Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Even after the assassination of Ahmaud Arbury came under scrutiny, most states still have “civil arrest” and “assert their rights” laws.

The cases follow a pattern: at first, according to the defendants, they tried to carry out a “civil arrest”. They then opened fire in self-defense.

A woman in Georgia was charged with murder after authorities said she stalked a suspect who fled the scene, ordered him out of a truck and fatally shot him. According to the lawyer, the supporter of the extremist ideology QAnon intended to arrest a member of the “Deep State”, and then killed him, frightened by a “secret” hand gesture.

Now, three white men on trial for Ahmaud Arbury’s death accused of racial profiling in the wake of what they call a citizen arrest have gone wrong.

“We are in the period of the lynching of justice. … And, frankly, when you have vigilante justice, it’s ultimately a vigilante injustice, ”said Ira Robbins, a law professor at the American University who argued that laws that allow private citizens to detain each other are present in every state in one form or another – went unnoticed for a long time and ripe for abuse.

Georgia revised its citizen’s arrest statute after leaked footage of the death of 25-year-old Arbury prompted comparisons to lynching. The law was passed during the civil war and has been criticized for helping to legitimize decades of racist violence by vigilantes.

But since then no other state has repealed the law to arrest its citizens, and a simultaneous push in Georgia to eliminate the “resilience” that allows people to fight an aggressor even if they can safely retreat has failed, like other campaigns. which played out across the country.

The lack of action underscores the challenges of transforming national outrage over high-profile killings into legislative changes. Defenders blame partisanship for an issue that proponents often link to Second Amendment rights.

“With Joe Biden at the White House, robbers here in Georgia are working overtime to violate our gun rights at the state level,” warns a web page that collects contact information and donations for the Georgia Gun Owners group. It argues that the abolition of the “stand your ground” principle will expand the opportunities for criminals and “Antifa thugs”.

Criticized as a holdover from a time when fewer people could count on a quick police response, the arrest of a citizen dates back to medieval England but was codified in Georgia in 1863. “There is no obligation to retreat.” Traditionally, people have had the rightful blessing to ignore the possibility of retreat only in tight spaces such as their home.

“This is a shoot first policy that carries with it all the bias and fear of the shooter,” said Nick Suplina, managing director of law and policy at the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety.

In the case of Arbury, the defendants claim that they had the right to drive after the person they suspected of breaking into. The law on the arrest of a citizen of Georgia at that time required either “immediate awareness” of the crime, or “reasonable and probable grounds for suspicion” that someone was hiding from the crime.

In the video surveillance footage, Arbury entered a house under construction shortly before the shooting on February 23, 2020 and several times earlier. But authorities did not find any stolen items on his body, and the property’s lawyer suggested that Arbury may have drank from a water source.

Arbury’s supporters claimed that he often jogged; the defense claims that Arbury was burglary and “searched” for valuables.

Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddy” Brian pleaded not guilty to charges including murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment, as well as federal hate crimes charges for which they will be tried next year.

The Arbury case resulted in Georgia lawmakers greatly narrowing down who could arrest a citizen, focusing on business owners and security personnel. Democratic House Rep. Josh McLaurin argues that Georgia’s growing diversity has helped overwhelmingly push Republicans toward reform: “The pressure these stories create is making them react,” he said.

“We knew we needed to take action to ensure that an outdated Civil War statute could not be used to justify outlaw banditry in Peach State,” Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said in May this year.

Arbury’s death has drawn attention to another case of alleged mistreatment by militants in Georgia: Murder charges against Hannah Payne, accused of stalking and killing black Kenneth Herring in 2019, are still pending.

Authorities said Payne ignored instructions from 911 dispatchers not to pursue Herring after he left the escape site, which Payne witnessed. The detective testified that Payne ended up blocking Herring’s car, ordered him to leave with his mother, and then threatened, “I’m going to shoot you,” according to the local news station 11Alive.

