South. They seem to have a lot of racial guilt, or at least the prosecutor’s office does.”
In another letter, he wrote, “It’s spooky how racist everyone is up here and how biased toward blacks the courts are. This jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs.”
In a letter to his girlfriend, he wrote, “My fear is that if I get a black on my jury it will be a mistrial, as I am convinced they will be racially biased.”
I am not endeavoring to prematurely, convict Mr. Dunn. If anything, I am once again, trumpeting the view that Stand Your Ground is an implausible concept in the 21st Century. Like it or not, this is not the Old West. In my view, Stand Your Ground is an anachronistic notion that emboldens people to abandon caution and any instinct to avoid conflict, and instead invites them to take the law into their own amply armed hands. As such, it has readily discernible negative consequences on the fabric of our society.
Of course, the Stand Your Ground phenomenon is a systemic offshoot of the enthusiastic efforts of the Gun Lobby to promote “all things guns.” In retrospect, may I suggest, you would be wise to take heed, if anyone ever asks you to, “Turn Down That Music!” If this instance is any indication, not doing so could result in deadly consequences.
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