We are broadcasting from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, where a new film takes on the subject of the growing nationwide protests over the killing of unarmed African Americans by examining one of the cases to make national headlines in recent years: the killing of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. The film, “3 1/2 Minutes,” tells the story of what happened on Nov. 23, 2012, when four teenagers pulled into a Florida gas station to buy gum and cigarettes. They were soon confronted by Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white man who pulled in next to them in the parking lot. Dunn demanded the boys turn down the music they were playing, and became angry when they refused. He pulled his gun from his glove box and shot at their car 10 times, even as they tried to drive away from the danger. The shots rang out three-and-a-half minutes after Dunn had arrived. In the hail of bullets, Jordan Davis was killed. After the shooting, Dunn fled the scene, went to a hotel with his girlfriend and ordered pizza. He never called the police. In the murder trial that followed, Davis’ parents attended every day, knowing that the prior year, George Zimmerman — the killer of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, also in Florida — had successfully avoided being convicted. Both cases highlighted the state’s problematic Stand Your Ground law. We spend the hour with Davis’ mother, Lucia McBath, and father, Ron Davis, who have continued to fight for justice. We are also joined by the film’s director, Marc Silver.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting live from Park City, Utah, this week, where the Sundance Film Festival is underway. We begin with a film about a subject of growing nationwide protest: the killing of unarmed African Americans. The film is called 3 1/2 Minutes. It tells the story of how on November 23rd, 2012, four teenagers pulled into a Jacksonville gas station to buy gum and cigarettes. They were soon confronted by Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white man who pulled in next to them in the parking lot. Dunn demanded the boys turn down the music they were playing, and became angry when they refused. He pulled his gun from his glove box and shot at their car 10 times, even as they tried to drive away from the danger. The shots rang out three-and-a-half minutes after Dunn had arrived. One of boys, 17-year-old Jordan Davis, was killed. After the shooting, Dunn fled the scene, went to a hotel with his girlfriend, ordered pizza. He never called the police.
In the murder trial that followed, Jordan Davis’s parents attended every day, knowing that the prior year George Zimmerman, the killer of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida, had successfully avoided being convicted. Both cases highlighted the state’s problematic Stand Your Grand law.
Today we spend the hour with Jordan’s parents and hear more about their ongoing fight for justice. But first, this is a clip from the trailer for the brand new film, 3 1/2 Minutes.
REPORTER: Forty-five-year-old Michael Dunn is being charged with shooting and killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis. The confrontation began over loud music.
CORY STROLLA: Was there music playing in the car?
LELAND BRUNSON: Yes.
CORY STROLLA: What type of music?
LELAND BRUNSON: Rap.
ERIN WOLFSON: Did the defendant say anything about the music?
RHONDA ROUER: “I hate that thug music.”
TEVIN THOMPSON: “Thug” is the new N-word. He just seen four black kids.
MICHAEL DUNN: I’m not racist. They’re racist.
REPORTER: Michael Dunn is claiming self-defense.
CORY STROLLA: Jordan Davis threatened Michael Dunn.
MICHAEL DUNN: He goes, “You’re dead, [bleep].”
I look, and I’m looking at a barrel.
SEN. TED CRUZ: This is about the right of everyone to protect themselves, to protect their family.
CORY STROLLA: Under the law, it’s justified.
MICHAEL DUNN: I said, “You’re not going to kill me, you son of a [bleep].”
POLICE DETECTIVE: There’s no weapons in their car.
MICHAEL DUNN: Could have been just a stick.
POLICE DETECTIVE: Could it have been your imagination?
MICHAEL DUNN: It cert—well, no. I mean, anything’s possible, I guess.
UNIDENTIFIED: Maybe they didn’t have a gun, but he thought they had a gun.
UNIDENTIFIED: They think it’s a gun when it’s in the hands of a young African American.
RON DAVIS: Trayvon Martin’s father texts me: “I just want to welcome you to a club that none of us want to be in.”
UNIDENTIFIED: It’s going to be open season.
UNIDENTIFIED: Open season on—on who?
UNIDENTIFIED: You can say later that maybe he did have it.
UNIDENTIFIED: It’s time to pick up where Dr. King left off.
UNIDENTIFIED: I’ve never covered a trial with this much international attention.
UNIDENTIFIED: This was a 21st century lynching.
