Skip to main content

The extermination of Jordan Davis: An empty verdict, a hollow victory

By Tonyaa Weathersbee
updated 2:47 PM EST, Sun February 16, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tonyaa Weathersbee calls the verdict in the Michael Dunn murder case a hollow victory
  • Dunn admitted firing into an SUV, killing Jordan Davis, 17, but said it was in self-defense
  • Dunn was found guilty of three counts of second-degree attempted murder
  • The Florida jury could not reach a verdict in the murder charge for Davis' death

Editor's note: Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Florida, who spent the past few weeks covering the Michael Dunn murder trial. Follow her on Twitter @tonyaajw or on Facebook at tonyaajweathersbee.

(CNN) -- So it looks like Michael Dunn, a white man who fatally shot black teenager Jordan Davis for refusing to turn down his "thug music," may be going to prison for the rest of his life.

But that's a consolation prize. Not a real victory.

It's not a real victory because the jury that convicted Dunn, 47, didn't convict him for killing the 17-year-old Davis. They convicted him for almost killing Davis' three friends who were riding in the Dodge Durango with him. They found Dunn guilty of three counts of second-degree attempted murder and one count of shooting deadly missiles. Each attempted murder count carries a minimum sentence of 20 years.

But it's a hollow victory.

Tonyaa Weathersbee
Tonyaa Weathersbee

It's hollow because it means that, in 21st century America, the notion that a mouthy young black male could be a threat carries more weight with some people than the fact that an impulsive middle-aged white man could be a liar.

Think about it.

Apparently someone on the Dunn jury -- a jury that took four days to deadlock on whether Dunn was justified in killing Davis -- believed that Davis' cursing at Dunn and arguing over the volume of his music equaled a serious enough threat to make Dunn reasonably fear for his life.

Gunman 'in disbelief' over loud-music verdict

Someone on that jury saw Davis with a shotgun that likely never existed, but didn't see the real bullets -- 10 in all -- that Dunn pumped into the SUV and into Davis' body, bullets that left Davis bleeding and dying in his friend's lap.

It's hollow because it underscores what seems to be a scary trend. I guess now any random white man can confront a black teenager whose style of dress or music he doesn't like or views as suspect. And when that teenager doesn't submit to him, or responds to him in a confrontational manner, or in a way that any rebellious teenager is apt to respond, then it's perfectly fine to exterminate him.

See evidence in case

We first saw this with Trayvon Martin.

Martin was walking to his father's home when George Zimmerman took it upon himself to follow him because he was wearing a hoodie.

Dunn's attorney: There were no winners
Jordan Davis' mom: Grateful for verdict
Dunn's attorney: There were no winners

Yet just as Zimmerman thought Martin looked suspicious, the 17-year-old thought Zimmerman looked suspicious. But when Martin responded to Zimmerman's stalking and wound up in a fight with him, Zimmerman fatally shot him.

And he got away with it. Zimmerman claimed self-defense. In a confrontation that he provoked.

So did Dunn with Davis.

Dunn took it upon himself to drive up to a convenience store in Jacksonville and, even with a number of empty spaces available, decide to park next to the one vehicle full of young black men playing some thumping hip-hop music. Rather than avoid music he hated, he parked right next to it.

And when Davis didn't submit to his wishes to turn it down, he didn't like it. They had words. He didn't like that. Michael Dunn was not going to be sassed by a black kid.

So Dunn reached into his glove compartment, pulled out his 9 mm handgun and started shooting at Davis and his friends. And he killed him.

Verdict evokes mixed reactions

Yet this jury believed that the unarmed black teenager, Jordan Davis, was so scary, so profane that they couldn't see their way to convict Dunn of murdering him.

So even though Dunn is going to prison, it's tough to feel good about the verdict.

It feels hollow.

What the verdict says is that in this nation, in the 21st century, some white men still believe they have the right to intrude into the space of young black men and make demands. And if the black man is unarmed -- with no weapon except his words -- those white men can still kill him. And call it self-defense.

All they need is a jury to buy it.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tonyaa Weathersbee.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:42 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT