The citizen’s arrest law that Ahmaud Arbery‘s accused killers used in an attempt to justify their deadly violence could play an outsized role in their murder trial. And in a case with such heavy racial overtones, the fact that the law is rooted in slavery surely will not help their causes.
Jury selection got underway last week as the trial officially got underway ahead of opening arguments, which will undoubtedly include a reference or two (or more) about Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute and whether accused murderer Travis McMichael, who held the shotgun that killed Arbery, had legally acted in self-defense, as he claims.
In the months before Arbery’s killers were charged, a revolving cast of Georgia prosecutors — each with his or her own conflicts of interest in the case — told the police that McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael and their friend, William “Roddie” Bryan, who filmed the killing, acted legally under the state’s citizen’s arrest law.
The accused killers have maintained that they suspected Arbery was burglarizing nearby homes and initiated a citizen’s arrest that turned deadly. What is closer to the truth is that the three men likely racially profiled Arbery, who was out for a jog in Satilla Shores, a subdivision which about 15 minutes from downtown Brunswick, armed themselves, jumped in trucks and chased him down, trapped him with their vehicles and shot him dead in the street in broad daylight on Feb. 23, 2020.
Michael J. Moore, an Atlanta lawyer who formerly served as a U.S. attorney in Georgia, said last year that the citizen’s arrest defense is “flawed” because the defendants were the aggressors.
“The law does not allow a group of people to form an armed posse and chase down an unarmed person who they believe might have possibly been the perpetrator of a past crime,” Moore said.
The Civil War-era statute was finally repealed in May after more than a century of being on the books.
A new, updated version of the law now prevents private citizens from conducting arrests on others and states that a detained person must be released if authorities do not arrive within an hour.
Beyond being outdated, citizen’s arrests laws have roots in early slave patrols of the late 1600s. Enacted in 1863, possibly as a response to the Emancipation Proclamation, Georgia’s law was created to capture enslaved people running away to join the Union Army. Opponents argue the laws enabled vigilante justice, targeting Black people.
Mercer law professor Tim Floyd previously pointed to the law as being used by white lynch mobs as a justification for their actions. The McMichaels actions mirrored those of a lynch mob, chasing down the young man simply for daring to exist.
Often confused with stand your ground laws, or even traditional self-defense, citizen’s arrests have emboldened violent attacks on Black people.
A Disturbing Timeline Of Ahmaud Arbery's Killing And Murder Investigation In Georgia
1. October 20191 of 43
2. November 2019
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This video is from 11/17. Larry English called 911 on 11/18 and said he had a problem with "other people" the night before. This appears to show that day and is from English's attorney. There is no record of neighbors calling 911 this day, based off records from Glynn Co 911 pic.twitter.com/BXlyYEaBcL— Wright Gazaway (@WrightKATU) May 15, 2020
3. Dec. 20, 2019
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Police told the homeowner where #AhmaudArbery was last seen to contact Greg McMichael if his cameras caught someone on his property. McMichael in turn gathered a posse & began hunting for Ahmaud, or someone who fit his description, catching up with him on 2/23/20– killing him. pic.twitter.com/BmlmW636f5— Lee Merritt (@MerrittForTexas) May 16, 2020
4. Dec. 20, 2019
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This is the man that set the plan in motion that led to the murder of #AhmaudArbery.— Lee Merritt (@MerrittForTexas) May 18, 2020
ROBERT RASH is a Glynn County Police Officer.
He instructed a homeowner to contact Gregory McMichael to deal w/ trespassers.
McMichael and his son formed a posse and murdered Ahmaud Arbery. pic.twitter.com/ZqZg567Agp
5. Feb. 11, 2020
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Larry English’s attorney gave me this video from Feb 11. It shows the incident outlined in my story when Travis McMichael called 911 and saw someone in the home. On 2/23, he and his father thought the Abrery was who they saw on the 11th pic.twitter.com/C2gVJCJ3xQ— Wright Gazaway (@WrightKATU) May 14, 2020
6. Feb. 23Source:Getty 6 of 43
7. Feb. 27, 2020
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This is the DA who blocked the arrest of 2 white supremacist TERRORISTS after they murdered an innocent black man execution style while he was jogging in his neighborhood— StanceGrounded (@_SJPeace_) May 9, 2020
JACKIE JOHNSON NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR OBSTRUCTING & ENDANGERING THE LIVES OF BLACK MEN
ARREST HER pic.twitter.com/ngSIEGMCq1
8. Feb. 27, 20208 of 43
9. Feb. 29, 2020Source:Getty 9 of 43
10. March 2020
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If you’re wondering why no charges were initially filed on the murderers of #AhmaudArbery, it’s because D.A. George Barnhill immediately concluded Arbery was a criminal & that he attacked the men who were hunting him.— Benjamin Dixon (@BenjaminPDixon) May 7, 2020
This is letter Barnhill sent to the Brunswick authorities pic.twitter.com/vsGCboful7
11. April 2, 2020
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Police report sheds more light on Satilla Shores shooting https://t.co/Zi6YVGTkhK— The Brunswick News (@Brunswick_News) April 2, 2020
12. April 3, 202012 of 43
13. April 1313 of 43
14. April 26, 2020
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We’ll never know how often Black life is taken, justice denied:— Dr. Malinda S. Smith (@MalindaSmith) May 9, 2020
“Two Weapons, a Chase, a Killing and No Charges.
