Although George Zimmerman did not officially use Stand Your Ground as his defense, his acquittal last month in the death of Trayvon Martin has become an impetus for the protest of controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws. As these protests continue to erupt across the country, another case that is being compared to the Zimmerman case is making its way through the Florida court system.
Last Thanksgiving, Jordan Davis was sitting in a parked SUV with two friends waiting on another friend to exit a gas station when Michael David Dunn and his girlfriend pulled into the parking spot beside them. After Dunn’s girlfriend entered the gas station, a verbal altercation broke out between Dunn and the four teens about the teens’ loud music. Seconds later Dunn fired eight shots into the SUV; four of them after the teens backed out of the parking spot in an attempt to get away. Davis was the only person shot. He was pronounced dead minutes after arriving at the hospital.
Dunn, who has plead not guilty under Stand Your Ground, claims he saw one of the teens reach for something that he believed was a shotgun and he thought the teens were going to exit the SUV. However, police did not recover any weapon or any item that may have resembled a gun from the car. As Dunn and his girlfriend drove away from the gas station he told her he felt threatened, but never mentioned a gun. Additionally, witnesses to the incident say that they never saw any of the teens exit the vehicle and reportedly heard Dunn say, “you are not going to talk to me like that” before he began shooting. Dunn’s girlfriend says Dunn had been drinking and complained of “thug music” when they pulled into the gas station.
While this case does have similarities to the Trayvon Martin case (an armed white man killed an unarmed black teenager), I think there are differences in this cases that should favor the prosecution. Most importantly, there are witnesses whose accounts of the incident seem to indicate the four teenagers did not do anything to make Dunn fear for his life. These witnesses not only include the three boys in the car with Davis, but also other customers at the gas station. However, if a judge allows Dunn to use the “Stand Your Ground” then it will be up to the prosecution to prove he was not in fear for his life when he fired shots into the car. Dunn has been charged with first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.