Monday, February 17, 2014


Perpetual Childish Outrage

I've been following the Michael Dunn murder trial in Florida because it is the contra-positive of the Zimmerman trial. In Dunn's case a white male (him) shot an unarmed black teenager and then falsely claimed self defense. The jury hung on the 1st degree Murder charge (and no one yet knows how they voted on that charge) but convicted him of shooting at other blacks in the car with the rap music turned way up, that is, they rejected self defense for all the other counts. The prosecutor (same one as in the Zimmerman trial) has promised to retry that count and, if history is any guide, she has a 80% chance of conviction.

Not good enough for the guardians of the slightest slight. Jamelle Bouie, who is pretty much an idiot, is up in arms that the jury (with two black women on it) did not convict on all counts. He stops short of calling the black jurors racist, but just barely.

First, let's look at the trial. Yes, assuming a tough judge, the 47-year-old Dunn will go to prison for the rest of his life. But he won't be going to prison for Davis's death.
Unless another jury convicts in the retrial and then Dunn will be going to prison for Davis's death and all your apparent outrage will be for nothing.

If Dunn had killed Davis and his friends—or if he had killed Davis without shooting afterwards—then, by to the logic of the jury, he would have escaped punishment altogether.
Again, he has not escaped punishment for murdering Davis, it has only been delayed by failure of the first jury to agree on the verdict. If it was 11-1 or 10-2 for conviction, Bouie has pretty much wasted everyone's time with his pouting, as usual. Had the other victims been killed rather than shot at and missed, the results of the trial would have likely been the same. Bouie is apparently too blind to see that. But then he goes completely off the rails.

Which, you know, is insane, both in what it says about Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law—your best bet for getting away with murder is to shoot first and kill everyone—and what it says about the value of black lives vis-à-vis the state's legal system. According to the criminal justice system of Florida, you are right to fear African-American men, and if you decide to act on that fear with violence, then you stand a good chance of avoiding conviction, on account of a jury that—more likely than not—will sympathize with your fear.

First, 'stand your ground' had nothing to do with this case. It was standard self defense, the same that exists in every state in the union. It also says nothing at all about the 'value of black lives' as the jury necessarily rejected the self defense claim against the other young black men Mr. Dunn shot at and missed. Self defense does require fear but it is a special fear, fear of imminent death or serious bodily injury, and not only must it be subjectively in the mind of the would be self defender but the fear of imminent death or serious bodily injury must be reasonable, that is, any reasonable person in the same situation would have felt it and acted accordingly.

The facts back this up. In states with “Stand Your Ground,” homicides with a white perpetrator and a black victim are most likely to be ruled "justifiable." By contrast, it is least likely—by a factor of ten—for black on white homicides to receive the same designation.

Mr. Bouie would do well to examine the reliable stats on self defense case convictions where the defender is white and the attacker is black, versus the cases where the attacker is white and the defender is black, before he shoots off his stupid mouth about how the legal system is racist. The Urban Institute, to which he links, is not looking at the FBI stats available online, as far as I can tell. And here is a healthy dose of truth against the poisonous lies Bouie and his ilk perpetually use. In Florida, there is no significant difference between how blacks and whites alleging self defense fare in the criminal justice system there. Unfortunately for his argument, the number of cases where the white attacker is killed and the black defender is acquitted are very few in number. The reason such cases are so rare is not because they are never brought to trial; it's just just an unrepresentative-to-the-racial-proportion-of-the-society number of those attacks occur. What's up with that, Jamalle?

In fairness to Florida, it's not as if this—white fear as an adjudicating factor for black life—is a new thing. It's the force behind the lynching epidemic of the early 20th century, the racial terrorism of the 1920s, and the economic assaults—riots and redlining—of the post-war period. And for all of the real problems of the current moment, there was a belief that we had put that behind us. Which is one reason why this case is so jarring. No, “Stand Your Ground” isn't as egregious as the worst of Jim Crow, but there's no denying that it harkens to a time when you could shoot first and never ask questions, as long as the victim was a black person.

I agree the Democrat controlled Jim Crow South and the Democrat terrorist wing, KKK lynchings were a disgraceful period in our history. But whatever 'white fear as an adjudicating factor for black life" is, it would appear misplaced in today's reality where a black male 15-25 years old is 18 time more likely to die at the hands of another black than he is likely to die at the hands of a person of any other race. That's a sad fact that should terrify Mr. Bouie and his brothers and sisters but rarely, if ever, gets mentioned. Bouie and his ilk lie to their brothers and sisters and say they should fear only whites.

