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Parents of slain teen Jordan Davis turn to film to raise awareness

When unarmed black teenager Jordan Davis was shot by a white man at a gas station, his mother and father struggled to get justice, but ultimately saw their son’s murderer convicted. Senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown looks at a new film that explores Davis’ story, as well as race, guns and stand your ground laws.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now a different look at race, violence and justice.

    It's contained in a new documentary about a case from Florida that asks many of the same questions that have dominated headlines from Ferguson, Missouri, to Staten Island, New York.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

  • WOMAN:

    A verdict in that high-profile murder case in Florida.

  • MAN:

    That man accused of pulling a trigger at a gas station.

  • WOMAN:

    He shot into a car full of teenagers.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    It was a crime widely reported by news organizations around the country, including our own. It became known as the loud music case.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    In November 2012, Dunn pulled into a gas station where four teenagers were parked in an SUV listening to loud music. After an argument, Dunn fired ten bullets at the SUV. Three of the teens, who were unarmed, were not hit. But Davis was and later died.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The shooting of 17-year-old Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn in Jacksonville, Florida, happened just nine months after the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Florida.

    Together, the two cases brought to the fore a national dialogue about race, guns and Florida's stand your ground law.

  • 911 Operator:

    Fire and Rescue. The address of your emergency?

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The ensuing trial of Dunn is the subject of a new documentary directed by Marc Silver. It's called "3 1/2 Minutes," the length of time between the two cars arriving at the gas station and the fatal shots being fired.

  • MAN:

    And you heard pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    I spoke to director Marc Silver at the Sundance Film Festival, where the documentary premiered.

    MARC SILVER, Director, "3 1/2 Minutes": I really find it interesting that we think we know something when we watch the news, but, often, when you start unpeeling the layers, there's a bigger story underneath.

    The three things I was interested in were this idea of racial profiling, access to guns, and then the laws that give people the confidence to use those guns.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    What do you think that you were able to bring out that didn't come in that day to day?

  • MARC SILVER:

    I think this idea of irreversible loss for Jordan's parents.

    And I think, as an audience, when you start feeling empathy for the parents, I think you start reading the news in a different kind of way.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Jordan's parents, Ron Davis and Lucia McBath, were there every day in the courtroom. And Silver spent countless hours interviewing them before and after the proceedings. They also attended the premiere.

    I wanted to start by asking you just about the decision to participate in the film.

    LUCY MCBATH, Mother of Jordan Davis: I was actually surprised that anyone would be interested in following us day to day and really understanding and learning the behind-the-scenes story that nobody ever knows outside of the trial.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    What about for you?

    RON DAVIS, Father of Jordan Davis: When you have this type of tragedy, you cut off all your phones and you curl up in your bed, you know, and you don't want to be bothered.

    And that's OK, if that's what you want to do for yourself and your family. But, at the end of the day, do I want the get a message out? Do I want to make sure that Jordan's life and death meant something to not only the community, but across this nation? Did I want to get that out?

    And the best way to get that out is through film. So I decided, yes, let's go ahead.

    Trayvon Martin's father texts me, "I just want to welcome you to a club that none of us want to be in."

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    But Davis and McBath have become deeply involved in the issue nationally, including meeting regularly with other parents whose children have been the victims of violence.

  • RON DAVIS:

    I know that a lot of fathers, they are very bitter about this experience. My experience with Jordan, it has not been a bitter experience. And I think that, for the most part, it's because we have so much support.

    We had a state attorney that fought for us, you know, in this trial. Most of the state attorneys, they are not fighting for the families.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The trial against Michael Dunn ended with three guilty verdicts for attempted murder of the three other young men in the car, but a mistrial on the murder charge of Jordan Davis.

    In a second trial, a new jury convicted Dunn of murder. And he was sentenced to life, plus 90 years in prison.

    Is the outcome with what happened with your son in these trials, do you think of it as a case where justice was served in the end?

  • LUCY MCBATH:

    Even though we received the verdict we knew we should have received for Jordan, we still don't have our child, just the memories.

    So, for all that it's worth, the justice that we received is good, one, because it sets a precedent. It's good for the nation to see that justice can be served. When you take hate and anger out of it and move directly for justice and the truth, it can work.

  • RON DAVIS:

    At the end of the day, no matter how much time somebody gets, your son is dead. You have to visit your son at a cemetery.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    So, do you think a film can make a difference?

  • LUCY MCBATH:

    Absolutely. I think film and media are the truest expressions and ways to educate people about race and ethnicity and religion and how we relate to one another.

    I think this is a tremendous opportunity, tremendous tool to be able to open that dialogue and get people beginning to even think about their own hidden ideas and opinions about race.

  • MAN:

    Maybe they didn't have a gun, but he thought they had a gun.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Filmmaker Marc Silver made one key decision that he hopes will help to universalize this story. Throughout the film, we see very few images of Jordan Davis himself.

  • MARC SILVER:

    At least I thought, like, metaphorically, his story speaks to so many other black — young black men. And by not seeing Jordan that much in the film meant that you could apply what was being discussed in the film to all of these other dehumanized, nameless people.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    It's only when the credits roll that we see the young man who lost his life in those three-and-a-half minutes.

    I'm Jeffrey Brown for the "PBS NewsHour."

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