Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white man, was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 90 years, by a Florida judge on Friday for killing an unarmed black teenager in an argument over loud rap music.
Dunn, 47, a software engineer, testified at his murder trial last month he thought he was defending himself from an armed threat when he fired 10 rounds at an SUV carrying four teens at a Jacksonville gas station parking lot, killing Jordan Davis, 17, in November 2012.
Under Florida law, first-degree murder is punishable by life in prison without parole. Dunn received an additional 90 years in prison for earlier convictions on three counts of attempted murder of the other teens, none of whom were injured. Prosecutors waived the death penalty before trial.
Meanwhile, down the road from me:
A West Virginia state trooper, who killed a teen after allegedly harassing the young man for months, will not face charges for the deadly June shooting, according to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
A Mercer County grand jury failed to hand down an indictment against trooper B.D. Gillespie of the West Virginia State Police in the death of Timothy Hill, 18, who was shot twice and fatally wounded near Gillespie’s Mercer County home.
Hill was shot following a brief struggle with Gillespie, with the trooper claiming that the teen reached for his weapon.
According to Gillespie, he tracked Hill and two other men down after his wife claimed some men were tampering with his personal vehicle and state-issued cruiser parked in the driveway.
Following questioning, Gillespie let the other two men go, but said that Hill became belligerent leading to a struggle where he used pepper spray and his baton on the young man.
After Hill was reportedly subdued, with the help of a neighborhood man, Gillespie claimed that the teen attempted to grab his weapon, leading Gillespie to shoot him twice.
According to Hill’s mother, Gillespie had a history with her son, saying he had bullied him in the months prior, but never thinking it would lead to the young man’s death.
“I figured he would try to arrest him over something stupid once he turned 18, or try to beat him up,” Michelle Hill said. Her son turned 18 in May.
“That’s kind of what I was expecting,” she added. “I didn’t know he was going to kill my son right in front of my house.”
The guy has a history of harassing people- threatening someone who was having his yard cleaned with not having it cleaned fast enough, sitting on his porch with a radar gun, and generally being an asshole and a menace. Bullies being bullies, he will feel emboldened by this and learn that he can get away with it. So not only did the Grand Jury crap all over Hill, but they probably inadvertently sentenced someone else to death in the future.
What’s so grand about grand juries, btw?
Grand as in French for big. Ordinary juries are actually petit juries.
Villago Delenda Est
Well, they used to be really helpful for indicting errant ham sandwiches.
Now, they seem to be used by DAs to avoid prosecuting crimes that enough voters don’t have problems with, like gunning down unarmed young bucks.
Villago Delenda Est
@Omnes Omnibus: Don’t most Grand Juries have a lot more people than the usual 12? Which is what made them Grand in the first place, n’cest ce pas?
In most places in this country, the alternative to grand juries would be elected DAs dhaving the sole and unreviewablr discretion to decide who gets prosecuted.
That what you want, Cole?
@Villago Delenda Est: They are usually 16 to 24 people as opposed to the six or twelve who sit on a petit jury.
Im willing to bet that if we gave Cole a clean sheet of paper and asked him to design a new process for deciding who gets prosecuted for which alleged crimes, his Big New Thing would either (1) not be materially different from our current sysyem or (2) be hysterically funny and guaranteed not to work as well as the current system.
Go ahead, Cole, have at it.
@burnspbesq: We could institute a system of examining magistrates and do away with the adversarial system.
I think that the general assumption of the grand jurors is that the authorities can be trusted.
And the general assumption of the authorities is that they should bump the grand jurors off of the grand jury unless said jurors believe that authorities can be trusted.
hells littlest angel
As vindictive as he is, if anyone were to take a shot at him while he’s sitting on his front porch, it sounds like they’d better take care not to miss. I mean, if anyone were, speculatively, hypothetically speaking.
John Cole +0
It was a fucking joke. So of course Burns blows a gasket.
This is one of those days where I swear to FSM 90% of the internet is off the charts on the ASD.
@John Cole +0:
I don’t think it necessarily needed to be taken as a joke. But I still expected it to get a rise out of burnsy.
And just like a clock….
It’s almost like you left a trail of bread crumbs for him to follow.
Ella in New Mexico
From what I’ve seen, they totally reflect the politics and values held by the average person of the communities from which they’re drawn. It’s why here, in hispanic-dominated NM, we tend to be a LOT more suspicious of the accused, and I’ve seen decent decisions made by grand juries as well as the trial juries here. Also, they are at the mercy of the charges given them to consider. So if the DA’s office tries to get them to indict a ham sandwich, but shows them the evidence for a pizza, it ain’t gonna happen. As such, get ready for the “Ferguson Pizza No Bill”.
