Right on the heels of the George Zimmerman trial, another controversial and tragic self-defense case is making its way to court. This time the scene is Jacksonville, Florida, and the story involves Jordan Davis, an unarmed black teen the same age as Trayvon Martin. Davis, 17, was shot to death by Michael Dunn.
Dunn told police that he asked Davis and three other teens, who were parked next to him at a gas station, to turn down their music. Dunn claims he heard threats from the teens and saw a gun in their car. He says he feared for his own safety, and that's why he grabbed his gun and fired into the vehicle.
Police say they found no guns inside the teens' vehicle and that Dunn fired his gun eight or nine times.
Dunn has been charged with first-degree murder in Davis' death and also faces three counts of attempted first-degree murder for shooting at the three passengers in the vehicle who survived.
Dunn's attorney, Robin Lemonidis, has told CNN that her client was reacting to what he claims was a gun being drawn. "When all the evidence has been flushed out, I believe that it will be extremely clear that Mr. Dunn acted as any responsible firearm owner would have under the same circumstances," Lemonidis said.
While it's unknown if Dunn will claim a "Stand Your Ground" defense during his trial, he is claiming that he shot at the teens in self-defense. Zimmerman also said he acted in self-defense when he shot Trayvon Martin. A former neighborhood watch volunteer, Zimmerman had called police on Feb. 26, 2012 and reported Martin as looking "suspicious." The two got into an altercation, and Zimmerman said he was forced to draw his gun and shoot Martin in self-defense. A jury of six women found Zimmerman not guilty Saturday after about 16 hours of deliberations.
Many who followed the Zimmerman case considered races to be one the key issues at play. Critics accused Zimmerman of racially profiling Martin and protests were held around the country when it appeared that Zimmerman wasn’t going to be arrested in Martin’s death. Zimmerman was eventually charged with second-degree murder in April 2012. The case reinvigorated national conversations about race, racial profiling and self-defense laws -- and even after the verdict, those discussions continue.
However, while there are undeniable similarities between the cases of Dunn and Zimmerman -- including that both incidents happened in Florida -- the people involved in the case are doing what they can to underscore some key differences.
For example, Lemonidis denies any connection between the Dunn case and Zimmerman's case and says her client isn't a "vigilante."
Davis' mom says she doesn't want race to be the focus of her son's case.
"It’s apparent that Michael Dunn is white, it’s apparent that Jordan is black," Lucia McBath Davis told HLN's Raising America. "But the issue is the ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws. The issue is not the racial part of it. We’re not going to center and focus on that because that doesn’t do any good for the country. We’re not going to incite racism in this country. The bigger picture is making a change in the laws so that … this doesn’t continue to happen."
With Zimmerman having been acquitted after a successful self-defense claim, could Dunn's case be headed in the same direction? Lucia Davis has expressed concerns about the Zimmerman verdict to the Davis family attorney, John Phillips.
“It’s been the toughest," Phillips told HLN's Raising America. "Imagine having clients, for any attorney out there, that make you get goosebumps and cry. And then, to have 10 minutes after this verdict to be sitting in Sanford to get the text message ‘freaking out about justice and not knowing where to go next’ was just as painful as I’ve ever had.”
Dunn has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail in a Duval County, Florida, jail. His trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 23, 2013.