The Other Stand-Your-Ground Case: The Killing of Jordan Davis

Print Share on LinkedIn More



July 17, 2013;Rolling Stone


The killing of Trayvon Martin, and the subsequent acquittal of the killer, neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, is not the only “stand your ground” case in Florida with major racial implications. (Yes, we know that the Zimmerman defense did not explicitly use “stand your ground” as a defense, but it was referenced in witness testimony and served as a backdrop for the entire trial.) Last fall, a white man, Michael David Dunn, opened fire on black teenager Jordan Davis. The teen was sitting in the back seat of an SUV, which Dunn felt was playing music too loudly. Dunn initiated an altercation with the kids in the car and then shot Davis at point-blank range.

Dunn’s defense is stand-your-ground; he claims to have felt threatened and says he saw the barrel of a shotgun aimed at him by the kids in the SUV, though no weapon was ever recovered. Trayvon Martin, readers will recall, was on his way to his parents after buying iced tea and Skittles. Davis and his companions had stopped to buy gum. Dunn was on his way back from a wedding, where he had reportedly had several slugs of Jack Daniels. He need not claim that he was actually threatened, only that he believed he was threatened—that’s all it takes to trigger the stand-your-ground defense.

Will the trial of Dunn for Davis’s killing get the attention that Zimmerman’s trial did? Cristina Maza, writing for PolicyMic, is not so sure. She suggests that Davis was killed for playing music too loud for the taste of a potentially drunken white guy, which she calls an injustice, an outrage, and a “travesty,” but Martin was killed because “his mere presence and physical appearance aroused suspicion in a self-appointed vigilante.” Martin, she writes, “was killed for merely existing.”

That may explain the disparate press attention toward the Martin and David killings, but it shouldn’t dissuade nonprofits from linking the two as emblematic of this nation’s persistent racial inequities, as evinced in statistics about arrests, incarcerations, and shooting deaths, and the policies of too many states that weaponize and unleash people like Zimmerman and Dunn. At the New Orleans rally about the Sanford, Florida trial verdict organized by Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the NAACP, marcher Jebarr Locure held a sign that read, “I stand here today…so my sons won’t be the next Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis of tomorrow…And with hope I will not join the fraternity no father wants to join.” In Tallahassee, marchers under the banner of the Dream Defenders from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) linked the Martin and Davis killings in their call for Governor Rick Scott to convene a special session of the Florida legislature to address the state’s stand-your-ground law and the issue of racial profiling.

Whatever the differences in the backgrounds and motivations of Zimmerman and Dunn, nothing can disguise the fact that they both shot unarmed teenage black kids who were in some manner profiled by their assailants as “threatening” (though in Dunn’s case, his defense smells like an artificial, post-hoc rationalization of pure malice). They could do so because the law favors the two shooters, arming them with both concealed weapons and legal excuses. Whatever the differences in the behaviors of Martin and Davis, they were both young black men whose deaths added to racially disparate statistics of gun-related deaths. Both cases fit President Obama’s call for reconsideration of overly broad state self-defense statutes and for a broader consideration of problems of race in this nation.—Rick Cohen

  • Taos705

    How about a mention of Antonio West? He was the 13-month old white infant shot in the face by a black teenager who was attempting to rob the baby’s mother – she was also shot? Where is the outrage? None of this is good.

  • Richard S.

    One clarification : Martin case was not a stand your ground case…

  • Rick Cohen

    My newswire acknowledged that fact, but noted that the stand-your-ground issue was in the background.

  • Kay

    How can it be the other stand your ground case? Zimmerman didn’t use that for a defense. He used self-defense. I don’t know all the facts, but it looks like the state has a case that it can prove,

  • Conor

    People always site disparities in arrests and incarceration as obvious racial bias, isn’t there also the possibility that blacks commit more crimes then whites? Men are arrested at a rate roughly 8:1 to women but people don’t argue that there is an inherent sexism in the system and I’ve never heard liberals arguing that men should be arrested more or women less.

  • Sherridan

    Actually, Antonio West was maybe not shot by the teenagers accused of the crime. It appears that his parents were the ones that killed him. Gunshot residue was found on both the mother and father the day of the shooting. Also Sherry West’s daughter thinks her own mother did it.

  • The facts

    That is not correct. It was the fundamental item provided to the jury in the jury instructions. The juries cite their instructions as the reason for the not guilty verdict.

  • dballer49

    There was outrage and the defendent is in jail waiting trial, the difference is that he is not claiming he did that in self defence with the possiblility of going free

  • BuffaloCharlie

    Yes, statistically blacks commit more violent crimes than whites, but, statistically speaking, if a black and white are convicted of the same offense, the black will get a much harsher sentence! NYC just lost a suit in which it was proven that their “stop and frisk” policy was overwhelmingly targeting blacks and other minorities…and only 1 out of 10 stops resulted in any discovery or arrest…I submit that unfair treatment like this does nothing to ease the long-standing resentment by blacks of the criminal justice system, which is, still, stacked against them.

  • Krystol

    The biggest trigger for public outrage during the Martin situation was the Sanford Police Department making a decision that based on Stand Your Ground, which yes GZ used to stay out of jail, there was no reason for further investigation, case closed. Their misconduct destroyed vital evidence and was the basis for the outrage of millions. GZ was not ARRESTED OR CHARGED!! All murder no matter who commits them: mass murders, shooting murders, etc. are wrong and inhumane. However, usually the suspects are arrested at least. Which means the process of justice is somewhat working. Understand the outrage regarding the Trayvon Martin murder was his ability to commit murder and almost go unpunished. Also, that the police department did not have any respect for this young American youth at all. To me the Sanford Police are at fault for this failure of justice, others joined in the debacle later.