JUDGE GREG MATHIS
SPECIAL TO THE NNPA FROM THE MICHIGAN CHRONICLE
My thoughts and prayers are with Ron Davis and Lucia McBath, the parents whose teenage son was murdered on November 23, 2012. Jordan Davis was killed following an argument with an older White male who became upset that Davis and his friends were playing loud music in their car.
Michael Dunn’s defense team argued that he feared for his life and believed he saw a shotgun in the car with Davis. None of the teens in the car were armed. Among the disturbing facts in this case is that Michael Dunn had returned to his vehicle and could have easily driven away if he legitimately feared for his life. Instead, the 47 year old grabbed his pistol and fired ten bullets into the teenager’s vehicle as it drove away.
On the heels of Trayvon Martin’s killing this eerily similar case seems to be a harbinger of what could be in store for Black males seeking justice in our nation’s courts. In Trayvon Martin’s case George Zimmerman stalked and confronted Trayvon Martin, because he looked suspicious. In this case, Michael Dunn started an unprovoked confrontation with Davis and his friends because he was upset about their loud music.
Both situations ended with the slayings of unarmed Black teenagers and non-murder convictions for their killers.
How can Zimmerman and Dunn’s arguments of “self defense” stand, when neither Martin nor Davis instigated the confrontations that ended their lives?
Jordan Davis was in the car with three friends the night he was attacked. The jury did find Michael Dunn guilty on three counts of second-degree attempted murder – one for each of the three boys in the car with Davis. However, they failed to reach a verdict on an actual murder charge for Davis.
What’s in a degree?
Presented with the facts in this case, I can understand how some on the jury may have been somewhat reluctant to convict Davis of murder in the first degree. Murder in the first degree requires that an act be from a “premeditated” design in order to intentionally cause death.
A second-degree murder charge does not require “premeditation.” In order to be convicted of second-degree murder, an individual must engage in the “unlawful killing of a human being” during an act that is “imminently dangerous to another” and in a “depraved mind.” The obvious in this case is that Dunn’s actions were imminently dangerous and resulted in the death of Davis and so the remaining question is whether or not his actions were committed out of a “depraved mind” or in other words an “ill-will” for Davis.
The fact that the jury did not convict Dunn of second-degree murder is troubling. It shows that the jury did not believe Dunn actions were committed out of ill-will toward the defendant. Davis and his friends were unarmed; Dunn initiated the initial confrontation over Davis’ music, and had ample time to get in his car and leave if he thought Davis had a gun. But, Dunn was still able to successfully argue his actions were committed out of self-defense and fear for his own life.
This result of this case is a condemnation to Black men across America. In both cases, jurists ruled these unarmed Black teenagers posed a threat to their assailants that deserved to be punished by death. My thoughts are with Mr. Davis and Ms. McBath for the loss of their son and I am worried that this verdict may usher in a renewed reality for Black men. Coupled with the verdict in Trayvon Martin’s case we may be seeing a reality where Black men have been demonized for so long that the fact of our race can now be used as a legitimate defense to murder.
Greg Mathis is a retired Michigan 36th District Court judge and syndicated television show arbiter on the reality court show Judge Mathis.