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In a Civilized State Without Stand Your Ground, Jordan Davis Would Still Be Alive

| January 11, 2016

jordan davis self-portrait

Jordan Davis in a Facebook self-portrait. He was killed in Jacksonville on Nov. 23, 2012.

By Julie Delegal

When President Barack Obama announced his executive actions on guns last week, parents of children slain by bullets stood behind him. Jordan Davis’ mother, Lucia McBath, was one of them.

McBath and Ron Davis were thrust into every parent’s nightmare in late 2012 when their 17-year-old son, Jordan, was shot and killed outside a Gate gas station in suburban Jacksonville.

Dubbed the “loud music murder trial” by the press, the court proceedings tested a community that has historically failed too many attempts to deliver racial justice.

It took two tries and two different sets of jurors, sitting just blocks away from the hallowed ground of Ax Handle Saturday, to ultimately convict Michael David Dunn on all counts, including the first-degree murder of Jordan Davis.

The murder that might have destroyed many parents was a call to action for McBath and Davis. They’ve been working to reduce gun violence ever since Jordan’s murder, opening their lives to documentary filmmakers, speaking to the media, and testifying before legislative committees in Washington and Tallahassee.

Last October, McBath spoke out against Florida lawmakers’ attempts to make it harder to convict people who raise the stand-your-ground defense. Despite her efforts, SB 344 cleared the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, though its companion bill, HB 169, has not yet been heard in the House.

While Dunn did not ask for a “Stand Your Ground” hearing, per se, the law that authorized the hearing provision also forever changed the law of self-defense in Florida by removing the centuries-old “duty to retreat.”

The duty to retreat in self-defense law has never applied to a person’s home, per the “Castle Doctrine.” Rather, the stand-your-ground laws essentially makes any place in Florida a gun-owner’s castle.

The covenant of civilized living demands that we work to defuse conflicts, not escalate them. It demands the opposite of Stand Your Ground.

Ron Davis, in speaking to Reuters reporter Susan Eastman, said it best:

“In your home, you have every right to protect your castle[.] In public, we can’t all walk around acting like we are in our home, telling people what to do in a public place. We have to share the public space.”

McBath testified that Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws legitimize a culture of “shoot first, ask questions later.” And the numbers back her up.

According to a PolitiFact analysis, the five states with the most gun-related deaths per capita all have stand-your-ground laws.

And despite the “gun-laws-won’t-stop-criminals” argument, the evidence shows that states with stricter gun laws have fewer gun deaths.

It’s unsettling to watch my hometown play a leading role in an international story about murder and justice. The HBO documentary, “3 ½ minutes, Ten Bullets” finds its power less in our beautiful, redeemable city, though, than in the peaceful determination of Jordan’s parents.

Interspersed throughout the film are the voices of Jacksonville, shepherded by talk radio hosts Andy Johnson and Melissa Ross. These were the quiet voices of citizens who needed to talk about guns, stand-your-ground laws and race.

context floridaIn the documentary, Jordan Davis’s mother smiled when she remembered her son’s joke about being named after basketball star Michael Jordan. In truth, she said, her son was named for the River Jordan. Conceived and born after several miscarriages, Jordan was named for the idea of crossing over and starting anew.

Ron Davis couldn’t have known, as he gleefully bounced baby Jordan on his knee in an early family video, that his son would lead him and Lucia not only to cross a metaphorical river, but also to alter its flow forever.

It didn’t come easy, but Jordan’s parents never lost faith that the truth would prevail.

Dunn maintained throughout his two trials that he acted in self-defense, testifying that he saw Jordan Davis wielding a shotgun barrel, or a stick, or a lead pipe from the back seat of his friend’s red Dodge Durango. Dunn’s fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, testified however, that when they fled the Gate station, Dunn never mentioned anything about a gun or other weapon.

On the two-hour drive to take her home, after the two learned Davis had died, she said Dunn never mentioned the threat of a gun.

During any trial, the question of whether to believe those who testify always belongs to the jurors.

And while we don’t know what went on in the minds of those who deliberated, we can guess they rejected the defendant’s version of the facts.

Therein is the symbolic parting of the river, with Jordan Davis’s parents leading the way, hoisting the banner of civilization.

The covenant of civilized living demands that we work to defuse conflicts, not escalate them. It demands that we look at each other face to face, and not through the divisive lens of stereotype.

The cause of peace calls us to back away, if necessary, before acting in anger. It asks us to behave like the adults that we are, instead of flying off in a gun-slinging rage whenever kids act like kids.

Civilization demands the exact opposite of Stand Your Ground. In the words of the immortal David Bowie, why can’t we give love one more chance? Love’s an old fashioned word, yes, but it still dares us to change.

I believe that the quiet faith of Jordan’s parents, and legions of other grieving parents, will ultimately lead us across this deathly divide.

julie delegalJulie Delegal, a University of Florida alumna, is a contributor for Folio Weekly, Jacksonville’s alternative weekly, and writes for the family business, Delegal Law Offices. She lives in Jacksonville.

