Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Praise Is Well Deserved in Dunn Trial

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Praise Is Well Deserved in Dunn Trial

Article excerpt

Unlike the first trial of Michael Dunn, the worldwide spotlight on Jacksonville was dim during his recent retrial for shooting unarmed teenager Jordan Davis.

In some sense that was unfortunate.

An overwhelmingly white jury determined that Dunn, a white male defendant, did commit first-degree murder by firing multiple shots into a vehicle containing Davis, 17, and three other unarmed black teens during a February 2012 encounter at a Southside gas station.

The decision silenced the cynical skepticism that suggested the jury's work might be marred by conflicted feelings about race

And it will put Dunn in prison for the rest of his life.

In short, the Dunn retrial verdict offered an eloquent lesson about how foolhardy it is to make rash assumptions about race and justice.

In Dunn's first trial in February, a jury convicted him on three counts of attempted murder but was hopelessly deadlocked on whether he committed first-degree murder by shooting Davis after the two had a dispute over loud music coming from the teens' SUV.

JUSTICE SYSTEM WORKED

The jurors in both trials grappled with testimony that was often complex, emotional and conflicting. For example, Dunn maintained he shot because Davis brandished a shotgun; the surviving witnesses said - and the available evidence clearly indicated - that neither Davis nor anyone else in their vehicle had any weapon.

Each jury weighed the evidence and found - to differing degrees - that Dunn broke the law on the winter night he fired nine bullets at the teens' vehicle after Davis cursed him for asking a fellow passenger to turn down their loud music (which the second youth did).

Each jury faced up to the gravity of its civic duty and lived up to the massive obligation it demanded.

Our justice system is not perfect, but it does work.

TESTED COMMUNITY CAN UNITE

Another valuable lesson is that a community tested under the stress of a controversial, potentially volatile case can still emerge from it with a sense of unity.

We know it's possible because Jacksonville proved it throughout the Dunn trials.

There were fears that 12 impartial people couldn't be found across our community to serve on the retrial jury and that the second trial would need to be moved to another location. That those fears were unfounded speaks well for our community's sense of fairness and responsibility.

Certainly there were differences of opinion, there were lawful protests and peaceful demonstrations, but there was never lawless unrest and violent upheaval.

One major, contributing factor to our community's overall unity was the grace, dignity and restraint shown by Jordan Davis' parents, Ron Davis and Lucia McBath, since the night their son was murdered.

The parents not only carried the grievous burden of losing a son so violently but also the searing pain of reliving that loss during two heart-rending trials. …

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