The New Yorker
by Jeffrey Toobin
February 18, 2014
For the second time in seven months, a trial in Florida has started a national conversation about race and guns in criminal courtrooms. In both, the maneuvers of the defense and prosecution, along with the accounts of witnesses and their tone, were closely watched and commented upon. But people should be talking less about the trials and more about politics.
Last July, George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in connection with his shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed seventeen-year-old, near Orlando. Last week, the trial of Michael Dunn resulted in a hung jury on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Jordan Davis, who was also seventeen, at a Jacksonville gas station. Dunn was, however, convicted of attempted murder for firing at three other teen-agers who were in the car with Davis as they tried to drive away. Dunn claimed that he saw Davis with a gun, but no one else did and none was ever found. Other witnesses said that Dunn was angry about the loud music that Davis and his friends were playing.
These cases are often regarded in a kind of political vacuum, as if courtrooms operated independently of the capitals where laws are made. And yet politics suffuses both cases.