Teen Jordan Davis was shot to death by Michael Dunn inside an SUV after a dispute over music. The trial is the next test for Florida's "stand your ground" law.
Trayvon Martin is a household name, but most people have never heard of another black teenager killed in a shooting in Florida: Jordan Davis.
After a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the death of 17-year-old Martin, a court prepares to hear that state's next "stand your ground" case, when Michael Dunn goes to trial for first-degree murder in Davis' death.
AP Photo: Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, File
Michael Dunn is charged with first-degree murder in the Nov. 23 shooting of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.
Davis, also 17, was shot three times in a Jacksonville parking lot after arguing with Dunn over the volume of the music the teen and his friends were playing in their car.
"This was a kid with a big smile, about to graduate high school, with a beautiful head-cheerleader girlfriend," said John Phillips, a lawyer representing the Davis family. "He'd been homeschooled with a very Christian mom for most of his life. Teachers loved him. Bright, good kid, no trouble, no more sass than any other 17-year-old."
The story will sound familiar to those who followed the Martin case: A confrontation escalates to violence. An unarmed black youth is shot dead. The shooter alleges justifiable force for self-defense.
Both cases center around Florida's "stand your ground" law, which states that a person "has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm."
Zimmerman did not request immunity from prosecution under the 'stand your ground' law and his lawyers didn't invoke it in court, but the jury did receive instructions from the judge that borrowed language from the statute, specifying that if "he was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force."
"People want to compare the two cases, and I get it," Phillips said. "We join with Trayvon's family to protest 'stand your ground' because the tragedies of these families is equally awful."
DISPUTE OVER LOUD MUSIC TURNS DEADLY
On the evening of Nov. 23, 2012, Davis and three friends were hanging out at the mall before stopping at a gas station for refreshments. Rap music was blaring from the teens' Dodge Durango's stereo system when Dunn, 46, pulled into the adjacent parking spot. His girlfriend went into the store and Dunn rolled down his window to ask the teens to lower the music.
"The front seat passenger turned it down a little bit," Phillips said, going on to explain that Davis then either told his friend to raise the volume or leaned forward from his right rear passenger seat to do so himself.
The teens and Dunn began yelling at one another, and Dunn — who had a legal carry-conceal permit — claims the boys were speaking to him in a threatening manner and says he saw what he believed to be a shotgun inside their vehicle, apparently pointed in his direction. He said he feared for his life.
"Michael Dunn goes to his glove compartment, pulls out his 9 millimeter — 'You're not going to talk to me like that!' — fires three shots right into Jordan's door, killing Jordan," Phillips alleges.
Of the 10 shots that Dunn fired, three struck Davis and nine tore through the vehicle. His friends were unharmed and initially began to drive away before realizing their friend was dead. Dozens of witnesses gave accounts to police, including an officer already nearby at the time performing a DUI arrest. Dunn fled the scene, but witnesses took down his license plate number and he was arrested the next day.
Kelly Jordan: The New York Times, File
An attendee reacts as he leaves a memorial services for Jordan Davis, who was shot and killed while parked at a convenience store in Jacksonville, Fla.
Phillips says race is "clearly a component" in the case, alleging that Dunn assumed the teens had a gun when they didn't, giving him a reason to assert force in self-defense. No gun was ever found inside the teens' car.
"No firearm, there was nothing that looked like a stick. There was no broom, no tire iron, no nothing," Phillips said.
Reached by phone, Dunn's original attorney on the case, Robin Lemonidis — who told reporters her client "acted as any responsible firearm owner would have" — said she hasn't represented Dunn since November and would not care to comment on the current case.
Dunn's new lawyer, Cory Strolla, wrote in an email to MSN News that he is still in the process of developing the trial defense for his client.
PARENTS OF SLAIN TEENS: 'A FRATERNITY NOBODY WANTS TO BE IN'
Strolla would not say whether the defense case would be mounted upon "stand your ground," but he wrote: "The Stand Your Ground law works to protect innocent people from becoming victims of potentially serious violent crimes."
"'Stand your ground' is bad and it's vague," argues Phillips. "It empowers people with guns."
A judge recently denied Dunn's motions to reconsider a bond. He has been in a Florida jail since last November.
Despite the obvious similarities to the Martin case, Philips says there are a few key differences.
"With the Trayvon case, that was a manslaughter case charged as a [second-degree murder] case," Phillips said. "Zimmerman fired one shot. Our case is [an alleged] first-degree, premeditated murder where a guy fired not one, but 10 shots at these four boys."
In addition to the first-degree murder charge for Davis' death, Dunn also faces three counts of attempted murder for firing at the three young men who survived the shooting.
As for how the Martin and Davis families have been grieving, Phillips said both sets of parents have met on several occasions to comfort one another.
"The families met and prayed together and did all of the stuff that two people who lost a child do," Phillips said. "Trayvon's dad, Tracy Martin, said it best when he said to Jordan's father, Ron Davis, 'We are part of a fraternity nobody wants to be in.'"
Dunn's trial is set to begin Sept. 23.
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