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justice for ahmaud aubery

Both Ahmaud Arbery and Kyle Rittenhouse received justice: Provocation vs. Self Defense

After 10 hours of juror deliberations, the defendants Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan were convicted for their involvement in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The differences in their convictions are as follows: Travis McMichael, the shooter, was the only one convicted on all counts, including Count 1, Malice Murder; the father, Gregory McMichael, was convicted on all counts but malice murder; “Roddie” Bryan, the camera man, was convicted of murder for his involvement in Count 8, False Imprisonment, and the related assault charges. Because he was involved in an attempt at false imprisonment resulting in a murder, he was convicted of murder. Each felony murder charge, Counts 2-5, was attached to its underlying felony listed in Counts 6-9.

This November, there have been two high profile murder cases where self-defense was employed as a defensive strategy while prosecutors argued provocation. Both cases garnered media attention aimed at ginning up racial tensions. Whereas one jury came back guilty, the other returned with a not guilty verdict. In both cases, justice was delivered.

The claims of provocation for Rittenhouse and Arbery are night and day, as far apart as the east from the west. In the immediate aftermath of the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, the propagandists on CNN were arguing that because Rittenhouse was carrying a gun, he directly provoked the violence. Therefore, he should have been guilty. Carrying a firearm is not provocation, nor was Rittenhouse’s AR-15 stoking the violence of Rosenbaum, who was a mentally disturbed, violent pedophile. For a normal person, a firearm would be a deterrence.

Contrary, Arbery was pursued in attempt at a citizen’s arrest for allegedly being a neighborhood menace. These three were on offense, not defense. They were the aggressors, and generally in self defense law, the aggressor would have a duty to retreat in order to legally claim self-defense. So when their attempt goes awry because, unsurprisingly, Arbery did not wish to be captured or have a conversation, the law does not protect them unless they can successfully claim citizen’s arrest.

Under the since repealed Georgia law, a citizen’s arrest was defined as the following:

A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge. If the offense is a felony and the offender is escaping or attempting to escape, a private person may arrest him upon reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion.

The two primary burdens are proximity at the time of offense and the act being a felony. Neither requirement was met. Neither man witnessed Arbery committing a felony in the lead-up to his death. Their actions were not precipitated by a crime where they were physically present. Furthermore, the law requires a “reasonable and probably grounds of suspicion.” All three defendants acted on assumption. Whatever suspicious activity they saw Arbery committing was not a felony, nor did Travis McMichael testify seeing Arbery trespass on the day of his death. In fact, they had to circle the neighborhood just to catch him. Even if he was casing the neighborhood for future theft—not a felony until he burgles.

For a moment, discard the checkered past of Ahmaud Arbery, which they would not have immediately known. They suspected that he was a local burglar, either by looks or “suspicious” behavior. What if they were pursuing the wrong man? The burden of proof is on them to prove that the person they were pursuing on grounds of citizens arrest was in the act of committing a crime. Instead, they acted recklessly.

Rittenhouse and Arbery are dissimilar in many ways but were placed in a similar situation. Rittenhouse, pursued by rioters, shot three, killing two in self-defense. Rittenhouse was an upstanding citizen in his own right. He was a do-gooder knowledgeful in first aid, an EMT cadet, a cleaner of graffiti, and a protector of property. Meanwhile, Arbery previously pled guilty to a weapons charge in 2013 for attempting to bring a handgun into a school and at the time of his death, was on probation for shoplifting a TV from a Walmart in 2017 (this criminal history was barred from the trial).

Both men were placed in a dangerous situation where they were pursued by strangers attempting to harm them. Whatever their sins, both men have the right to self-defense. In America, we recognize this right comes from God, not from man. Self-defense is not grounds for self-offense. Otherwise, the final verse in Judges would result: In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

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