The Math of Dunn: One

Wading into a political, legal, and racial issue isn't usually my speed. But I wanted to write something briefly about the Michael Dunn trial because I feel like I'm seeing bad information and logic spread across the twittersphere.

Let's start with the obvious: African Americans have a hell of a time receiving proportionate justice when they are defendants, and non-blacks accused of crimes against black people have a vastly easier time avoiding proportionate punishment or any punishment at all. I am in full agreement, and the statistics back up the anecdotes. Black people are convicted and pled at higher rates under more severity than white defendants for the same crimes. Drug charges for urban drugs more likely to be used by blacks have much higher penalties than those more typically used by middle-class whites.

And the use of "loud music" in all the headlines about this case? Jordan Davis and his friends may have been playing music loudly. That is what teenagers do. The issue was about one man's simmering violence in which he coolly loaded a gun and shot repeatedly at a vehicle as it drove away full of unarmed children.

"Loud music"? Please. I've seen tweets about the loud music indicating "disrespect" towards Dunn. This isn't about loud music just like the movie theater texting shooting isn't about cell phones. This is about a violent person who is willing to commit murder because he cannot control his own impulses.

Now, having stated that, I want to look at what precisely happened in the trial, to my understanding from the news accounts.

The jurors: I already saw a prominent person say that "eight white people" refused to convict Dunn of the most serious of five charges against him. That is incorrect.

The jury comprised 12 people: four white men, four white women, two black women, one Asian-American woman, and one man who identified as Hispanic. (Hispanic is a designation that can apply to any race.)

The charges: Florida requires unanimous decisions for criminal charges for conviction or acquittal. Dunn was found guilty of four charges (one for each of the kids he shot at and didn't kill in the departing car and one weapons charge).

On the murder charge, jurors could not reach unanimity on first-degree murder or second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter charges, which must be considered if they reject the murder charges. He was not acquitted.

From my reading of the trial, the defense did a remarkable job in causing doubt in at least a single juror's mind about Dunn acting in self-defense. Dunn didn't need to act reasonably in self-defense; only believe that he was so doing!

Only one juror had to disagree. Given that they found him guilty unanimously of four other charges, I can imagine a scenario in which the recalcitrant juror says, "He's going to jail for life, anyway. I think he had reason to act in self-defense in his mind, and I'm not going to vote in favor of any murder or manslaughter charges." The ways juries work, one or more jurors could have "traded" their votes on the other four charges to avoid deadlocking on all.

The mistrial: The judge declared a mistrial on the murder charge. The state attorney has said he will stage a new trial on that charge, even though Dunn will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in jail.

It's completely clear to me that the defense painted the situation in terms in which Jordan and his friends were guilty of being "menacing because black teenagers." That's the crux of the injustice. The jury outcome may have been based on a single juror or 11 of the 12; we won't know unless they decide to talk later.

But the doubt in one or more jurors' minds that let them deadlock (not acquit) on one charge yet reach unanimity on four others is where justice wasn't served.