Lynching Without Punishment

Jesus fuck.

Other people will say that I should be fucking heartened by this:

On May 7th, 2020, the GBI arrested Gregory McMichael, age 64, and Travis McMichael, age 34, for the death of Ahmaud Arbery. They were both charged with murder and aggravated assault. The McMichaels were taken into custody and will be booked into the Glynn County Jail.
But I’m not. Read further:

I am not heartened.

Yes, I read what it said. I understand what it said. But I also read further:

On May 5th, 2020, District Attorney Tom Durden formally requested the GBI investigate the death of Ahmaud Arbery. The Kingsland Office initiated an investigation on May 6th, 2020.

and I am not heartened.

Many of you may wish to know why, so let’s break this timeline down.

Feb 23rd: Arbery is Lynched.
Feb 23rd: Police show up and collect the evidence, including direct video of the lynching, and take the statements from the McMichaels, without ever arresting them.
Feb 24th – April 13th: Nothing happens on the case at all… EXCEPT one of the two DAs with close ties to one of the murderers makes a public statement saying that the shooting was very legal and very cool.
April 13th: DA Tom Durden becomes the 3rd DA to be handed the case.
April 13th – early morning May 5th: Nothing happens on the case at all.
On May 5th, at 8:40 AM eastern time: Shaun King tweets out a copy of the video recording of the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery.
May 5th, midday: The entire internet goes apeshit watching the lynching of a Black man on a sunny suburban street.
Later on May 5th: apparently too late in the day for an investigation to get started the same day, DA Durden requests the GBI investigate the lynching of Arbery.
May 6th: DA Durden says, and I quote:

I am of the opinion that the case should be presented to the grand jury of Glynn County for consideration of criminal charges against those involved in the death of Mr. Arbery,

but defers any action indefinitely because Georgia’s grand juries aren’t meeting right now, due to the pandemic.
May 6th: The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s local office launches an inquiry into the death of Arbery.
May 7th: The GBI has enough evidence that they’ve decided to arrest both Travis McMichael and his father, Greg, on charges of murder, AND they’ve sought them out AND they’ve found them AND they’ve arrested them AND they’ve taken them to the local jail for booking and other processing.

So local cops & DAs have the case for 7 weeks and can’t do shit with it even though they have the video evidence from day 1. They even deny the lynching, claiming that it was performed legally according to the Georgia laws on citizen’s arrest and self defense. But they’re so obviously corrupt and incompetent in their downplaying and denying and delaying that neither the first nor second DA can maintain control over the case. So after 7 weeks a third DA has to be brought in. That third DA does nothing with it, but at least doesn’t make media statements about how killing Black men is very legal and very cool in Georgia these days. This third DA, Durden, might be conducting a diligent investigation and it’s just taking some time, or he might simply be waiting out any media attention so that he can choose not to file charges at a later date without anyone noticing.

But then after a total of 2.5 months of DA inaction, the video evidence that they’ve had since Day 1 goes viral.

And that day, no one was heartened. We were all heartbroken.

One day later, the GBI grabs copies of the files and evidence, including the video, while the third DA is still saying we have to wait indefinitely b/c we can’t do anything without a grand jury. And he goes further, saying he has no opinion on whether killing Arbery was a crime or not, it’s just something that maybe the grand jury should look at, y’know, when it’s convenient.

One day after that, the GBI investigation is over and the McMichaels are in custody on murder charges.

So… while we might be happy about prompt GBI action, the fact that their investigation was over in a day (or at least far enough advanced to make an arrest) only adds a heaping helping of evidence that even this 3rd DA was corrupt and that passing it to that DA was yet another attempt to smother Justice in her crib after the first 2 DAs were too racist to do the job right.

I am not heartened. I am not encouraged.

Local police have these guys in custody. Local investigators still have a role to play. The three DAs will inevitably be consulted, even if none of them actually supply the lead prosecutor from their own offices. There is plenty of opportunity for more corruption to kill any reasonable hope of justice in this case.

Based on the behavior of local law enforcement and local prosecutors, this should not hearten anyone.

But over and above all that, we have today only more evidence that this is what passes for normal in this part of Georgia. It took widespread condemnation and national media attention for any action other than justification and coverup to take place. And even then, the local prosecutor had no desire to call lynching a crime, to take a firm rhetorical stand against killing Black men, to condemn murder in the street. When the people responsible for enforcing the law are this much in favor of lynching, what, precisely, with the jury be like?

Guess what? We have a hint: the witness who recorded the video had their own name and personal information leaked – by law enforcement or prosecutors – and now members of the general public are threatening the witness for providing evidence and telling the truth.

The general public of Georgia does not hearten me.

The jury pool does not hearten me.

And let’s just say it: fuck every single DA and DA’s office employee and police officer that was in any way involved in this case. They do not hearten me.

We would not have even the barest hint of the mere possibility of justice for Arbery if it was up to prosecutors and law enforcement. The “leak” of the video tape turned out not even to have been a leak: the person who originally shot the video had their own copy and provided it to a local attorney. This was no good cop upset at a cover up who passed evidence on to the media. No, they could not, would not, did not leak the evidence necessary to fan the flames of popular desire for justice. They could only, would only, did only leak the information necessary to harass and abuse the one person other than the murder victim who did everything right.

Even the GBI acted only after the video was already known to all. Maybe they would have investigated fairly and quickly if called in before the leak, but when everyone else involved worked only against the interests of justice, it’s not like we have good evidence to conclude that they would have done the right thing if they weren’t under public scrutiny. They did what they had to. No more. Nothing in that is laudable. It is merely not worthy of particular condemnation.

No one with responsibility for justice took one single action that should hearten anyone.

Not one single person involved in local prosecution and law enforcement did anything other than actively supporting the corrupt effort to absolve the McMichaels of lynching Arbery, or simply tolerating the corrupt actions of the co-workers. Not one GBI officer went above and beyond the call of duty. Not one did anything without being compelled.

Not even one.

Not. Fucking. One. did the right thing.

The McMichels will spend their first night in jail tonight, but I am not heartened.




  1. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    So, bring back the right of the victim, and close family and friends of the victim first opportunity to seek indictments for offenses against the victim, and to choose themself or a counsel of their choice as prosecutor, and such private prosecutors should enjoy the same rights and privileges of public prosecutors. And also do away completely with qualified immunity (which doesn’t apply in this case, but applies in many others).

    As you rightly noted in the other thread, according to ye olden standards, which are apparently still good law(?!), any citizen can arrest for a certain class of offenses if they are eyewitnesses, or based on probable cause of an outstanding felony offense – grossly approx. Even according to these ye olden standards (which I would like to see brought back and applied to cops without warrants), it was an unlawful arrest, which means this should be straight up murder, no further questions necessary. In other words, if you intentionally kill someone as part of an unlawful arrest, that should be murder. No questions asked. Do not proceed to “Go”. Do not collect 200 dollars. Go directly to jail.

  2. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    PS: Related: This is still what I want done: Fix the actual problem: No personal accountability. Remove qualified immunity so that the victims, or close family and friends of the victims, can seek civil damages from cops in their personal capacity in court. Allow victims to seek indictments to appoint any counsel of their choosing as prosecutor, so the victim can see criminal charges in court against individual cops. Alternatively, find some other way to ensure that criminal charges will be brought against cops, but I doubt any alternative will be sufficient. Finally, publish and maintain detailed standards of rules of engagement for cops, to help juries be able to recognize unlawful use of force and find against cops in civil and criminal trials. That’s what it will take to fix this problem, and I am firmly convinced that nothing else will.

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