Meanwhile, I wonder: does WV offer options for taking the charges up to a State Attorney General’s office? What about the Feds?
@burnspbesq: Well, don’t have elected DA’s then. The idea that you could expect unbiased justice from partisan judges and attorneys is so stupid that only Americans could have invented it.
Karma will happen. Sucks that it takes so long.
@John Cole +0: Come up with lame computer jokes periodically and you’ll get a rise out of the same people over and over. Look at Apple vs PC posts.
I think the idea of elected DAs and judges was that the people would chose those whose ideals reflected theirs instead of cronies put into office by, say the mayor. Too bad it actually doesn’t(or even sometimes does!) work that way. The hard part is finding a way of having the system reflect the values of the system over time, rather than the ideals(or lack thereof) of the persons involved.
Exactly. If I am a white elected DA or judge, do you really think an African-American is going to receive the same type of justice as a white person would get? They want to get re-elected and thus, whether intentional or not, it certainly is reasonable to doubt their judgement. What’s going on in Missouri right now is a perfect example of this.
We have a flawed system. It seems we would be better off having an appointed person who does not have to worry about re-election.
The guy has a history of harassing people- threatening someone who was having his yard cleaned with not having it cleaned fast enough, sitting on his porch with a radar gun, and generally being an asshole and a menace
Except that all that is inadmissible.
The problem with grand juries and DAs and judges who reflect the will of the people is that sometimes the will of the people sucks. How any sentient being who isn’t a racist m*&%#f*% pig can watch the security footage of the John Crawford murder in Walmart and not indict defies rationality. You know why Justice wears a blindfold? She doesn’t want anyone to see how red her eyes are from weeping.
@Ruckus: You mean people want the DAs and judged elected because the DAs and judges appointed by the mayor who they also elected don’t reflect their ideas? Why did they elect that mayor then? (And you can add city council to the mayor if you feel like it). Representative democracy, how does it work?
Of course, that the US for most of its life has been a plutocracy despite being called a democracy (and in part still is), doesn’t really generate understanding for how a democracy should work.
@burnspbesq: No one would ever again cited for indecent mopping.
Ian Welsh reports that pigs can transmit Ebola via aerolsolized droplets. This might actually be good for the U.S., as it would make factory hog farming impossible, but it would not be so good for the millions of people who live up close and personal with their pigs.
That just pushes the problem back on the people appointing and confirming the DA. If you have an electorate that wants unequal justice, you’ll wind up with unequal justice one way or another.
@greennotGreen: I think we need a stronger, more proactive DoJ for these kinds of situations.
Tree With Water
For the last few years in the NFL, videotape of every touchdown is automatically reviewed by officials to insure the call was correct before posting the score.
It might be a good idea to establish a federal agency to review all officer involved homicides that occur anywhere* within the United States, the findings of which to be automatically referred to a federal grand jury for deliberation.
*(except Florida, of course).
The smaller the system, the easier to rig. It’s the same general principle that makes wingnuts long for state and community rights.
Part of the problem is that you have a single DA who has great power to shape and control the whole office. In areas where there are enough prosecutions to justify a whole bunch of subordinates, you could have a system where high-level appointments by the DA have to be confirmed by the county commissioners and lower level appointments have civil service protections. That should help to spread out the authority enough that a single DA can’t dominate the process.
That said, I won’t back down on my previous statement that there are limits to what you can do structurally. Democracies will ultimately result in elected officials who reflect the interests of the electorate. If the people really want biased prosecution that ignores wrongdoing by police, especially when it falls on Those People, they’re likely to get it unless there’s a higher government that can step in and force the prosecutions.
What I was beating around the bush about was that the DAs and the grand jury are people and have all the good and bad that we carry around. Elected or appointed they can be good and they can be bad. Which system works best, elected or appointed/hired? I’d bet it depends on the people doing the voting(or not) or the people who do the hiring. What if a mayor or city council was good when elected 27 yrs before and keeps getting elected because of that, not who they end up being. I grew up in a small city whose council stayed the same for years. No growth, no changes of any kind allowed. Hardware store owner retired, closed his store. Council wouldn’t allow any other type of business to take over the location on the main drag. So it sat empty and this story was repeated until the town started to die off. Enough new council members were elected and once again it is a lively town. They restored the old town feel as well. Many places are like this and any hired DAs, etc are going to reflect the wishes of the council rather than what may be the current wishes of the populace.
Notice I’m not saying one system is better, just that both can be flawed. I prefer hiring as I think it can possibly work better but it can be strictly patronage, and that is not good.
Howard Beale IV
Meanwhile, in another whacked out part of the country:
Oh I agree. Any system of prosecution of crimes is going to be flawed and somewhat or mostly reflect the biases of the people ultimately responsible for the system. In a democracy that’s the people who vote.
