3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets—17-year-old loses his life; Stand Your Grounder Gets Life in Prison
by Martha Rosenberg
Who remembers the shooting of 17-year-old Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida nine months after Trayvon Martin’s death in Sanford, Florida? The case received less media play than that of Trayvon Martin but both focused attention on white gun carriers profiling African-Americans as “bad guys” and using Florida’s extreme laws to defend themselves. George Zimmerman famously said he fell scared for his life even though he was the stalker and Trayvon Martin was unarmed.
Zimmerman did not invoke Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in George Dunn, a 47-year-old software developer charged with murdering Jordan Davis, did and a new Sundance documentary covers his trial.
“3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets” from Participant Media, written and directed by Marc Silver, had its Chicago premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center to a sold out audience in Chicago earlier this month. Lucia McBath, Jordan Davis’ mother spoke after the film which will be shown on HBO this fall
Many remember the highlights of the case which was dubbed the “loud music” or “thug music” trial by the media. Angry about loud music in a car next to him at a gas station (while his girlfriend was buying something inside ) George Dunn got in an altercation with the four youths in the car and shot and killed Jordan Davis.
Much of the movie’s tension centers on trial proceedings to determine if Dunn was really threatened or felt threatened before he shot 10 bullets into the car. Dunn’s lawyer, Cory Strolla, valiantly tries to prove in the film that Dunn was scared for his life before he shot, either seeing the barrel of a gun or a lead pipe, both of which are weapons that could do “harm” he notes. Dunn’s defense attorney puts law enforcement officers on the stand and tries to prove that they did a poor job of examining the crime scene–a weapon could indeed have been displayed, as Dunn claims, and then discarded, perhaps in a dumpster. But Dunn’s girlfriend Rhonda Rouer, denies on the stand that Dunn ever mentioned a gun or other weapon immediately after the shooting , later that evening or even the next day.
Moved and relieved by Rouer’s testimony, which proved a turning point in the trial, leading to Dunn’s conviction, Lucia McBath says in the movie she does not know if Rouer has children of her own but felt that her compassion had inspired her to tell the truth about the shooting.
“3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets” includes real time audio and video from the shooting as Rouer pays in the gas station while shots ring out and bystanders yell someone’s “shooting” and they better call “911.” The film intercuts between dramatic trial footage, close up interviews with Jordan’s friends and the effect of the shooting and trial on McBath and Jordan’s father Ron Davis and even the community.
Despite its subject, there are some moments of laughter in “3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets” like when Jordan’s friends say he dressed sharp but was miserable at basketball and when they are asked on the witness stand why they bought gum at the gas station where the shooting occurred. (They wanted to meet girls and make sure their breath wasn’t bad, they say.)
Still, the broken lives from the shooting are hard to ignore–from friends and family of Jordan to those close to Michael Dunn. Upon sentencing Dunn to life in prison (after a second trial which found him guilty of murder) Circuit Court Judge Russell Healey admonishes Dunn that there would have been “nothing wrong” with retreating from the scene instead of shooting. Stand Your Ground laws remove the “duty to retreat.” There is nothing worse for a parent than losing a child the judge tells Dunn.
During the question and answer period, McBath was asked if she or others had addressed Michael Dunn as the families of nine church worshippers killed in Charleston, S.C. in June, allegedly by a white supremacist, were said to have done
“We gave victim impact statements in court,” said McBath and I “told Michael Dunn I forgive him.” The reason she summoned forgiveness in her soul, said Jordan’s mother was forgiveness was “what I was teaching my child” and if she allowed “pain, anger and angst” to remain with her, “I could not do this work I was ordained to do.” Lucia McBath is now working against gun violence.
Some in the audience at the screening of “3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets,” discussed the deaths of their own teenagers. “You are my role model,” one mother told McBath.