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 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 6:27 PM EST, Sat December 27, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 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
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT