When it comes to an all too common crime that seems to play out in the US over the past ten years, I’ll admit I was familiar with the Trayvon Martin case, a racially-motivated killing of an innocent young black man that was so unjust that its aftermath reverberated around the world. The death of Jordan Davis however, seemed to pass me by, which is unbelievable considering the circumstances surrounding it that are told most admirably in tonight’s true crime documentary on Rialto Channel, 3 ½ MINUTES, 10 BULLETS.
Essentially, it deals with an incident that played out on Black Friday (an informal name for the day after Thanksgiving) in 2012 when four boys in a red SUV pulled into a gas station after spending time at the mall looking at sneakers and talking to girls. With music blaring, one boy exits the car and enters the store, popping in for a soda and a pack of gum. A man and a woman pull up next to the boys in the station, making a stop for a bottle of wine. The woman enters the store and an argument breaks out when the driver of the second car asks the boys to turn their music down. Three and a half minutes and ten bullets later (hence the cumbersome title), one of the boys is dead.
Directed and written by Marc Silver, 3 ½ MINUTES, 10 BULLETS looks at the background leading up to, and what happens on the day when Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white man, was finally arrested for fatally shooting Jordan Davis, a young black man, that evening.
Dunn’s case depended on his contention that he was acting in self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, claiming he had grounds to believe Davis had a weapon, although investigators recovered no evidence of firearms or other such items from the scene. The press shied away from making any kind of racial commentary around the crime, but the film shows that the case was all too similar to the Trayvon Martin killing. It slowly emerges that shooting young black men just may be something white people think they can get away with, as long as they claim to have seen their victim “apparently” going for a gun.
Silver creates a compelling storyline, which focuses on Jordan’s happy go lucky life before the attack, and how Florida's ridiculously controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law played into Dunn's subsequent murder trial. The director has said that he attempted to “look at the forensics of what happened on one level, but then metaphorically what was really going on in America," and he does so brilliantly. The judge during Dunn’s initial (and subsequent) court case permitted Silver’s crew to place three cameras inside of the courtroom for the full duration of proceedings, which takes the viewer right inside the process. “The level of access was incredible,” Silver told The Huffington Post. “It allows the audience to understand how a mistrial happened and the hard fight it took to bring Michael Dunn to justice.”
It is amazing that even though everyone outside knew race played a significant role in the case, it was not considered a factor inside. Because Michael Dunn’s absurdly arrogant actions were not technically classified as a hate crime, the prosecution and defense were prohibited to argue race as a factor. The defense lawyer was an absolute legend, and in time, justice prevailed. Dunn was initially convicted of two counts of attempted murder for firing into the car that contained Jordan’s (unhurt) friends, but received a mistrial for the first-degree murder of Jordan. After tirelessly demanding another trial, Dunn was later convicted of killing of Davis in a second trial. Dunn is now serving life in prison, plus 90 years. Result? You bet. And hopefully a warning to others who think they can justify doing the same.
3 ½ MINUTES, 10 BULLETS premieres Thursday 23 November on Rialto Channel at 8.30pm
Watch the trailer here
Remote record here