The man who shot Jordan Davis has little defense
Wes Denham is the co-author of "Arrest-Proof Yourself" and author of "Arrested, What to Do When Your Loved One's in Jail." You can reach him at wesdenham.com.
Watching a man cheerfully and unwittingly confess to first-degree murder is like watching a circus clown leave the ring, then walk to a guillotine, stick his noggin under the lunette, and drop the blade. It’s fascinating, in the way that bullfights and beheadings are fascinating.
Michael David Dunn, 45, foredoomed himself by an indirect confession, made on video and without presence of counsel, the day after he shot Jordan Davis, 17, at a Southside Boulevard convenience store.
Here’s how it went down: On Nov. 23, 2012 — Black Friday — Dunn, in town for a wedding, drove into the convenience store. Across the parking lot was a Dodge Durango, from which four teenaged boys boomed a Chief Keefe rap about bitches and snitches and acted annoying in that special manner reserved for youth.
Dunn asked them to turn down the music. He stated that one of the kids shouted, “You’re dead, bitch!” He said he thought he saw a shotgun.
Dunn opened the glove box, grabbed a Taurus nine, racked in a round and fired — bang, bang, bang, bang. The Durango drove away. Dunn fired again, four more.
“As they were fleeing?” asked the detective.
“Yeah,” Dunn replied.
That’s a confession; that’s murder one; that’s game over.
The reason? Under Florida’s self-defense laws, you cannot — repeat not — pursue, and shoot, an attacker who is fleeing. When an attacker flees, you no longer are in danger of “imminent death or great bodily harm,” the statutory requirement for self-defense.
The shotgun? When the kids pulled away in the Durango and realized Davis was dead or dying, they stopped several hundred yards away and returned to the store. Cops arrived within minutes, searched for the shotgun, and found nothing. Even in my neighborhood, where guns have wings, the jits can’t grab a boo-yaa that fast.
The detective conducting the interrogation is masterful. Unlike TV cops, he doesn’t bully or shout. He’s trained, and he’s crafty. He oozes empathy, just what a man needs when he’s just blasted a kid and is racked by guilt. His tone indicates that this is a conversation, routine really. It isn’t.
The cop says, “Keep walking me through it,” to encourage Dunn to continue talking. Of course, Dunn isn’t leading, he’s being led, systematically, to make statements that destroy his assertion of self-defense.
The detective says, “So, you … they pull out, you … as you said, you shoot to kinda keep their heads down, as their … that’s kinda your intention … ”
Let’s parse. The detective suddenly speaks in fragments in a low voice. This indicates to Dunn that the words are not important. In fact, they’re kill shots. Dunn indirectly agrees, a second time, that the kids were pulling out, i.e. fleeing. Next, he indirectly agrees that shooting while the kids were fleeing was his intention.
Intentionality, ladies and gentlemen, is standard English for malice aforethought, aka premeditation, the mother’s milk of murder one.
Later in the interrogation, Dunn makes two more statements: “What I shouldda done is put it in reverse” and “I shouldn’t even have left the scene.” Dunn is saying that he knew the right things to do, and he didn’t do them.
You can practically hear the squeaky wheels of the intravenous drips being rolled down to the Death House.
Rolling Stone magazine, with its usual ignorance in matters non-musical, is whaling on Florida State Attorney Angela Corey, a familiar punching bag. They think she’s incompetent to prosecute Dunn because her staff lost the case against George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin shooting.
The Stoners don’t get it. The detective who led the interrogation is the star of this case. With the admissions he obtained, a robot could get a conviction. Will this interrogation video find its way into the police academy curriculum?
That’s a slam dunk.
This case is a cautionary tale. From the tape, you can see that Dunn is an ordinary guy. He’s middle class, educated and gainfully employed. He has children and a girlfriend, Rhonda Rouer, whom he describes as “the love of my life.” (Lovey-dovey later scampered, also lawyerless, into another interrogation room and was led to spit out damning statements, one after another, like nails for a coffin.)
Rule No. 1 for anyone being interrogated by police is this: Shut the fuck up! After you shut up, you lawyer up. No matter how heinous your crime, you have no duty to assist the state in convicting you. You do have a constitutional right, that supersedes even the law, to defend yourself. This precious freedom has been defended, at great cost, for more than 200 years. Use it or lose it.
Like Dunn, you and I, in a moment of rage, can destroy our lives and those of others. That’s because all of us live partly, and always, in a place of darkness and violence,
Called Crime City.