Sunday, February 16, 2014

Could Adam Lanza Have Been Convicted If He'd Shot Up a Florida Highschool Full of Black Teenagers?

I'm a big fan of Booman Tribune and read it every day but I have to say I'm puzzled and shocked by this post on the Dunn Case:
Because my life has been chaotic over the last couple of months, I haven't really followed the trial of Michael Dunn. I don't feel qualified to have much of an informed opinion about the case, but I did feel that Mr. Dunn did not have an adequate defense for opening fire on a car of black teenagers and killing 17 year-old Jordan Davis. I see that the jury was unable to agree to a verdict on the murder charge, but was willing to convict Dunn on four counts, including three for attempted second-degree murder. Based on those convictions, Dunn will spend the rest of his life in prison, so I don't think it is even necessary to have another trial on the murder charge. I suppose if Jordan Davis's family insisted upon a new trial, the prosecutors would be obligated to pursue one, but it would be a waste of money. This jury didn't deliver a perfect verdict, but they delivered an adequate one. Sometimes, that's how our system of justice works. The important thing is that the jury made clear that you can't shoot at black kids just because they make you nervous. That was really the principle at stake in this trial, and it's why people compared it to the George Zimmerman case.
Is the only principle at "stake in this trial" whether a white person will even be charged with murder in Florida for killing a black person? Whether a Jury of mainly white people managed to even grasp that it might be a bad idea for men to shoot up cars full of teenagers? That's setting the bar for our principles as a people really pretty low. In addition it matters to me, and it should matter to all of us, that the Jury basically was forced to accept the notion that Dunn's only real crime was shooting up a vehicle and nearly killing lots of kids--that actually killing the kid he claimed to be aiming at was, in some sense, justifiable because a black child--and I have a 17 year old who I still consider a child--is considered so naturally, culturally, dangerous that Dunn can claim to be in fear for his life regardless of the actual circumstances of the shooting. If Dunn had asserted that all the kids were armed would he have gotten off even for shooting blindly into the car? Florida's SYG law is a horrendous, destructive, immoral law and as a country we ought to be protesting it. Under it, as far as I can see, a lunatic gun owner is immunized from his actions even if his actions are based on a complete misapprhension of the situation. If an armed paranoid hears a car backfire is he legally immunized against shooting up the car and its occupants? If Adam Lanza walked into a highschool and opened fire on the teenagers there and survived to claim that he was in fear for his life because, obviously, teenagers...am I right? would the state of Florida charge him?

15 comments:

Victor said...

SYG is also the most misnamed atrocious law in the books in some states.

It should be called, "SOG:"
'Stand OUR Ground' - "our," meaning white folks, of course!

sdhays said...

Yeah, I see where Booman is coming from, but my goodness, what use is a statute against murder if you can gun down teenagers who wouldn't turn down their music if you claim to a see a non-existent gun? Basically we can breath a sigh of relief, I guess, that the state was able to nail this SOB and deliver some justice, but murder (of black male teenagers) in the state of Florida is now basically legal. It's absolutely disgusting.

Victor - I remember reading about the black Florida woman who shot her abusive husband who was coming after her and might have killed her; her trial was going on at the same time as the Zimmerman trial. On the facts presented, I couldn't even see why she was charged in the first place, but SYG sure didn't help her.

Unknown said...

The problem here in FL is that any racist can create a confrontation with a Black kid and if the kid so much as says WTF, he can shoot, then claim he was "in fear".

Incidentally, Zimmerman admitted that he (Z) had grabbed for the area of his gun, and that triggered the unarmed Trayvon Martin to hit him. So if Martin had been armed he could and should have shot Zimmerman. And it's a little known fact that Z joked about it with the cop who handcuffed him saying he wouldn't want the cop to think he was "going for his gun" when he moved his hands.

Aunt Snow said...

Dunn, like many, felt that he had the authority to correct the behavior of people he thought should defer to him. The teenagers were annoying him with their loud music, and they failed to comply with his order to turn it down. Therefore, they deserved what they got, as afar as he was concerned.

