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Laramie Movie Scope:
3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets

Justice for Jordan Russell Davis to whom the truth is owed

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2015) Justice for Jordan Russell Davis. In the Duval County Court House in Jacksonville, Florida, with Judge Russell Healey presiding, 47-year-old Michael Dunn is charged with five counts after shooting a 9mm pistol at four unarmed African-American teenagers in an SUV parked at a gas station on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, 2012, which resulted in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. One count of first-degree premeditated murder, three counts of attempted murder, and one count of firing a weapon into the vehicle.

In an interview with a police officer before the trial, Dunn declared: "I was scared for my life." Jordan's parents, Lucia McBath and Ron Davis, emotionally relate how they learned of the shooting, Ron's embracing his son's corpse in the hospital, Lucy's receiving Ron's phone call in Chicago. In 1998, when Jordan - Lucy named her son after the river Jordan, symbolizing "a crossing over" - was three, the couple divorced. Later Jordan was back with his father in Florida.

Evidence at the trial: the pistol, photos of the bullet holes in the red Dodge Durango, skeletal diagram of bullet wounds to the body. Dunn's fiancée Rhonda Rouer takes the witness stand. She and Michael had been to Dunn's son's wedding and left the reception early after "three or four rum-and-cokes." They stopped at the Gate service station at Rhonda's request for a bottle of wine.

After the shooting, Dunn drove back to his residence, got sick and spent the night in the bathroom upon learning from a news report of one juvenile's death, while police were searching for the "white male suspect." Rhonda wanted to go back to her place.

"What is justifiable use of force?" asks a tv journalist in a media feeding frenzy over "stand your ground" law and self-defense. "To the dead we owe the truth," declares Assistant State Attorney John Guy to the jury in filmmaker Marc Silver's documentary about a nation that callously condones killing. (Screen identifiers of participants would have been helpful; the story jumps about unnecessarily, leaving out details, such as background on Michael Dunn and why Jordan was in Florida with Ron rather than in Chicago with Lucy.)

Jordan's three pals - Tommie Stornes, driver of the SUV; Leland Brunson; and Tevin Thompson - were suburban teenagers who stopped at the Gates station for Tommie to purchase gum and cigarettes and go to the restroom. Earlier Jordan had visited with his girlfriend Aliyah Harris; she testifies at the trial. Each of the young men during testimony and cross-examination behave respectfully, answering candidly.

They admit that Jordan's window in the backseat was down with rap music blasting "pretty loud." Asked what Dunn said to her before she went inside the convenience store, Rhonda replies: "I hate that thug music." Later Dunn denies he used the word "thug," saying he would have said "rap-crap." According to Tevin, outside of court, "thug" is the new code for "the N word."

Video with sound from the store's closed-circuit camera shows Rhonda and Tommie inside; she's at the cashier when the sounds of gunfire erupt. Dunn says he asked the boys to turn down the music; everyone agrees the music was turned down when Tommie got back into the vehicle. Tevin, with the judge's approval of uttering curse words in court, allows that Jordan then raised his voice: "Fuck that! Turn the music back up!"

Everyone agrees that words were exchanged between Jordan and Dunn, but Michael alone insists that the language was viciously vulgar with threats to kill him. During Dunn's interview with the police, he made no mention of Jordan making repeated threats. Dunn then grabbed his pistol from the glove compart and began firing into the SUV as it pulled away. Tommie says he was scared and panicky in his attempt to escape; in the backseat Jordan collapsed into Leland's lap.

Though no weapon of any kind was found, Dunn adamantly claims that Jordan raised what looked to him like a shotgun, causing him to fear for his life and Rhonda's (who was still inside the store). According to the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida, one may use deadly force if one is faced with a real threat or if one "reasonably believes" a perceived threat to one's person is imminent. Who retreated?

Dunn's defense attorney Cory Strolla in his rapid line of questioning of a detective, a police technician, and a medical doctor attempts to create reasonable doubt among the jurors. As happened with Trayvon Martin, character assassination and blaming of the black subculture fill the airwaves.

Back on the stand, Rhonda admits, contradicting Michael, that he not once said anything to her about a shotgun, a weapon, a stick as his motive in shooting at the kids. Lucy compliments Miss Rouer for "standing her ground" to speak the truth. In his summation to the jury, Guy concludes that "Jordan Davis didn't have a gun," just a "big mouth."

The jury returned four verdicts, but a mistrial was declared on the first-degree-murder charge. For another two years Lucy and Ron endured a second trail with a new jury in Judge Healey's courtroom.

The Armor of Light is a complement to 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets. In large part it juxtaposes the crusade of Jordan Davis's mother Lucy McBath to end gun violence with the struggle within the conscience of Rev Rob Schenck, a very conservative Evangelical minister, as to whether or not being pro-life is consistent with a pro-gun stance.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2016 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)