The mother of the unarmed teen shot and killed by Michael Dunn after a dispute over loud music responded to the public comments of two jurors this week that race did not play a factor in their deliberations, saying the role of race “cannot be denied.”
In an interview on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Sunday, Lucia McBath said, “We know that race is an element of our case.”
The jury could not come to a consensus last week on the question of whether Dunn was guilty of first degree murder for shooting and killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis in a Jacksonville convenience store parking lot, leading to a mistrial on that charge. They did, however, convict Dunn of attempted second degree murder of several of Davis’ friends, who were in the vehicle with Davis as Dunn fired ten rounds at the sport utility vehicle.
Two jurors who discussed the jury deadlock on national television this week conceded that what split the panel was the question of whether Dunn’s actions were protected by Florida’s self-defense law. Juror #4, identified as Valerie, pointed to a section of the jury instructions that includes the state’s notorious Stand Your Ground law as being central to their deliberations. She added, however, that race was not a factor in their deliberations.
Asked to react to the jurors’ comments, McBath said that while she “can’t personally speak for those jurors,” it is her “belief that at some point in time, there had to be some thought of race.” Davis’ father went even further in an interview with CNN earlier this week, saying he did not think Juror #8 was being genuine when she said she did not consider race. “For her as an African-American female to go into this case, with this type of evidence, with this type of rage, with [Dunn] saying, ‘Thug music’? How can you as a juror not think that this was about race?”
The jury did hear evidence from Dunn’s fiancée that Dunn said “I hate this thug music” shortly before shooting at the boys after a dispute in which he asked them to turn their music down. Dunn says he believed Davis was armed. But no gun was found at the scene.
What the jury didn’t hear was significant other evidence of Dunn’s animus toward African Americans, released during the trial by the State Attorney’s Office. In letters Dunn wrote from jail, he said, “The more time I am exposed to these people, the more prejudiced against them I become.” And in audio of phone calls released days later, he described himself as in a room with three black guys and commented, “I guess it would be better than being in a room with them animals.” He also called himself both the “victim” and the “victor” and analogized himself to a rape victim. McBath said she believes that evidence will be introduced when Dunn is tried again on the murder charge this summer.
Watch the interview with McBath:
Studies have shown that white defendants with black victims are far more likely to have their killings deem “justified” in states with the Stand Your Ground laws. And the U.S. Civil Rights Commission approved its first full-blown investigation in decades to assess the role race plays in Stand Your Ground laws.
Since the death of her son, McBath has become a national spokesperson for Mothers Demand Action For Gun Sense In America. She gave impassioned testimony to the Florida legislature last year, urging passage of a bill to repeal Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. But rather than approve the repeal bill, that House committee advanced another bill that would instead expand the Stand Your Ground statute. After NRA lobbying during the Dunn trial that failed to mention the bill’s Stand Your Ground expansion, another House committee approved the bill this week.