August 14, 2022

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Last month, a jury found three white men, Travis and Gregory McMichael and William Bryan,...

Last month, a jury found three white men, Travis and Gregory McMichael and William Bryan, guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery as the 25-year-old Black man jogged through their Georgia neighborhood in early 2020. The defendants had claimed they were merely trying to execute a citizen’s arrest on Arbery, who they falsely believed was responsible for a series of burglaries in the area.

Georgia repealed its citizen’s arrest laws in the wake of Arbery’s murder. New language in the bill allows only business employees, not every private citizen, to detain people they believe have stolen something — such as restaurant employees who detain people who didn’t pay for a meal.

But 41 states still have citizen’s arrest laws, according to a database from Solutions Institute, an activist consulting firm, and even those that don’t often have case law in state courts that protects the act of a private citizen acting like a police officer and arresting a fellow citizen.

South Carolina, for example, gives people the right to kill in self-defense during a citizen’s arrest. A Connecticut code allows a private person to use deadly force in a situation calling for self-defense but not if deadly force can be avoided. In Mississippi and Alabama, the justification for a citizen’s arrest is loose, granting people arrest powers even if the alleged crime didn’t happen in their presence.

Although Georgia’s modification to the citizen’s arrest law was welcomed by many experts, some don’t think it’s anything but a nibble at the larger problem.

“Generally speaking, I think all these laws should be abolished,” said Ira P. Robbins, a legal scholar and professor at American University’s Washington College of Law. “We don’t need people taking the law into their own hands, and we don’t need defendants to raise citizen’s arrest in their defense. The claim in the [Arbery] case was an invalid citizen’s arrest.”

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Robbins likened the citizen’s arrest statute to the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. That law required enslaved people to be returned to their owners and allowed citizens to capture them. Thirteen years later, in 1863 amid the Civil War, Georgia passed its citizen’s arrest law.

“I think that is hardly a coincidence,” Robbins said. “It is bad enough to have cops doing improper policing, and when you layer that on with citizens with racist motives taking the law into their own hands, you end up with a lawless society.”

A History Of Violence

Arbery’s case was not the first in which Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law led to violence. Hannah Payne was indicted by a grand jury on felony murder, aggravated assault, malice murder and false imprisonment charges stemming from the May 2019 shooting of a Black man, 62-year-old Kenneth Herring. According to police reports, Payne followed Herring’s pickup after she saw it hit another vehicle near a highway. After calling 911, she blocked Herring near an intersection and confronted him with a gun. She later shot him, ignoring the instructions of 911 dispatchers.

Payne’s attorney characterized her lethal act as self-defense in the manner of a citizen’s arrest.

Her trial has been delayed until next year.

Arbery, 25, was fatally shot by Travis McMichael on Feb. 23, 2020, in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia. He and his father, Gregory McMichael, said they approached Arbery because he was seen trespassing at a construction site, though surveillance footage had captured multiple people walking through the site.

After the murder, Travis McMichael claimed he shot Arbery in self-defense. His testimony during the trial shifted several times as he gave an account of what happened prior to and during the shooting.

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The property owner said nothing was ever taken from the construction site, including on the day Arbery was chased and killed.

“These laws are outdated, and they don’t make any sense in a modern society with law enforcement,” said Neama Rahmani, president of West Coast Trial Lawyers.

‘People Are Allowed To Kill’

But the laws are in place almost everywhere. In Virginia, private citizens are allowed to execute a citizen’s arrest simply if there is a breach of peace in their presence. Maryland allows a citizen’s arrest if a felony is committed either in a private citizen’s presence or even outside of the person’s presence if they have probable cause to believe the person committed one.

Definitions of what some states legally consider a citizen’s arrest can be obscure. For example, in North Carolina the law allows private citizens to detain an individual but not arrest them, but with no real guidance on how to make that distinction.

A Pennsylvania statute says private citizens can arrest another person only if the other person has committed a felony, misdemeanor or breach of peace. The statute also allows the person committing or assisting in the arrest to use deadly force only in a case of self-defense.

Since Arbery’s murder, some elected officials have taken note of these problematic laws and worked to combat them.

Under South Carolina’s citizen’s arrest law, private citizens are able to take a person’s life in self-defense. Anyone is also able to conduct a citizen’s arrest if they witness a felony or a theft or have information that the specific person detained had committed the crime.

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Justin Bamberg, a Democratic lawmaker in South Carolina’s state House, filed a bill to repeal the citizen’s arrest statute in May 2020, just months after Arbery’s killing and around the time the video of the fatal shooting was released.

Bamberg said the law came from a “dark place” and enabled white communities to take it upon themselves to “police Black people.”

Bamberg refers to the people who carry out citizen’s arrest as vigilantes. He says the statutes should be outlawed nationwide because the country does not need them in the 21st century.

“In our state, people are allowed to kill,” Bamberg told HuffPost.

“It does not take into account if you are factually wrong or inherently prejudice. Even today, if you take the racial component out of it, it is still a problematic law because citizens with no training should not be out here trying to arrest folks.”

His bill stalled. He plans to file it again.

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Arcane Citizen’s Arrest Laws Led To Ahmaud Arbery’s Death. They’re Still On The Books In Many States. appeared first on maserietv.com.