The Trayvon Martin case is pretty much the same thing. Even if you give Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt by believing that Trayvon fought him, the whole story rests on the fact that Zimmerman felt that he had the authority to correct behavior - walking in the neighborhood at night - that he did not think Trayvon was allowed to do.

These two men simply thought that they had the right to rule over people they thought were inferior - and when those people didn't fall into line, they killed them.

I'm glad Dunn will go to jail. I wish it were for murder, but if it's not, he's still in jail. He learned the cost of being a bigot.

Vicki Hartley said...

There is also the texting in the movie case. Comply or die.

sdhays said...

Zimmerman started the confrontation, so even if you give him the benefit of the doubt, Florida law basically states that if you get into a fight, even if you started it, you are legally allowed to murder that person in cold blood. All you have to do is claim that you feared for your life, no matter how baseless or irrational that fear was. Heck, you don't even have to lie.

Florida's statehood should be revoked over this. If you can't handle laws against murder, you obviously aren't capable of self-government. Just pull the plug.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Was he charged with second degree murder (of which he was obviously guilty) or first degree (of which he likely was not, within the meaning of the law?

aimai said...

He was charged (Dunn) with first degree--which does not require that he formed the intent to kill long before he pulled his gun so applies in this case--and lesser included charges so they could have convicted him of lesser forms.

On the subject of the AA woman who was charged and imprisoned for "firing into the air" instead of released because of SYG I actually know something about that case because I looked into all the SYG/not SYG cases that a Florida Newspaper reviewed during the Trayvon case. She was charged (by the same prosecutor who just tried the Dunn case) because she (according to them) had left the house, gone to the garage, come back into the house and fired the gun when there were two minor children present. In a similar situation where a white Korean war Vet defended his white friend against agressive teens by firing into the ground at their feet he was charged and is currently serving an extremely long sentence because firing a warning shot in the presence of minors is considered to be separate and more serious than killing someone under stand your ground.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Why is it first degree and not second?

Honest question.

How is going to be first degree in a case of a rage killing with no possible proof of intent to actually kill?

Nor any particular reason to just take it for granted?

And why is SYG even an issue?

So far as I know, the guy was in no danger, but was made furious by obnoxious music somebody was playing on the street on a car radio.

Maybe while he's sitting in prison for the rest of his life he could get some help with anger management.

Jimi Henderix said...

The reason this azzhat was only convicted of attempted murder is the prosecutor over charged. Dunn didn't plan the murder so there was no per-meditation that is required for a first degree murder charge to be sustained. If Dunn had been charged with second degree murder he would probably been convicted of that. But it is Florida so who the hell knows?

Julia said...

"I don't think it is even necessary to have another trial on the murder charge. I suppose if Jordan Davis's family insisted upon a new trial, the prosecutors would be obligated to pursue one, but it would be a waste of money."

The SAG immediately said she's going to retry him, but prosecutors are not obligated to press charges or request new trials because the victim, victim's family or a burning bush that sounds like James Earl Jones hints, asks or insists they'd like the prosecutor to do so.

I'm not sure why this misconception of how the criminal justice system works persists, but I really wish it would go away.

Philo Vaihinger said...

For SYG to come into play, doesn't your alleged belief you are under deadly attack have to be at least a little bit plausible?

Guess the jury didn't buy it. Hence the convictions on attempted second degree.

Which surely would have been convictions for actual second degree, had he been charged with that.

After all, his attempt succeeded!

aimai said...

No, SYG eliminates the reasonable man standard--only your personal level of fear is at issue.

Also: if you pull your gun and you intend to kill someone that is First Degree murder. You don't have to have planned it farther in advance than that. Frankly the fact that he didn't fire a warning shot is proof enough that he intended to kill someone--also he as much as asserted he did by arguing that he...what? accidentally shot to death the kid he accused of holding the gun? He said he felt threatened, saw a gun in the hands of the kid he killed so it scarcely makes sense to argue that he killed that particular child "by accident" and without premeditation. Thats some good shooting.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Frankly the fact that he didn't fire a warning shot is proof enough that he intended to kill someone--

No, just that he intended to shoot someone. Or maybe only that he was fine with that.

Philo Vaihinger said...

I guess the jury didn't believe he was afraid, then!