RON DAVIS: Was he all right to kill my son?
LUCIA McBATH: What happened to Jordan? What happened to Jordan?
AMY GOODMAN: That’s the trailer for 3 1/2 Minutes, which is premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival here in Park City, Utah. Today we spend the hour with the two people at the heart of the film: Jordan’s parents, Lucia McBath and Ron Davis. We’re also joined by Marc Silver. He’s the film’s director. We spoke with Marc last year at Sundance about his film at that time, Who is Dayani Cristal? which won the award for best cinematography.
We welcome you all to Democracy Now! It has been remarkable to see you here, actually, for the first time, but at this film showing. And Lucy McBath, if you can talk about what this means? Your son was killed three years ago, and here you are at a festival in the midst of this wave of protests around the killing of young men like Jordan, your son.
LUCIA McBATH: Well, it just speaks to the—to the truth of what’s happening in the country. And, you know, I kind of always believe that things are kind of in divine order. Things don’t just randomly happen. And I think that our film, our story, is really representative of what we see happening across the country. So, this is just so wonderful of an opportunity to be here to really help expand that message and open people’s eyes to the reality of what they may not really understand is happening, not just within the minority communities, but the gun violence and the way people are viewed that don’t look like you, think like you, act like you, those kinds of opinions and ideas, what we’re seeing across the country. So those things have to change.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Ron Davis, the response you’re getting here to the story told about what happened to Jordan?
RON DAVIS: It was an excellent response. We had a premiere on Saturday, and there was an ovation. And we had—after the film aired, we also had a Q and A, and it was just great. The people that want to really know about the meat of the story, not just the three-and-a-half minutes on film, but they also want to know more about the story about Jordan. So, we’re going to take this from Sundance and really go across this country and let them know about the Jordan Davis story, because it’s going to be a movement. It’s not just Jordan. It’s anybody’s child across America this could happen to, and it’s happening every day. And we want to make sure that this film lets everyone know this is the things that we have to fight in order to make sure that our families and our kids grow up in a type of society that don’t get murdered and killed just, as they say right now, for loud music or something as petty as that.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with Lucy McBath, with Ron Davis, and also the film’s director. It’s called 3 1/2 Minutes. That’s the time it took a middle-aged white man to drive into a gas station, hear loud music, before he went back, reached into his car’s glove compartment, pulled out a gun and shot one of the young people in the car—there were four of them—dead. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting live from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where a remarkable film has just premiered touching on something, an issue, that is ripping through this country: the issue of young African Americans being gunned down, either by police or by, some call them, vigilantes or self-appointed watchmen, but the issue of whether black lives matter. We’re joined right now by Lucia McBath and Ron Davis. They are the parents of Jordan Davis. We are also joined by Marc Silver. He is the director of 3 1/2 Minutes.
Marc, how did you get involved with this film? Why did you choose to take it on? And talk about how you filmed this.
MARC SILVER: Well, some producers saw my previous film here at Sundance and sent me the Jordan Davis story and invited me to Florida to meet Ron and Lucy, Jordan’s parents. We spent about a week together in the summer of 2013. And at that point, when I started to understand what had happened in such a short amount of time, I started to see this perfect storm of racial profiling, access to guns and then laws that give people the confidence to use those guns because of the nuances of duty to retreat. We then managed to get access to the courtroom for the trial, so we filmed the whole trial, fed that footage out to mainstream media, but—
AMY GOODMAN: So you filmed. You had a three-camera shoot—
MARC SILVER: Yeah, we were inside the—yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —in this trial of Marc [sic] Dunn?
MARC SILVER: Of Michael Dunn, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Of Michael Dunn.
MARC SILVER: And then we managed to take all of this material from the trial and use that as about half of the film, where we follow the beginning to end of the trial. And that’s intercut with Ron and Lucy’s journey over the last two years, as well as some prison phone call recordings from Michael Dunn to his fiancée that kind of explain his journey since that three-and-a-half minutes.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, this is an astounding part of the film. You have the conversations that Michael Dunn is having with his girlfriend. How did you get recordings of these?
