FFF 2015 Day 9 – 3 1/2 Minutes

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What Question Do You Ask a Father Whose Teenage Son Was Tragically Killed?

What Question Do You Ask a Father Whose Teenage Son Was Killed?

The only thing that could have made this documentary more heart wrenching would have been if the father of the teenager killed at the gas station in Jacksonville had been present in the room.

Well, he was there.

The documentary was about the international outcry when Michael Dunn, a white man, pulled into a gas station on Black Friday 2012. He parked next to a group of black teenagers who were playing very loud rap music. He asked the teens to turn the music down, which they did, until one of the teens in the back shouted an expletive and demanded that they turn the music back up. An angry interaction ensued and Michael Dunn got his pistol out of his glove box and began firing 10 shots at the car, killing 17 year old Jordan Davis.

This ignited a media frenzy, including “man on the street” interviews reflecting heated viewpoints on both sides of the issue. Some supported Michael Dunn, who claimed that some kind of barrel, like a shotgun barrel, was pointed at him. They sited Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law which stipulates that someone does not have to retreat from a confrontation but can use deadly force if he perceives his life to be in danger. Many others see only another dead black unarmed teenager at the hands of a non-black assailant.

There’s lots of evidence that is very damaging to Michael Dunn. For example, he left the scene, went back to his hotel, ordered a pizza with a rum and coke, walked his dog and only then called the police. Although no gun or barrel of any kind was found in the car, it was acknowledged that the car drove away from the gas station, parked and then pulled back into the gas station. The police admitted that it took them four days to search the area where the car temporarily parked when the teenagers fled from the firing bullets. It was also acknowledge that Jordan Davis got into a heated, expletive filled banter with Dunn. There is conflicting testimony as to whether or not he threatened to kill him. In the end, Michael Dunn’s assertions that he told his fiance about the “gun” he saw the teenagers have was directly contradicted by her. She also testified that when they pulled in to the gas station, he stated how much he hates that “thug music.” This, again, directly contradicted his own testimony. Although the first trial ended in a hung jury on the count of first degree murder, a second trial found him guilty and he will spend the rest of his life in prison. When the documentary revealed this fact, the audience broke into applause.

Perhaps the most telling and damning information to come out of today’s film is when I asked the father a question and his answer, quoted below, gives a harsh and inescapable reality about the shortcomings of the incarceration system currently in use in our country.

Jordan Davis’ Father Takes Questions From the Audience
Q: What was it like being a part of the making of this film?

A: You have the filmmakers walking along with you as you’re doing this. It’s not, “Take one, take two, take three.” They follow you around and whatever you’re doing it might appear on the screen.

Q: The film failed at bringing Jordan into the film. We got only a very little sense of who he was. Can you tell us who Jordan was?

A: I’m glad you said that. A lot of families don’t realize, when you have the trial of Michael Dunn, it’s Michael Dunn’s trial. When you lose your loved one, you think that your loved one who died is a part of the trial. They’re not. They’re just a name on the blotter. Jordan Davis was not allowed to be called a victim in this trial. The only photo that was allowed to be shown was that wallet photo. But Michael Dunn could show himself going to a wedding, playing with children.

Q: (from LanceAround): As a journalist, I have no idea how to look at a father who has had his son killed in this manner; or what to ask him. It made me think, what is it that we journalists are not asking? What are the questions you would like for us to ask you in circumstances like this?

A: It’s always a family’s desire to get some sort of justice. More and more times, it’s the media that drives that justice. You hear of the Trayvon Martin case because the media drove that case. No one heard of Sanford, FL. The media drove that case. The media drives the DOJ to look at that case. The media has to look at things as a whole. What’s going on in this country? Who are the leaders in this country that are allowing this to happen time and time again? We have mass incarceration in this country, nobody’s doing a thing about it. 2.2 million people incarcerated. We have private prisons in this country. So now, prisoners are a commodity. They make at least $28,000 per prisoner per year. And they guarantee the states at least 90% occupancy. They abuse them in prison, paying them pennies on the dollar. What happens when you take over 2 million people and pay them pennies on the dollar? You look at the 14th amendment. It says that slavery is abolished, except if it is in the form of punishment. Slavery is in the prisons right now. It’s on the stock market. You can buy stocks in prisons. Instead of building schools, we build prisons. Do you realize that the U.S. is only 5% of the population of the world yet we incarcerate 25% of the world’s prisoners right here. That’s what you can do. Stop this!

Q: I’m also a member of the media. I wanted to commend you and your wife for the dignity and composure that you exhibited through the entire trial, both trials. I’m curious to know if you feel the film was balanced. Were you ever worried that it would lean one way or the other because of the subject matter.

A: Marc Silver is an amazing director. We fought tooth and nail because I didn’t want to see so many scenes between him [Dunn] and his lawyer because they rehearsed what they gonna say. So you see a lot of scenes with him telling his story; his version. I don’t want his version on the film, because he’s lying. Marc said no, people have to look at and listen to his version. And they listen and see the truth and make up their own minds. I think you all did in this theatre. You can’t hammer somebody over the head with your version and your truth. You have to let them see what this person has to say and make up your own mind. I think he did a great job in doing that. I was very happy with the film.

Q: My ex-husband was killed by a police officer in Deland, FL; ran over by his police cruiser; taken to the grand jury and considered justifiable homicide. I commend you for receiving your first verdict and continuing in the fight until you received justice for Jordan. I will continue to fight for justice.  I look at the film and I’m wondering, what was going through your mind?

A: We realize that there’s only a few families that get this kind of justice. It’s so hard to get it because there’s so many rules against you getting it. Michael Dunn actually had to convict himself. If he had shot Jordon Davis those first three shots, sat in his car and dialed 911 and said, “I feared for my life,” he’d be walking right here on this stage today. I know in my heart that it’s pitiful I had to say that. The other thing he did is he lied, and lied and lied and kept changing his story and the jury saw that. They actually admitted to it after the trial, some of the jurors.  This film is an historical moment. In the South this is the first time that almost an all white jury–seven white men on a jury–convicted a white man for killing a black man.

 

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