@Howard Beale IV:
Well she certainly is. Thanks, Obama!
@Howard Beale IV:
Are they still married? If so, what’s wrong with him?
We should put Batman in charge. Batman is never wrong. Batman’s a detective.
Tree With Water
@Howard Beale IV: I’ll admit it. Had she been indicted that for that reason after the 2004 election, and had I sat on her jury, I would have voted to acquit.
This never happens in my country.
Ella in New Mexico
@Ella in New Mexico: I need to correct “suspicious of the accused”. I meant we are more suspicious of the accusations and suspicious of the cops and DA making the accusations, not the person accused.
I used a Conservative source for the numbers, to circumvent wingnuts from bitching about “liberal bias” – or at least make them look like jackasses when they do.
Approximate Annual US Deaths from Guns: 32,000
Approximate Annual US Accidental Deaths from Guns: 700-800
Approximate Annual US Gun Deaths from Homicide: A little over 11,000
Approximate US Deaths from Ebola in 2014 so far: 1
And Ebola is what the GOP wants everyone to freak out about?
Sure, but you don’t know how many of those homicides were justified homicides by
whitelaw abiding gun owners defending themselves from darkiescriminals. Besides, the other homicides were carried out by criminals, natch, and we all know that criminals will go to any length to get guns, so gun control wouldn’t have done anything to stop them.
Wait, why are you laughing?
@John Cole +0:
Your “jokes” bear quite a close resemblance to your righteous rants.
I guess cops don’t even have to bother planting a gun anymore, just claim somebody was going for his weapon. Must be nice for them.
My Truth Hurts
What’s even more sick is that there is a large portion of the population who not only have no problem with this cops behavior but will jump to defend him at any opportunity. This country suffers from Stockholm Syndrome.
@Amir Khalid: Personality disorders and attendant codependency issues.
@Patrick: Blacks make up the majority of Ferguson. If they would vote, perhaps they wouldn’t have to be worried about a White public official screwing with them now. I would vote them all out.
Indeed. If this murder doesn’t do it, I don’t know what it will take.
I trust 24 ignorant yahoos far more than I trust the likes of Baltazar Garzon.
@John Cole +0:
No, you’re the fucking joke.
Brick-headed irony, thy name is Cole.
JR in WV
@Ella in New Mexico:
No! The WV state Attorney General has no responsibilities regarding criminal justice. They can’t indict, impanel a Grand Jury, or participate in a courtroom proceeding.
They can bring suit against crooked business-people who are scamming citizens of the state, they can ask an ethics panel to consider a conflict of interest, they can ask a county prosecutor to take a case before a Grand Jury, that’s about it. Oh, they can negotiate with other states to establish that carry permits issued on a given state are also respected in another state (there’s a technical term for this which I forget for hte moment!) OH, yes reciprocity… that’s it, the AG can establish mutual respect for each other’s CCW permits.
That’s about it.
Only if you’re an idiot.
“what’s so grand about grand juries” is obviously a joke.
And you’re an Ass-burger pedantic know-it-all who’s often wrong and can’t be bothered to exert the least bit of effort to imagine what might have been meant. It’s like you’re salivating at every opportunity to show everyone just how *smart* you are.
Geez, sometimes it’s a wonder Cole doesn’t just pull the plug.
West of the Cascades
Four words for this situation: “federal civil rights suit.” USDOJ needs to dramatically step up their prosecutions in cases like this where the state/local jurisdictions decline to prosecute.
@drkrick: and Obama won Arizona by one vote – and that’s the state that put him over the top.
Oh, he lost Arizona by 200000 votes? Hm, I’m starting to think there is something a little off with that lady…
According to the article I read, Dunn said, “I want the Davis family to know that I truly regret what happened. If I could roll back time and do things differently, I would. I am mortified that I took a life whether it was a justified or not.”
Whether it was justified or not.
That, to me, is totally stunning. This guy still seriously thinks he was justified in shooting someone over loud music.
Get out of good ‘ole boy country! Cops are scared to death of us common folk here in Minneapolis!
pseudonymous in nc
Grand juries are, as I’ve said here before, the kind of shit that the English justice system got rid of a long time ago, along with all sorts of medieval shit (felonies as distinct classes of crime) that the US clings to as part of its Anglo inheritance.
Well, fuck elected DAs, elected judges and elected sheriffs as well.
pseudonymous in nc
That’s a problematic argument. You end up with elected County Supervisor of Widget Maintenance and State Superintendent of Random Shit, and the electorate is divided between 90% of people who are unqualified to make a good choice and 10% of people who are heavily invested in the outcome.
Americans vote for too many people. Make positions appointed, and make the elected people very much responsible for the performance of their appointees, up to the point of demanding resignations right up to the top.