MARC SILVER: Well, these are public record in the state of Florida. So, really, we just have to apply for that as media, and then the state redacts some information that might be private or personal. And then, after that, you just get sent all of this material, and then we transcribed it and started to understand the evolution of Dunn’s character since the night of the shooting.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to a clip from 3 1/2 Minutes. First we hear Michael Dunn’s lawyer questioning him on the stand about the night of the shooting. Much of the film takes place in the courtroom. Then we hear Jordan’s friend, Tevin Thompson, one of the three teens in the vehicle with Jordan when Dunn shot at them.
CORY STROLLA: There was some testimony about—you heard Ms. Rouer say, “Oh, I hate that thug music.”
MICHAEL DUNN: I didn’t say this, but if I had said anything, I would have characterized it as “rap crap,” not “thug music.” That’s not a term I’m familiar with.
TEVIN THOMPSON: “Thug” is the new N-word. That’s the new way they pursuing us now. N-word is—N-word is out, and “thug” is in. Michael Dunn, he just seen us. He just seen four black kids, and he heard the music. And he just considered—he just instantly put thug next to four black kids. But, you know, if four white kids was listening to it, you know what I’m saying, what would you think? They don’t call Justin Bieber a thug. He’s racing Lamborghinis and all this crazy stuff. He’s not a thug. He’s just a misled kid. You know what I’m saying? So it’s just like “thug” is just something for African Americans to be called the N-word without being—without being—they don’t want to seem wrong for calling us the N-word, so they be like, “Look at those thugs.” “Rap crap” was something that they made up, just made it up in his head, sat in the jail and just repeated it, made it become something in his brain.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Jordan’s friend Tevin Thompson, who—he was one of the three teens with Jordan Davis when Michael Dunn shot them. “Thug” is the new N-word, Ron.
RON DAVIS: Yeah, well, young people, they know that. And what happens is, Michael Dunn came into that gas station, after seconds of being there, and he has this bias in his mind that rap music, or hip-hop music, is considered thug music, and he thought right away that they were gangsters, as he said later on. And for him to have that in his mind, he had no interaction with African-American children or people. So, all he does is draw his decisions about who you are from television, media, movies, whatever, you know, and they see you on shows like Cops in handcuffs, see you as drug dealers, and so that’s his mindset. And this film, 3 1/2 Minutes, is going to show that sometimes, you know, in that small amount of time, your mindset can get you in trouble. And I think in this instance his mindset got him in trouble.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Lucy McBath, go through it with us, if you will—and I am very sorry, because I’m sure you relive it every time—that night. It was Black Friday, right? The day after Thanksgiving in 2012.
LUCIA McBATH: Mm-hmm.
AMY GOODMAN: What you understand took place?
LUCIA McBATH: Well, I mean, everyone was just enjoying, you know, Thanksgiving, the holiday. I had gone back to Chicago to have Thanksgiving with my family, and I understood that, you know, Jordan would be in Jacksonville with Ron. And he actually told me, you know, “I’m going to go shopping and hang with my friends and everything. We’re going to go shopping on Black Friday.” He was really excited about that, because he had already decided what he wanted to purchase on Black Friday. So, I remember, you know, having that discussion with him, talking with him Thanksgiving day, and just really feeling that everything was OK, that he was really, really happy. In fact, I hadn’t heard him sound so happy before, so I was really happy that he was excited about Thanksgiving.
And then, you know, for everything to completely just—I was completely devastated when the phone rang. And I was at my family’s house, and I just happened to be up in the bedroom. And I saw, you know, Ron’s face pop up on the phone, and I said, “Hey, Ron,” you know, “how are you doing? Happy Thanksgiving,” you know. And he kept saying, you know, “Where’s Earl?” And Earl is my cousin. And I’m like, “Well, he’s downstairs. I will go get Earl.” And that was an immediate clue to me that something was wrong. And because I just—I just knew in my spirit that it had to do with Jordan. And so, every fear that a parent has, everything you worry about—them being hit in a car, you know, just any fear that you have as a parent, every one of those fears at that moment just—I felt like it was just the weight of the world had fallen on me. And I felt like everything we’ve done to protect him—and we couldn’t protect him. And so, walking through those days right after, and it’s just a complete fog, you know, that my boy was killed over music.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Ron, the recreation of those moments when they pulled in—Jordan was with his three pals, his best friends?
