Skip to main content

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

By Tonyaa Weathersbee
February 16, 2014 -- Updated 1947 GMT (0347 HKT)
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
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 1624 GMT (0024 HKT)
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2322 GMT (0722 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT