Mitch Perry Report 2.17.14: Dunn case another example of the problems with Stand Your Ground



Michael Dunn
  • Michael Dunn
First of all, a big shout-out to WTSP's Noah Pransky for winning the Polk Award for local television reporting over the weekend. His reports exposed how the state of Florida had reduced the length of yellow light intervals and was raking in huge profits from additional red-light camera violations. The state later acknowledged lights were too short and ordered every intersection in Florida adjusted.

Nationally, Florida's Stand Your Ground law is back in the news, and not because George Zimmerman is now doing a round of new interviews, as the two-year anniversary of his killing of Trayvon Martin approaches.

On Saturday a jury in Jacksonville convicted 47-year-old Michael Dunn on three counts of attempted murder for opening fire on a car of black teenagers during an argument over loud rap music, but could not reach a verdict on a murder charge for the killing of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

While Dunn still faces 60 years in prison for the attempted murder convictions against the three other teens, the jury deadlocked on the most serious charge of first-degree murder against Dunn, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial on that count.

Why couldn't the jury come to a decision? Because of Stand Your Ground, which put the pressure on the prosecution to prove that Dunn wasn't being threatened in shooting and killing the unarmed Davis (Dunn told police he thought he saw a shotgun poking out of the van that Davis and the other teens were in, though his wife testified that he did not speak of a shotgun immediately after the incident).

A former state prosecutor said that the self-defense argument made some headway. "The jury, or some of them, believed he saw a muzzle of a gun," David Weinstein told Reuters.

And Anne Franks, an associate law professor at the University of Miami, told the New York Times , "This trial is indicative of how much of a problem Stand Your Ground laws really do create. By the time you have an incident like this and ask a jury to look at the facts, it’s difficult to re-create the situation and determine the reasonableness of a defendant’s fear.”

In other news, David Jolly tells CL that he attempted to call that older Largo couple who are on a new ad in ubiquitous rotation that bashes his stance on Social Security.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor came to Tampa for a fundraiser for Jolly on Friday. He then traveled just a couple of blocks to learn more about the Academy Prep Center of Tampa, a private school supported by school vouchers. Cantor said he has been touring the nation to try to learn more about "school choice."

And the 2nd annual St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs took place over the weekend. CL's Terrence Smith has more.

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