RON DAVIS: Right. You know, they were there. They were at the gas station first. And, you know, they were playing their music loud; of course, like teenagers, we all do, you know? And as a matter of fact, another gentleman pulled in beside them, heard the loud music, decided, “Ah, don’t want to be bothered,” pulled away, and he parked somewhere else in the gas station. And then Michael Dunn pulled in and mentioned the thug music.
AMY GOODMAN: And his girlfriend, his fiancée, gets out to buy something in the gas station.
RON DAVIS: Right, she gets out to buy something in the gas station, and Michael Dunn rolls down the window and tells the boys to turn the music down, you know. And so they turn it down. And then Jordan decides, “You know, why should we listen to him? Who is he? We were sitting in here first, you know, playing our music, and then he comes along and tells us to turn our music down. Turn it back up.” So he turns it back up. And so Michael Dunn gets irritated, you know, and him and Jordan start talking to each other through the window. And so, Michael Dunn rolls down the window, ultimately, and says, “Are you talking to me?”
And that’s when he decided to go ahead and grab a gun out of his glove box and start shooting at the car. And the young man that was in the store buying the gum and cigarettes is getting back in the car, and so he pulls the car back, you know, to avoid the gunshots. And Michael Dunn is still shooting at him, even as the car is trying to get away from him. And so, that’s where a lot of people, they don’t understand about why he was convicted on attempted murder charges first, which was a separate act.
AMY GOODMAN: Attempted murder being the other three boys.
RON DAVIS: Right, because the attempted murder was because when—even when he thought the danger was past, he jumped out of his car, ran to the back of the car and started shooting at the car as it was driving away, which was a complete separate act, and that’s why he was convicted initially on the attempted murder charges for the three young men in the car.
AMY GOODMAN: People might not realize there were two trials.
RON DAVIS: Yes.
LUCIA McBATH: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Two trials.
RON DAVIS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to a clip from 3 1/2 Minutes. This is Jordan’s friend Leland Brunson talking about testifying during the murder trial of Michael Dunn as Dunn looked on. After that, we hear him questioned on the stand.
LELAND BRUNSON: All of us could have been gone, you know? It’s kind of scary. You know, it makes you realize life is short. And we was all young. When I walked in to see Jordan’s family, I just walked straight. I tried not to look at anybody. I just tried to like stay focused, like. I already had, like, too many thoughts going through my mind, like what if and everything like that, so… That was the first time I seen them since the incident. I felt more angry than scared, but my anger is not going to bring me peace to myself.
CORY STROLLA: Now, Mr. Brunson, you were upset that night.
LELAND BRUNSON: Yes.
CORY STROLLA: When you found out your best friend died, you were even more upset. That’s fair to say.
LELAND BRUNSON: Yes.
CORY STROLLA: You’re still upset as you sit here today.
LELAND BRUNSON: Yes.
CORY STROLLA: You obviously miss your friend, don’t you?
LELAND BRUNSON: Yes.
CORY STROLLA: You don’t want to see your friend’s memory go in vain, do you?
LELAND BRUNSON: No.
AMY GOODMAN: That is Jordan’s friend, Leland Brunson. This is his best friend.
RON DAVIS: This is his best friend. This young man, he’s been through so much. He had to hold my son, and he was the last one that witnessed Jordan alive, which, to me, he will—Leland will forever be my son, you know? And as he said, you know, when he touched Jordan and felt the blood, he knew that Jordan was in trouble.
AMY GOODMAN: So, he had shot into the car 10 times—
RON DAVIS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —even as they were pulling back.
RON DAVIS: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: The driver, his name was?
RON DAVIS: His name is Tommy, Tommy Stornes.
AMY GOODMAN: So Tommy had gone into the—
RON DAVIS: Store.
AMY GOODMAN: —store, and then came out, saw what was happening, pulled the car back. And they didn’t know, as they just ducked, terrified, as the gun—
RON DAVIS: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —as the bullets were going in—
RON DAVIS: Well, the bullets rang out when Tommy—as soon as Tommy got in the car, because when he got to the car, Tommy was dancing to the music, because then, all of a sudden, they turned the music. And Tommy looked, “Well, why are you turning the music down?” And then Michael Dunn started shooting. And then he pulled the car back.
AMY GOODMAN: Mm-hmm.
