On October 29, 2015, American University held a screening of the HBO Documentary, 3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets. The film follows Jordan Davis’ parents, Ron and Lucy, through the trial of Michael Dunn, a middle aged white man who shot Jordan’s car ten times. The incident occurred on Black Friday in 2012 at a Florida gas station after Jordan and Dunn argued over the volume of the music in Jordan’s car.
While on trial, Dunn claimed that Jordan leaned down and picked up a weapon during their verbal altercation. In response to this provocation, Dunn retrieved a handgun and fired ten bullets into Jordan’s vehicle. Dunn then told the court that he and his fiancée fled to a hotel before returning to Dunn’s home in Brevard County, Florida. When he was arrested the next day, Dunn claimed he shot seventeen year old Jordan and his two friends in self-defense.
In Florida, a person can justify use of deadly force if they can prove a presumption of fear, death or great bodily harm under the Stand Your Ground statute. The statute allows a person to use or threaten to use deadly force against someone if they have a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself. In order to receive protection, Dunn’s lawyer was responsible for establishing the imminent threat to Dunn’s person or property.
The film follows Jordan’s parents throughout the trial, as they cope with loss and attempt to get justice for their son. Despite Dunn’s allegations, Jordan’s parents remained adamant about their son’s innocence, arguing against Dunn’s narrative that Jordan possessed and threatened use of a weapon. Without the presence of a weapon, it would be nearly impossible to argue that loud music was sufficient reason to use deadly force.
Despite the desire of Jordan’s parents to receive justice for their son’s murder, at times during the trial this outcome seemed unlikely. The defense argued that Dunn’s behavior likely stemmed from lack of exposure to African American people. The lawyer argued that, based on Dunn’s perception of African Americans, largely informed through movies and television shows, he feared an imminent threat of violence. The defense then blamed media portrayal of African Americans, arguing that these negative stereotypes cause people like Dunn to be afraid.
A crucial part of the trial focused on Dunn’s fiancée. There was concern that she would not tell the truth about the events following the shooting. When she did take the stand, she contradicted most of Dunn’s statements about fleeing the scene. Her testimony showed that contrary to Dunn’s allegations, Jordan did not produce a weapon during the altercation, thereby delegitimizing Dunn’s justification for using deadly force.
Despite the conflicting testimonies of Dunn and his fiancée, the jury was unable to convict and the judge declared a mistrial. Jordan’s parents were forced to relive the tragedy of their son’s death in front of another jury. However, the jury in the second trial was able to find Michael Dunn guilty of murdering of Jordan Davis. In October 2014 Dunn was sentenced to life in prison without parole.