UPDATE: An old friend, local property law professor Paul Campos throws in his two cents here. To call the piece breathless with outrage is to use too faint praise. This is a howling mess. Paul soberly opines.
The failure to convict Michael Dunn for shooting Jordan Davis to death in the course of an argument over whether the 17-year-old and his friends were playing their car stereo too loudly illustrates that, as a practical matter, hot-blooded murder is often perfectly legal under Florida law – and that of many other states as well.

Well maybe not perfectly legal as Dunn's up for retrial on the single count undecided and off to prison for the 7 shots he took after killing Mr. Davis. I admit that I would have been outraged if Dunn had walked but that's not what happened and it is extremely likely that he'll go down for murder. Patience, my liberal banshees, is a virtue.
Unlike the George Zimmerman trial, the Dunn case featured a straightforward application of Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law. That law works like this: If Dunn had a reasonable fear that he was about to suffer “great bodily harm,” then he had a legal right to shoot Davis to death, rather than, for example, choosing to protect himself by driving away, even if Dunn knew that driving away would have protected him from harm.
Nope, Paul, there was no stand your ground element at all. Straight self defense, just like we have here in Colorado. Thank God you don't teach criminal law.
If you think that sounds crazy, you haven’t heard the half of it. Because the “stand your ground” law creates an affirmative defense for criminal defendants, the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Dunn’s claim that he had a reasonable fear he was about to suffer great bodily harm was false. Such laws, in effect, put the victim rather than the killer on trial, which is exactly what happened in this case.
I hate to break this too you, esteemed law professor, but in every state, self defense must be disproved, beyond a reasonable doubt, by the prosecution. Whenever it is alleged, one must always look at the actions of the victim before he or she was killed. But the burden never shifts from the prosecution, both for going forward and for persuading the jury. There is no trial of the victim.
Sheesh. This level of ignorance of basic criminal law and procedure by Prof. Campos is actually really sad.

But because this is America, Dunn has a trump card: the nine-millimeter handgun in his glove compartment, with 10 bullets in the clip, which he has every legal right to bring to the confrontation he chose to start.

In no state can the initial aggressor claim self defense. That was why who started the fight between Trayvon and George was so important to what defenses were allowed to be considered by the jury. Here there was no fight at all, and no evidence of any fear of death or serious bodily injury except from the defendant, who has a seriously major reason to lie. Oh, and the proper designation is box magazine, not clip. Some guns use a clip, but not Mr. Dunn's. Big finish.

As a practical matter, Florida’s laws give people like Dunn a license to kill anyone they are “reasonably” afraid of. This means that, since the prosecution could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jordan Davis was not guilty of the crime of being a black teenage boy playing loud music in a convenience store parking lot on a Friday night, Davis’ murder will, at least for now, go unpunished.
I think self defense is a God given right, one of the ones that was not mentioned "among" the others actually mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. I do not have to give up my life because someone wants to kill me; and no government can take that right away. Campos, besides being a complete ignoramus about the criminal law he criticizes so ineffectually, seems to think that perhaps it would be better not to be able to defend oneself. But of course if we reasonably believe that we will suffer imminent death or serious bodily injury from another, we can use deadly force to prevent that. Duh? That's the practical matter of all self defense law. It's the essential element.

Most people on the right were pulling for the prosecution here as we, aware of the facts (and the law), thought Mr. Dunn murdered Mr. Davis. I guess people on the left, that is, of Mr. Campos' ilk, were also pulling for conviction but are now whining like babies that the murder conviction is delayed a little while. We on the right are acting like adults instead. We're certainly not having a hissy fit about race here. Race did not cause the murder, as far s we can tell, nor did it prevent justice from being done. (I still want to know the split for conviction the jurors had regarding Mr. Dunn and murder one.)

There is nothing wrong with self defense law in Florida or here in Colorado; nothing wrong or racist about the Florida criminal justice system. The system worked well and the only slight miscarriage of justice was that they have to try Dunn once more because (I believe) one or two jurors couldn't pull the proverbial trigger. That happens from time to time.

The murder here is just as tragic as the justified homicide of young Mr. Martin. But there is no reason to complain about the system and certainly no reason to call it racist or insane. That last appears to be pure projection by Prof. Campos.

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