November 29, 2021

Ahmaud Arbery Verdict

Three men were convicted of murder [last] Wednesday in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, the Black man who was running empty-handed through a Georgia subdivision when the white strangers chased him, trapped him on a quiet street and blasted him with a shotgun.” AP News

Both sides applaud the verdict:

“The defense strove mightily to remove all potential African-American jurors from this trial (and nearly succeeded) and complained about the paucity of ‘Bubba[s] and Joe Six Pack[s]’ on the jury; objected to the quiet presence of ‘black pastors’ in the courtroom; and invoked racial stereotypes in closing argument…

“But no citizen, regardless of color, should fear assault and murder while peaceably jogging through a neighborhood. A purported citizen’s arrest or self-defense claim ought never mask reckless vigilantism. The jury’s verdict was the common sense conclusion to a tragic case. At a time when so much seems to be going wrong in the United States, every American may be grateful that the McMichael-Bryan jury rejected blatant race-based demagoguery and did the right thing. Let us hope this righteous verdict is another step on the long road to racial reconciliation and justice for all.”
Rachel K. Paulose, Spectator World

Reasonable fear did not motivate this killing. The prosecution had only to mention the elder McMichael's own words on the 911 call he made. What emergency did he cite? ‘There's a Black male running down the street.’ By playing those words, the prosecutor gave the jurors a clear picture of what was in the defendants' minds…

“In a historical moment in which 11 White jurors and a single Black juror -- a cohort drawn from a county where nearly 27% of the population is Black -- affirmed that Black lives matter, the verdicts hopefully send a message to would-be vigilantes and everyone else that you cannot usurp the authority of law enforcement and think you won't be held accountable.”
Areva Martin, CNN

Other opinions below. For further context, here’s our prior coverage of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder, the Chauvin Verdict in the murder of George Floyd, and the Rittenhouse trial.

See past issues

From the Left

“It took video of the shooting going viral, in May of last year, for the men to be arrested. The clip showing Arbery’s death became public a few weeks before the release of the video showing George Floyd being murdered by a police officer. In retrospect, the two share a disturbing connection: The videos contradicted the statements of local authorities that both Floyd and Arbery were responsible for their own deaths. Without the video evidence—and the national protest, outrage, and scrutiny they sparked—neither man’s killers would have seen the inside of a courtroom…

“If it sounds ridiculous to say that chasing someone down while armed is an act of self-defense, and then to claim you had to shoot the person you were chasing, because they tried to defend themselves, recall that this was precisely the conclusion the local authorities initially reached

“The jury ultimately found the defense’s arguments unpersuasive, and the evidence against the defendants overwhelming. But had it been up to the folks in charge in Glynn County, the jury never would have seen that evidence. To say the system worked in this case is like saying your car made it home—after your entire family had to get out and push it miles down a dirt road.”
Adam Serwer, The Atlantic

“Arbery’s murder was of a pattern with a history. It is rooted in the segregation and violent racism that shaped the borders of towns and countries across the US. It is rooted in the legacies of the mobs that killed 14-year-old Emmett Till and overthrew the government of Wilmington, North Carolina, in a white supremacist coup…

“It is also reflected in other modern examples… Like Rittenhouse, this was a case of white Americans taking up arms to protect what they perceived as Black threats against property. Although the people whom Rittenhouse shot were white, he chose to arm himself during an uprising following the shooting of a Black man, and it is difficult to believe that stereotypes about violent Black looters and killers did not play a role in his perceptions of the uprising – the same kinds of stereotypes that fueled the attack on Arbery.”
Akin Olla, The Guardian

From the Right

“A jury of 11 White jurors and one African American ran the table on the defendants in convicting them all for their roles in chasing down 25-year-old Arbery, trapping him and then ultimately killing him. It was the same racial makeup as the jury in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, where 11 White jurors and one Black juror acquitted the defendant on all counts. The jurors in both cases exercised careful deliberation of the evidence and rendered verdicts based on that evidence. They transcended the passions and the demands of the public at large to do justice as required under our laws…

“The Arbery case is also an example of the impact of videotape evidence. It is the latest such case where legal arguments could not overcome indelible video images. That was the case in the George Floyd trial. It was also the case in the Rittenhouse trial… All of the lawyering in the world could not get a jury to unsee what they saw in those videos… In the end, the Rittenhouse and Arbery trials show the transcendent strength of our jury systems.”
Jonathan Turley, Fox News

“Our justice system is not perfect. Lord knows that the elder McMichael’s ties to local law enforcement allowed the three to go an egregious 74 days before being arrested. But in the end, the justice system worked, proving that white supremacists cannot lynch an innocent black man and walk free…

“Unlike in the Arbery case, the prosecution against Rittenhouse found zero evidence of racism or racist sympathies in the social media history of Kyle Rittenhouse, who styled himself as a medic the night he was asked to come defend a Kenosha car lot. Although Rittenhouse openly supported law enforcement and public servants such as lifeguards and firefighters, as he told Tucker Carlson after his acquittal, he supports the Black Lives Matter movement and the right to peaceful protest…

“The only miscarriage of justice in either of these cases was how long it took to charge Arbery’s murderers and that the Rittenhouse charges went to trial at all. But in the end, our justice system worked. In a sane world, this would be cause for celebration and a vindication of anti-racism.”
Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“Absent the widespread media attention that this case attracted, conniving prosecutors might have succeeded in getting the perpetrators off the hook. What happened here was an extreme case of the broader problem of insider favoritism in the criminal justice system. All too often, law enforcement officials turn a blind eye to wrongdoing in their own ranks, or even (as here) that perpetrated by former employees of their organizations…

“There isn't any simple solution to this problem. The people in the best position to sanction perpetrators of favoritism are usually themselves fellow cops and prosecutors, many of whom are also inclined to favor their own. In this way, law-enforcement favoritism is an obstacle to its own alleviation. But we should at least recognize the ubiquitous nature of the problem, and give greater consideration to possible strategies for reducing it.”
Ilya Somin, Volokh Conspiracy

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.