Payne’s lawyer, Matt Tucker, says his client made the arrest of a citizen and was then forced to defend himself. He accused the authorities of prompting Payne to help them – for example, by asking her to obtain the identification number of a departing car – and said Payne only pulled the gun after Herring pulled up to her, hitting her car. Tucker also claims that it was Herring who unloaded the weapon during the fight.

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The policy of resilience advocated by the National Rifle Association drew national criticism in 2012 when George Zimmerman, the Hispanic captain of a local watch in Florida, followed Trayvon Martin and killed him. Some denounced him as a vigilante who racially profiled an unarmed black teenager in a hoodie, Zimmerman was acquitted after claiming that he was shooting in self-defense when Martin attacked him.

Georgia law states that someone who is not an “aggressor” need not try to back down before using potentially lethal force if they “reasonably believe” that force is necessary to prevent death, injury, or violent crime. Georgia judges have long held the position in the state, said University of Georgia law professor Ronald Carlson, but lawmakers codified it in 2006 as other states followed suit.

Travis McMichael’s attorneys allege that their client shot Arbury in self-defense after Arbury ran up to him and struggled to control McMichael’s shotgun, and that McMichael was acquitted because he feared for his life and was also not obligated retreat.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, say that Arbury was the one who had the right to self-defense, and some argue that strong position laws can protect people like Arbury, giving them the ability to confront someone who threatens them.

“I believe that Mr. Arbury was persecuted and fled until he could no longer escape,” a government investigator said last year. “And it was: turning your back on the man with the shotgun, or fighting with your bare hands against the man with the shotgun, and he chose to fight.”

A recent analysis of over two dozen studies suggests that strong laws do not appear to reduce violent crime as some advocates claim, but may actually increase it. Researchers found that gun homicide rates in Florida increased significantly – 45% among teenagers – after the “stand your ground” principle came into effect, prompting fears that the policies were encouraging people and intensifying fights. Opponents of this policy emphasize that unwavering states continue to defend the right to self-defense.

“Despite all the research showing that this is a terrible idea, we have not seen it strongly influence politics. And I think it’s kind of reinforcing that these are special interest groups that are pushing the ball, ”said Greg Jackson, executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund, a nonprofit that has stepped up its advocacy after the Arbury case.

“This is a tough battle,” echoed Latiela Billingsley, a 17-year-old Georgia resident who joined the anti-gun violence group Students Demand Action after her cousin Jasmine McAfee was fatally wounded in 2016. The defendant, Charles Aikens, was killed and acquitted of murder and other charges after a strong defense.

Resilience advocates argue that people should have the same right to defend themselves wherever they go.

“It gives me the opportunity to make the decision that I think is the best, immediately, instead of putting before me some kind of legal standard that I have to accept when I fear for my life,” said Rob Sexton, director of legislative affairs. The Buckeye Firearms Association, which has lobbied to expand its position, went into effect this spring in Ohio. Arkansas approved a similar law in March.

Republican lawmakers have come under tremendous pressure from armed groups, said Michael Weinman, director of government affairs for the Brotherhood Police Order in Ohio, who vigorously opposed the new law and called it dangerous.

He said he is even more worried about defending his position as lawmakers move forward with another bill that would allow most citizens to carry concealed firearms without preparation or background checks.

The desire of activists to change the laws on arresting citizens seems to many to be an easier struggle than to stand their ground. “There is no lobbying for a law to arrest citizens,” said Suplina of Evrytown. “Or not really.”

However, the draft laws on the reform of laws on the arrest of citizens outside Georgia have not been implemented. When the Arbury case made its headlines again, The Post and Courier lamented last week that attempts to change South Carolina’s law – “which makes the old Georgia law look like a model of restraint” – never left the committee.

South Carolina permits arrests of citizens “at night by effective means, since darkness and the likelihood of escape make it necessary even if a person’s life is taken.”

Legislators there have made further attempts to join Georgia as one of the last states to pass hate crimes legislation after the murder of Arbury. But it didn’t go that way this year either.

South Carolina House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, shares concerns about the citizen arrest law, but said it just wasn’t a priority.

“Headlines change and interest changes,” said Rutherford, a Democrat, “and it just isn’t remembered.”

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