A 25-year-old man running through a Georgia neighborhood ended up dead. A prosecutor argued that the pursuers should not be arrested” @nytimes https://t.co/pJA6kSK6cj
15. April 28, 202015 of 43
16. May 5, 202016 of 43
17. May 5, 202017 of 43
18. May 7, 202018 of 43
19. May 8, 202019 of 43
20. May 8, 2020
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On what would have been his 26th birthday, people were jogging 2.23 miles in his honor to signify the date he was killed by Gregory and Travis McMichael, who racially profiled and shot the jogger in Brunswick, Georgia. #IrunwithMaud #IRunwithAhmaudhttps://t.co/V2KuBaeKjx— NewsOne (@newsone) May 9, 2020
21. May 9, 2020Source:Getty 21 of 43
22. May 10, 202022 of 43
23. May 11, 2020
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Another huge WIN for #JusticeForAhmaud! At the family’s demand— a special prosecutor will replace Tom Durden the S. GA prosecutor that sat on the case until video of Ahmaud’s murder was leaked. Joyette Holmes is out of @cobbcountygovt. Her office is being reviewed for conflicts. pic.twitter.com/rcuQ7UPOfE— Lee Merritt (@MerrittForTexas) May 11, 2020
24. May 12, 2020Source:Twitter 24 of 43
25. May 13, 2020
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“Ahmaud, I am so sorry. I should have stopped them,” reads the note. “I am so sorry.” The card was not signed by a name and no more information or context was provided, including when the card was left there. https://t.co/nzzY5aNple— NewsOne (@newsone) May 14, 2020
26. May 14, 2020Source:Getty 26 of 43
27. May 18, 2020
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Because this story wasn't bad enough now we discover Lindsay McMichael, the daughter and sister of Ahmaud Arbery’s alleged killers, posted a picture of Ahmaud’s deceased body to snapchat pic.twitter.com/RwTwzrAXAG— Reese Waters (@reesewaters) May 19, 2020
28. May 18, 202028 of 43
29. May 20, 2020Source:Getty 29 of 43
30. May 20, 2020
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Today, the GA Congressional Delegation co-signed a letter to U.S. AG William Barr and Asst AG Eric Dreiband, encouraging the use of “all possible Federal resources to achieve full justice, transparency, and accountability in the case of Mr. Ahmaud Arbery.” https://t.co/8FcMZEEKWF— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) May 20, 2020
31. May 21, 2020Source:WJAX 31 of 43
32. May 25, 2020
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NEW: Attorneys for Ahmaud Arbery's parents announce that the Department of Justice will be investigating Arbery's killing and why it took so long to arrest the people responsible. See their statement here: pic.twitter.com/yfcnrT5SjV— Hayley Mason (@HayleyMasonTV) May 26, 2020
33. June 2020
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Reports of a photo op with the president or standing with the White House during the EO signing are false.— Lee Merritt (@MerrittForTexas) June 16, 2020
Show me the civil rights leaders who are upset about families making a direct appeal for federal intervention after the murder of their loved one & I’ll show you a clown. pic.twitter.com/GXR5arB8Mz
34. June 17, 2020Source:WJAX 34 of 43
35. November 2020Source:Getty 35 of 43
36. December 2020
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William ‘Roddie’ Bryan tried to publicly absolve himself of having any part in Ahmaud Arbery’s modern-day lynching, but this newly released bodycam footage confirms what we long suspected: He clearly used his truck to block Ahmaud's escape from the McMichaels! pic.twitter.com/UAms4LYS28— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) December 15, 2020
37. January 2021Source:Getty 37 of 43
38. February 2021Source:Getty 38 of 43
39. Feb. 23, 2021Source:Getty 39 of 43
40. April 2021Source:Getty 40 of 43
41. May 2021Source:Getty 41 of 43
42. September 2021
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This is the mugshot of disgraced District Attorney Jackie Johnson who was just arrested today for her role in the coverup of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. pic.twitter.com/OKF2xKkV3Z— Lee Merritt (@MerrittForTexas) September 8, 2021
43. October 2021Source:Getty 43 of 43
Citizen’s Arrest Law Used To Defend Ahmaud Arbery’s Killers Is Rooted In Slavery was originally published on newsone.com