BY MARY MITCHELL Sun-Times Columnist February 17, 2014 8:52PM
Michael Dunn smiles at his parents during a break in his trial in Jacksonville, Fla. Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. Dunn is charged in the shooting death of Jordan Davis in November 2012. (The Florida Times-Union, Bob Mack, Pool)
Justice was blindsided by race when jurors failed to convict Michael Dunn for the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.
The 47-year-old Dunn was convicted of three counts of attempted murder for firing 10 shots at the SUV in which Davis and three friends were sitting outside a convenience store in Jacksonville, Fla.
Three of those bullets killed Davis, who would have been 19 on Sunday.
Each attempted murder count carries a minimum 20-year sentence. Still, there is little comfort in knowing that Dunn will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.
After the jury issued its verdict, Davis’ mother, Lucia McBath, was amazingly gracious even though jurors failed to punish Dunn for the murder of her son.
“It’s sad for Mr. Dunn that he will live the rest of his life in that sense of torment, and I will pray for him,” she said.
Unfortunately, this is another case in which jurors — faced with the question of whether a white man who claims he feels threatened is justified in using deadly force against an unarmed black teenager — suggest the answer is yes.
So what are black parent to do now?
Should black mothers and fathers warn their sons to walk around with their hands in the air when they are confronted by angry white people so they can see the young black males are unarmed?
Most of us don’t want to believe race played a role in this case.
But race could explain how a jury that was made up of four white men; four white women; two black women; one Hispanic man; and one Asian-American woman deadlocked on the murder charge even though there was no convincing evidence that supported Dunn’s claim that the dead teen flashed the barrel of a shotgun.
Granted, Defense Attorney Cory Strolla did a remarkable job introducing “reasonable doubt” when he let jurors sit through three excruciating minutes of silence to suggest the teens had time to stash a weapon.
But Dunn’s fiancée was so distraught when she had to testify that Dunn never told her he saw a weapon, she effectively destroyed Strolla’s clever stunt.
Loathing, rather than fear, could have factored into Dunn’s decision to reach into his glove box and fire a 9 mm pistol at a car full of black teens. The average person caught in his situation would have driven away or complained to the convenience store owner.
And the defense argument that Davis was getting out of the car — something that prosecutors disputed — is also shady.
None of the witnesses testified that Davis physically went after Dunn.
It’s difficult to understand how a jury failed to convict Dunn of murder until you consider that there were no black men in the jury room.
In fact, for the media to call the Dunn jury diverse is a bit of a stretch.
Do black men no longer figure in this equation?
Whether Dunn’s defense attorney intentionally excluded black men from the jury or the jury pool lacked them, the result was the same.
The Davis family was cheated.
Frankly, who could have better explained how the “fear of young black males” might have played into this tragedy than a black man?
This disappointing verdict suggests that the jury, which deliberated 30 hours over 4 days, was extremely conflicted.
As with the George Zimmerman travesty, prosecutors were reluctant to confront head-on the racial component that exists when a white man is accused of shooting an unarmed black teen.
That strategy may cool racial tensions, but it fails to unmask the truth about why these shootings have occurred.
Tragically, this mistrial suggests that black youth in America have no rights that a scared white man has to respect.