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17 Responses for “In a Civilized State Without Stand Your Ground, Jordan Davis Would Still Be Alive”

  1. Veteran says:

    I disagree. If someone comes at me with a weapon that could kill or seriously injure me, they will be shot. Anywhere in public.

  2. GoodFella says:

    More gun laws are not going to stop criminals from getting guns. So I guess the criminal who buys a gun is not going to carry it if he does not get his concealed permit either. More laws will not stop violence, it will just be another way for the government to make more money from legit gun buyers who will pass any background check that they put out. The only thing that has come out from these past few incidents is that gun owners have to be ready for the negative impact that it will have on their life even if they are in the right to defend themselves. Not saying that this incident was right, it was not. Michael Dunn should have stayed put at the gas station and dealt with his actions if he felt he was honestly concerned for his safety etc… But its cases like the Zimmerman case that really make you think. Gun ownership is a huge responsibility for all. You first have to make sure you are 100 percent sure before you decide to use your gun that it is necessary. Then you have to be ready to deal with the media, possible arrest, court proceedings, lose of job, your whole life story exposed to all etc….. And then found not guilty but the damage is done. So its not just pulling out your gun and defending yourself, its a whole lot more. But the old saying is “I would rather be judged by twelve than carried by six”.

  3. Pete says:

    This article is as confused as it gets. A person is convicted of first degree murder and there was not a stand your ground claim by the defense. Yet the article is about stand your ground???

    The left lives in this land where the majority of people want gun control yet society rejects this in election after election. Feel free to keep trying to change public opinion with these incoherent articles. But you will continue to feel the burn of the electorate.

  4. Anonymous says:

    and Zimmerman might be dead….

    stand your ground is a right….

  5. R Gross says:

    I want to first say that I am sorry for these parents loss, and the senseless murder of their child. That being said….how on earth does this have anything to do with the “stand your ground law”? in fact it states that he did not use the stand your ground law as part of his defense. Once again liberals are using a tragedy to try to take away the rights of others.

    I started by stating that this was a senseless murder, and I totally agree with Mr Davis in saying that we must all learn to share our public spaces. Unfortunately we now live in a society where individuals for whatever reason are willing and able to cause harm to you at any moment, and in any location. I should not and will not be governed by law out of my right to defend myself. I will stand my ground, and I will not retreat. I will use my knowledge of laws governing self defense, and the use of appropriate force but what I will not do is retreat.

    I have every right to be able to walk these streets, go to a gas station and or any other location without fear, as Jordan Davis should have. It is a tragedy that Jordan and his friends unfortunately came in contact with a disturbed individual. I do not say disturbed in the sense of mental illness, although that may be a possibility but more in the way of an individual who would feel it to be his right to approach someone else about the level of their music. I am sorry to know that there are so many people out there that are just as disturbed.

    I will not be a victim of any of these individuals and I find it offensive that you would try to take away my right in order to advance your platform.

    You quoted or mentioned the politifacts statement regarding stand your ground states and the number of deaths..I would be more interested to hear how many of the deaths in those states are related to the stand your ground law. That would be a more appropriate number to quote or mention in an article indicating that it is the problem. I would venture to bet that the numbers related to the law in those states is not as dramatic as this article would lead your to believe.

    In a Civilized State was part of the title to this article. The fact is that as a society we have gone far beyond being civilized. People will shoot you for just looking at them wrong, people kill their children and throw them in dumps, and we allow all of this to happen. We need to start taking these criminals and creating punishment that fits the crime. OMG we are the country with the highest per capita incarceration rate. Could that be because we do not punish well enough to make it a deterrent.

    Enforce the laws you have, strengthen the punishments for violent crimes and take the kid gloves off. Law abiding citizens follow the law, those that do not should be afraid to not follow them.

  6. Samual says:

    Worthless article. Same “get rid of the 2nd amendment” B.S. ! Listen up Julie, your NOT going to change our constitutional rights. Your NOT going to take our FIREARMS. Your NOT going to stop the “Stand your Ground” law………..Now go over to Germany and play with the Syrian refugees !!!

  7. The Truth says:

    I agree, except this has nothing to do with this case. No weapon was found anywhere nearby. This boy was killed for no reason at all.

  8. Outsider says:

    I was never convinced this was a self defense case, and I believe I said it early on in this very forum. This was a case of cold blooded murder, according to the facts. As others plainly see, this had nothing to do with stand your ground, and it was never even invoked. This was a heinous case of murder, and a young man lost his life and his parents are suffering, but can anyone explain why this case is held up as typical, when the reality is most young black men are killed by other young black men? Why does the case of Laylah Peterson, the five year old who was shot dead while sitting on her grandfather’s lap get scant attention? Just because every left wing media outlet focuses on the relatively few cases of young black men being killed by white men, for just and unjust reasons, doesn’t change the fact that the biggest danger to young black men is young black men. Instead of discussing states with the highest gun violence, you should look at where in those states the actual violence is occurring; I can guarantee you the vast majority of the violence happens in the poor, urban areas, i.e. the south side of Chicago, D.C., New Orleans, and Miami. Those locales are far from what I would call “civilized societies,” and I don’t expect to be governed by the same rules that need to be applied there.

