NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
“The shooting of seventeen-year-old Jordan Davis marked yet another tragic and senseless death of an unarmed, innocent, African-American teenager. Rather than seeing Jordan or his friends for what they were—ordinary teenagers—Mr. Dunn saw a threat and recklessly acted with lethal force.
“We will never know exactly what Mr. Dunn was thinking when he fired nine rounds at Jordan and his friends, but we have some very strong clues. We know that Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law emboldens people to take matters into their own hands and use deadly force, despite the absence of a threat, let alone a weapon. We know that letters he wrote from jail while awaiting trial provide insight about his thoughts on race and who he perceived to be a criminal. In one, he mentioned that ‘This jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs.’ He went on to write: ‘This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these [expletive] idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.’ Finally, we know that the criminalization and demonization of African-Americans—and especially African-American men and boys—is deeply rooted in our nation’s history.
“The verdict in Mr. Dunn’s trial does not change the fact that the same pernicious biases and stereotypes about race, and dangerousness that led to Trayvon Martin’s death played a central role in Jordan’s death as well. We all must work to roll back laws like ‘Stand Your Ground,’ which foster violence and make it harder to prosecute many murders in which racial bias played a role. We all must work tirelessly for a society in which people are never targeted and criminalized for the color of their skin. We all must continue to struggle for an America that is free from racial discrimination and embraces the moral imperative of racial equality. LDF has worked and continues to work to achieve these goals since our earliest days. By doing so, we and pay tribute to Jordan Davis’ life while helping to heal the deep wounds his tragic death has left behind.”
“There is no right more fundamental than the right to live. As the prosecution proved, Michael Dunn needlessly fired one shot after another into an SUV filled with unarmed teenagers whose only crime was having the audacity to challenge a stranger’s demand to turn down their music.
“Today’s decision is the beginning of the dispensation of justice, but the fact that jurors could not convict Dunn of first degree murder—when his killing of Davis was not a matter of debate—it is a travesty that must be rectified in a second trial. It is also further evidence that laws such as ‘Stand Your Ground’ muddy the boundaries of self-defense so much, that the imagination of the shooter is given the same weight as the reality of his victim’s intractable death.
“The painful reality is Jordan Davis’ parents will never get to see their son graduate from high school, pursue his dreams, or grow into a man.
“When Dunn unloaded his gun on Jordan and his friends, it’s clear he didn’t see youth at the dawn of life. He didn’t see the humanity of teenagers enjoying music. He saw race. He saw Blackness. His bias, as evidenced by his remarks about ’thug music,’ triggered a chain of events that led to the death of another innocent young Black man.
“While many of us are tempted to believe the dark days of racial intolerance and hatred have passed, this case suggests otherwise. Racism may not always be as blatant, but it still operates. Today, ‘thug’ is the new code word for the ‘N’ word. Innocent African Americans are still ‘suspect’ on our streets, in our schools and in stores.
“While Dunn’s Stand Your Ground defense failed in this instance, it is successfully invoked far too often for us to claim lasting victory. To ensure all children are able to grow up and reach their full potential, we must continue to pressure legislators in states across the country to repeal Stand Your Ground laws and other laws with racially discriminatory impacts. We simply cannot continue giving a legal cover for people who combine racial bias and a ready weapon. As a nation, we cannot grow weary of grappling with issues of race, racism and negative perceptions about Black men and boys. This decision should be viewed as a catalyst for continuing to build a movement to challenge inequity and racism.”