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3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets—17-year-old loses his life; Stand Your Grounder Gets Life in Prison

by Martha Rosenberg

Chicago

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.

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Cowspiracy Documentary Premiers! - Green Vegans

Why Are Environmental Groups Mum on Agriculture asks the new Expose Cowspiracy?

by Martha Rosenberg

It is often joked that even paranoids have real enemies and a case in point is the alarming new documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. It may be paranoid to suggest that environmental groups ignore the leading cause of deforestation, methane and ocean degradation –animal agriculture–for financial gain. But why won’t Emily Meredith, spokesperson for the industry group, Animal Agriculture Alliance, deny donating to such environmental groups? Twice saying she cannot answer the questions as she looks at an off camera adviser?

It may be paranoid to allege that activists who challenge the cattle industry risk their lives, yet activist nun Sister Dorothy Stang was shot six times outside the town of Anapu, Brazil for doing exactly that. A rancher in Brazil’s Amazon was sentenced to 30 years in prison for ordering the killing.

Directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, Cowspiracy, screened this week by the John Marshall Law School Student Animal Legal Defense Fund Chapter in Chicago, connotes other popular movies like Bowling for Columbine, Super Size Me and An Inconvenient Truth with its blend of entertaining statistics and “gotcha” style interviews.

And some organizations are definitely “got.” When asked about the role of animal agriculture in environmental degradation, Ann Notthoff, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, emits a drawn-out creepy laugh and says she doesn’t know anything about “cow parts.” When asked about the sustainability of any fishing given the huge numbers of unintended species that become “bykill,” Dr. Geoff Shester with Oceana gives director Kip Andersen a lesson in capitalism. The ocean is a “conveyer belt” and fish are constantly replenishing he says. As long as we catch and eat the “interest” and not the “principle,” there is no problem.

A spokesman for Amazon Watch cannot answer what the “leading cause” of deforestation is and hems and haws for excruciating seconds on camera. A spokesman for the Surfrider Foundation acknowledges that animal agriculture might be an environmental problem somewhere but not in California. And director of the Sierra Club Bruce Hamilton’s answer when asked by Andersen about animal agriculture–“What about it?”–is so disingenuous, it becomes the lead-in to the entire movie. Few if any of the environmental groups even cite animal agriculture on their web sites, says Andersen.

Andersen’s interview of California Water Resources Control Board officials was more nuanced. They admit, somewhat sheepishly, that animal agriculture is the top water user in the state but say it is not their “area” and that you can’t change human “behavior.” Andersen tells the officials he doesn’t buy it–telling people to take “shorter showers” and make other water lifestyle changes, is also asking people to change their behavior.

Early in the movie, Andersen says he had been made a passionate environmentalist after watching Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and pledged to bicycle everywhere and take short showers. But then Andersen discovered that animal agriculture was the leading and often undisclosed source of resource degradation and pollution, accounting for a third of the earth’s fresh water usage, most rain forest destruction and the ocean’s growing dead zones. He discovers eating one hamburger uses as much water as two months of showers. Cowspiracy was born.

Environmental organizations that ignore agriculture are not the only groups coming off badly in the movie. Grass-fed beef operations are “even more unsustainable than factory farms,” because they require three times more resources says the movie after a visit to one such farm. The farming couple who say they “love animals” which is why they are in the “meat business” (and whose child hugs the pigs while saying “they are going to be bacon”) reveal grass-fed operations as nothing more than feel-good exercises for their operators.

One spokesperson in Cowspiracy compares animal agriculture to the alcoholic in a family who no one wants to talk about even as the harm spills over into the family, society and onto the highway. Ironically, two representatives of animal agriculture who are interviewed in the film are in less denial than the environmental and grass-fed cattle groups who are shown. There is not enough land available to do “this type of dairying” a dairy manager, surrounded by cows, admits on camera. A dairy CEO makes a similar concession. The world cannot be fed with animal based products, he says.

Despite the film’s name, Cowspiracy addresses industrial fishing and shows disturbing scenes of fish and shark butchery. It shows a very-much-alive dairy cow loaded by several workers onto a front loader, no doubt a “downer,” and the bloody teats of another cow. On a free-range duck operation, the farmer allows Anderson to film the slaughter of two ducks, tame enough to lie on a table awaiting their deaths. The farmer says he was taught to slaughter animals by his father who trained him as a boy to kill his own pet rabbits which, he says, had “names.” “After a while you just learn it is something you have to do,” he tells the camera crew.

Cowspiracy leaves little doubt about the scourge of animal agriculture in the US and the world and includes interviews with Michael Pollan, Dr. Richard Oppenlander, Dr. Will Tuttle, Will Potter, representatives from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and a former board member of Greenpeace. Less clear is the reason for environment groups’ silence about animal agriculture or “cowspiracy.” Could it be the same thing that propels animal agriculture itself–money?

For more about the movie click here Cowspiracy


Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative pubic health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random House. Rosenberg has appeared on CSPAN and NPR and lectured at medical schools and at the Mid-Manhattan Public Library.