John M. Phillips is an attorney based in Florida and was hired by Ron Davis and Lucy McBath to represent them in the state’s case against the man who shot and killed their son. John was introduced to Jordan Davis’s family by a mutual friend only days after Jordan was killed in 2012. Having a first-born child a few months prior to Jordan’s death and losing his mother the year before, John felt this was more than a case. It changed the way he looked at the law and justice, guns and self-defense.
Before founding his own trial law office in 2011, John spent eight years as a trial lawyer for businesses such as State Farm, Coca-Cola, and Hertz. He has obtained multi-million-dollar verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients, and he was selected in the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers Association.
1. You mention in the film that your legal practice shifted to serve more gun victims like Jordan Davis. Can you talk about that work?
Before we sat down with the family of Jordan Davis, our office took cases which were more of an accidental nature: People were injured by cars, on the job, by carelessness but not by a conscious effort in almost every case.
Certainly gun related cases can be ‘accidental,’ but in cases like Jordan Davis, it’s an intentional act which caused death and sorrow. It isn’t often that wrongful death or injury lawyers take these cases as a series of facts have to align for you to obtain recovery and too many lawyers make decisions on a cost versus benefit analysis basis. We choose cases more on a larger picture. Can we help make things safer? Bring awareness? Truly help? This largely arose from seeing cases like Jordan Davis have such a butterfly effect on people.
Kalil McCoy, Brandon Green, Christopher Houston and many others . . . we have helped families find answers, helped police solve crimes, helped prosecutors get convictions, and hope, we have helped some people have a better understanding that there is no black and white or bad or good guy a lot of times. There are just people with misunderstandings largely caused by fear and prejudice.
2. Florida ranks as the third highest state for mass shootings in the country. Since the film, has the Stand Your Ground law or other gun regulations changed?
We have not had more change in Florida. We have had more understanding, but it is still fight for people to understand that retreating isn’t always a bad thing and in many cases, is the morally, ethically and spiritually right thing.
3. Michael Dunn, who shot and was convicted of killing Jordan Davis, recently appealed to the court in March 2016. He claims it was self defense shooting 10 rounds of ammunition at unarmed teenagers. What is your response?
It is important to note that the first lawyer to generate any publicity towards the case was Dunn’s lawyer. She spoke to local and national media not just regularly, but with sensational misrepresentative detail. They took to the media often and publicized their client’s defense at every opportunity. Any claims of bias related to publicity is insincere. Michael Dunn, by and through his agents, defamed Jordan Davis from day one. A civil case was settled not just for wrongful death, but defamation as well (although no liability was admitted when the Proposal was accepted).
Like with any appeal, it is a picking apart of the facts. Not one, but two, juries convicted Michael Dunn. We see nothing in the appeal that proves any error by the Judge, the Jury, witnesses or public.
The principle issue of the appeal seems to be the Denial of Motions for Judgment of Acquittal. The appeal states, “It is unrebutted that Decedent Davis threatened Appellant’s life.” That is entirely untrue. It states, “The only accident reconstruction expert confirmed that Decedent Davis’s car door was partially open and that he was partially out of the vehicle when he was shot.” That is untrue. There was no witness other than a paid expert who said Jordan was out of the car. Even Dunn was equivocal about all of his claims.
The Brief further claims, “No evidence showed that Appellant intended any harm to Victims Stornes, Thompson, or Brunson; rather, all of the evidence showed that Appellant’s gunshots were aimed at Decedent Davis.” Untrue. Dunn filed wildly at the car. He was intending to kill everyone in that car. The jury certainly can come, and did come, to its own decision on this.
4. What advice do you give to other lawyers dealing with clients facing the trauma of gun violence, either as grieving over the loss of loved ones or coping with their injuries?
It takes a level of passion and compassion that you must be ready for. You must be ready to take work home with you. I also own a bulletproof sport coat now thanks to those who don’t appreciate what we are trying to do. It’s got to come from the heart.
Civil Compliant Filed on Behalf of Jordan Davis and His Family
Read the legal details of the case against Michael Dunn for shooting and killing Jordan Davis, who was unarmed and 17 years of age. Continue >>
TEDx Talk I America’s Greatest Enemy: The Unevolving Virus of Prejudice
In 2015, John Phillips was selected to give a TEDx talk on race and equality. It was one of the first speeches that TEDx broadcast live on its YouTube channel and it stands as one of the most watched talks in the State of Florida. John was also nominated by Jacksonville’s Mayor and confirmed by City Council to Jacksonville’s Human Rights Commission.