  9. Brian says:

    This was a case of three loudmouth wanna-be thugs being totally offensive and disruptive in a public place. Dunn asked them to turn down the blaring “music” which was in fact vibrating his car. In response, the punk Davis began hurling profanities and threats at Dunn. Dunn shut him up. It should be seen as a lesson in respect and courtesy for others.

  10. Barry Hartmann says:

    the evidence shows that states with stricter gun laws have fewer gun deaths.
    This is a false statement , Chicago, Baltimore, New York all have very strict gun laws and have the highest gun violence. How many killings would there be without stand your ground laws??

  11. Bc says:

    What does this have to do with the stand your ground law??? This kid was out looking for trouble that night and found it.

  12. Sherry says:

    When I read the bigoted and hate filled comments here. . . even with words that condone murder as a “lesson in respect and courtesy” . . . I shudder to consider the deterioration of of our civilization to this heinous level. Is our culture now becoming a state and a country where the Golden Rule is trashed and :

    1. Fear and Hate Trumps LOVE
    2. Bigotry and Discrimination “proudly” Trumps Equality and Justice
    3. Negatively labeling the disenfranchised and blaming the innocent Trumps Compassion. . . etc., etc.

    While I agree that the “Stand Your Ground” law was not invoked in this particular “cold blooded murder” case, there has been a most definite “ginning up of hostility” towards all those who are non-white heterosexual Christians in our country. Just listen to the passionate hate filled rhetoric spewed by the fascists running for President.

    The “Stand Your Ground” law has dramatically changed the entire TONE and ATTITUDE of how we deal with public disputes. The hope and expectation that we will treat one another civilly, with a modicum of restraint and understanding, seems to be more and more a thing of our more civilized past.

    Unfortunately “harsh judgement” often based on skin color, clothing, choice of music, language, religion, sexual orientation, et al, is the first thing that too many focus on when encountering other human beings.
    This harsh judgement is now reinforced by our “armed to the teeth” mentality and hostile laws like “Stand Your Ground”.

    Each of these are drops of blood in the bucket of human cruelty. A cruelty that is eroding our country like a cancer from within. How soon will it be before we are compared to the great empires that fell from being brutally divided against itself?

  13. Geezer says:

    If only people would respect each other – I’ll keep dreaming.
    If only people valued life a little more – I’ll keep dreaming.
    Who decided that life is cheap?

    Expect more, and more deaths like this.

    Sherry: So well said…
    “A cruelty that is eroding our country like a cancer from within.”

    Meanwhile, I’ll dream some more.

  14. Samuel L. Bronkowitz says:

    Brian, thanks for your well thought out response. The fact that you feel that the proper way of handling a verbal conflict is to murder someone is pretty demonstrative as to why we need more stringent gun control, if only to keep psychos like you from possessing them.

  15. yankee says:

    Barry Hartman….

    when did Chicago and Baltimore become states?

  16. Sherry says:

    Although the NRA has been successful in “BUYING” votes in Congress to STOP the collection of much of the data on gun violence in the USA, the latest study and analysis of the data available clearly shows that in states where “stand you ground” types of laws have been adopted, there is NO indication of deterrence of burglary or assault, and the homicide rate has actually INCREASED by about 8%!

    So the INCORRECT propaganda that says that “stand your ground laws” lower gun violence is just more fear and hate mongering!

    This from the National Bureau of Economic Research:

    From 2000 to 2010, more than 20 states passed laws that make it easier to use lethal force in self-defense. Elements of these laws include removing the duty to retreat in places outside of one’s home, adding a presumption of reasonable belief of imminent harm, and removing civil liability for those acting under the law. This paper examines whether aiding self-defense in this way deters crime or, alternatively, increases homicide. To do so, we apply a difference-in-differences research design by exploiting the within-state variation in law adoption. We find no evidence of deterrence; burglary, robbery, and aggravated assault are unaffected by the laws. On the other hand, we find that homicides are increased by around 8 percent, and that these homicides are largely classified by police as murder.

  17. Trevor Reid says:

    No a different law would not have changed the outcome for Jordan Davis. The man who shot Davis was tried and convicted under the current law. It was not self-defense because he fired at people in a car that was trying to get away from him. His actions were not justified, but he killed anyway. Therefore the state has held him culpable. See how that works. If your gripe, as this article’s author seems to be, is that there was a trial and that the accused raised a defense that was examined carefully, given the benefit of every doubt and ultimately rejected then what your actually craving is a lynching, not justice.

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