RON DAVIS: And so, Leland, he’s a young man that—it’s going to take him ages to get over this. I mean, he comes over to my house from time to time, and he can’t even go in Jordan’s bedroom now without just crying and just falling apart. So, the last time I saw him was Christmas Eve. He came over, and he spent Christmas Eve with us. But he could not go in Jordan’s room.
AMY GOODMAN: So they ducked. They—and he—after the shooting was done, how did he realize what happened to Jordan?
RON DAVIS: He felt Jordan, because he—everybody in the car answered. Tommy said, you know, “Is everybody all right?” And so Tevin answered, Leland answered. And Tommy said, “Is everybody all right?” And so, Leland said, “Jordan, are you all right?” And Jordan didn’t answer, because Jordan had been struck, you know, and the way—he couldn’t breathe, and blood was welling up in his lungs, and so he couldn’t speak. And so, Leland knew that Jordan was in trouble.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to the film. This is a clip of Michael Dunn speaking to his fiancée from jail during a phone call. He tries to comfort her after telling her he’s being held in isolation, and then he defends himself for shooting [Jordan] Davis.
MICHAEL DUNN: So, being in a room by myself kind of sucks, but I guess it would be better than being in a room with them animals. … So it’s my fault because I asked them to turn their radio down.
RHONDA ROUER: Right.
MICHAEL DUNN: It’s like I got attacked, and I fought back because I didn’t want to be a victim, and now I’m in trouble.
AMY GOODMAN: There was that conversation. Amazingly, you got a hold, Marc, of these recordings of the phone conversations between Michael Dunn and his fiancée, as he talks about being in isolation, but it’s maybe better than being with those animals. Lucy McBath?
LUCIA McBATH: Oh, to hear those words were very, very chilling. But, actually, I was not really surprised. We knew from the very beginning that there was some racial element to what had, you know, transpired. That, for me, was just defining what I already knew and believed Michael Dunn thought about the boys. But it was just very difficult to listen to Rhonda kind of substantiate him, try to lift him up and support him. And in my mind, I kept thinking, “And you never spoke out. You never called 911. You’re just as guilty as he is.”
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened that night when they drove away. Here you have Michael Dunn saying he was so traumatized after this. Now, she didn’t know quite what had happened. She was inside.
LUCIA McBATH: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: She hears the firecracker sound of gunshot.
LUCIA McBATH: Right. But, you know, it just—I mean, she was a whole part of that whole entire situation. I mean, she—when she got in the car, of course she didn’t really understand what had happened, what transpired. But to be in the hotel and to see it on television and to know that her fiancé had murdered someone—
AMY GOODMAN: They admitted they watched it on TV while they ate pizza.
LUCIA McBATH: Exactly, exact—well, they had something to eat. They had some stiff drinks. And she went to bed. And he was the one who, you know, remained up for a while. But when she finally did see what happened on television, to simply say, “I just want to go home” and take no responsibility for calling the police and saying, “Michael, we’ve got to do something about this”? You know, and even though she didn’t really understand dynamically what had happened, she knew a child had been murdered. And to keep your mouth closed and say nothing and not even feel for the family, but only be concerned about getting home and getting the puppy home?
AMY GOODMAN: Explain how they were caught.
LUCIA McBATH: Well, there was a homeless couple that were actually at the gas station at that moment. And, you know, thank god that they happened to be there. And the young man, Shawn, who was driving the car, happened to actually see—get the license plate number of Michael Dunn, wrote it down on a paper bag and turned it in to the representative in the gas station, who in turn—
AMY GOODMAN: The woman at the register, cash register?
LUCIA McBATH: Exactly, who in turn they turned the information over to the police. And so, they couldn’t apprehend Michael Dunn at the hotel, because they didn’t know where he was.
AMY GOODMAN: Or who he was.
LUCIA McBATH: Or who he was. But he was apprehended the next morning, you know, 170 miles away, at home. The police apprehended him there. And had it not been for that young couple in the car, we may never have known who shot at the boys and murdered Jordan.
AMY GOODMAN: When we come back, the amazing testimony of the fiancée, Rhonda, when asked directly, right after Michael Dunn had testified that he believed that Jordan Davis had a gun, the amazing testimony when his fiancée was brought in to ask if in fact Michael Dunn had told her, as they’re driving away or that night in the hotel or at any point, had told her he was concerned Jordan Davis had a gun. Of course, a gun was never found. We’ll talk about this after break.