The Guardian

Ahmaud Arbery

How killing in Georgia exposed racist and broken justice system

- Maya Yang

For many observers the high-profile case of the three white men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year old black man who was out jogging, revealed the racist ways that the American legal system has been designed to treat black people differentl­y.

Arbery loved to run. On 23 February last year, he was unarmed and out jogging through his neighbourh­ood in Brunswick, Georgia, when he was tracked by Greg and Travis McMichael and William Bryan, then gunned down.

Arbery’s death has reaffirmed a concern among many black people that they will be racially profiled or attacked while running in the UAS. Many wear bright colours to appear non-threatenin­g and run during daylight. Yet Arbery’s white T-shirt, his habit of waving at neighbours, and jogging in the middle of the day did not protect him.

In the weeks and months after Arbery’s killing, Glynn county law enforcemen­t officials either ignored the case or failed to investigat­e. Jackie Johnson, the Glynn county district attorney, barred police officers from arresting the McMichaels, saying that Greg McMichael had worked as an investigat­or in her office for 20 years before retiring in 2019. She recused herself from the case four days after the killing.

George Barnhill, the Waycross district attorney, took over. Less than 24 hours after seeing the evidence, he decided not to charge the McMichaels, citing insufficie­nt evidence. On 2 April, he emailed law enforcemen­t authoritie­s, saying: “Arbery’s mental health records and prior conviction­s help explain his apparent aggressive nature and his possible thought pattern to attack an armed man.”

A week later, Barnhill recused himself because his son worked on a case involving Arbery while working in Johnson’s office.

Tom Durden, the district attorney in nearby Hinesville, then took the case on 13 April, making little progress for more than three weeks until the graphic video of Arbery’s killing emerged on 5 May. The video prompted swift outcry and Durden notified the Georgia Bureau of Investigat­ion.

The McMichaels were arrested two days later and on 11 May, a fourth prosecutor, the Cobb county district attorney Joyette M Holmes, took over the case. Holmes is one of only seven black district attorneys in Georgia. In September, Johnson was indicted on charges of misconduct for allegedly using her position to protect the McMichaels.

In November, a nearly all-white jury was selected after defence attorneys eliminated almost all black jurors from the pool.

Judge Timothy Walmsley acknowledg­ed the “intentiona­l discrimina­tion”, but said he was limited by the supreme court and that the defence had presented reasons to strike out the black jurors that were unrelated to race.

The defence attorney Kevin Gough tried to remove civil rights leaders and black pastors from the courtroom, arguing that their presence was intimidati­ng the jury.

During a prayer vigil outside the Glynn county courthouse earlier this month, Ben Crump, an attorney representi­ng the Arbery family, said: “What happens here ... is going to be a proclamati­on to the world, how far we have come to get equal justice in America for marginalis­ed black people.”

 ?? PHOTOGRAPH: MARCO BELLO/REUTERS ?? Outside the court in Georgia when the guilty verdicts came through yesterday. From left below, William Bryan, and Travis and Greg McMichael. Right, a protest in June
PHOTOGRAPH: MARCO BELLO/REUTERS Outside the court in Georgia when the guilty verdicts came through yesterday. From left below, William Bryan, and Travis and Greg McMichael. Right, a protest in June
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 ?? ?? ▲ Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead while out jogging during the day
▲ Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead while out jogging during the day

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