On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Marquez Arbery an unarmed 25-year-old Black man was fatally shot after jogging in a neighborhood near Brunswick in Glynn County Georgia in the United States. Lawyers for Mr. Arbery’s family have called his death a modern-day lynching. The McMichaels argue that they were defending themselves while trying to make a citizen’s arrest. Who was Ahmaud Arbery? A former star high school football player his father said he often exercised in the area. His family has described him as a good, generous young man with a big heart. When Mr. Arbery was in high school he received five years of probation for a first-time weapons charge and in 2018. It was convicted of probation violation for shoplifting, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. In 2017, a Glynn County officer attempted to tase him after he denied their request to search his car at a park. Police bodycam footage showed the encounter with officers who said he was in a car in an area known for drug use. He said he was on his day off from work.
The taser malfunctioned and he was allowed to leave on foot. Mr. Arbery was out for an afternoon jog in the coastal city of Brunswick. The elder Mr. McMichael, a neighborhood resident told police that he believed Mr. Arbery resembled the suspect in a series of local break-ins. Police have said no reports were filed regarding these alleged break-ins.
The McMichaels armed themselves with a pistol and a shotgun and pursued Mr. Arbery in a pickup truck through the neighborhood. According to the elder Mr. McMichael, he and his son had said stop we want to talk to you. He said Mr. Arbery then attacked his son. Prosecutors have argued racism was a key factor in the case. In her opening statement, lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the jury, All three of these defendants did everything they did based on assumptions not on facts, not on evidence. On 8 November the jury saw footage from police body cameras in the moments just after Mr. Arbery was killed. Prosecutors used the video in court in an effort to undermine the defense’s argument that the three men were simply trying to detain Mr. Arbery. You had no choice the elder McMichael is heard telling his son. Mr. Arbery is shown on the ground just a few steps away.
Despite protests from prosecutors, only one black member is seated on the 12-person jury. Defense lawyers ruled out some African, American candidates for the panel citing their possible preconceived bias on the case under questioning. Prosecutors rested their case on 16 November after showing jurors graphic photos of Mr. Arbery’s shotgun wounds. What is the key footage? A 36-second clip filmed from a vehicle following Mr. Arbery surfaced publicly on 5 May 2020. It shows Mr. Arbery trying to bypass a pickup truck ahead of him on the road and then struggling with a man carrying a shotgun. There is muffled shouting and three gunshots are heard. A second man with a pistol, who was standing in the bed of the pickup, is then seen standing alongside the other armed man with the jogger no longer in view.
The clip which sparked nationwide outcry swiftly followed by criminal charges was leaked at the behest of Gregory McMichael because he thought it would make him and his son look better, according to WSB-TV in Atlanta. Five days later, footage from a surveillance camera emerged showing a black man in a white T-shirt believed to be Mr. Arbery at a home construction site shortly before the shooting. He is seen walking onto the site and looking around for a few minutes before jogging down the street. Under the citizen’s arrest law an individual could detain someone they had seen committing a serious crime and if the suspect was trying to escape.
The state law which dates back to the American Civil War era was repealed in the wake of the incident. Georgia was also one of only four states at the time with no hate crime statutes. Hate crime legislation has since been passed into law. In a separate trial due to begin next year. A federal grand jury has accused the McMichaels of hate crimes and attempted kidnap of Mr. Arbery. They have pleaded not guilty.