Arbery verdict rebuffs White vigilantism as a defense to lynch Black bodies

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Remember when you rooted for the vigilante? I can think of countless movies, books where I wanted the vigilante to […] The post Arbery verdict rebuffs White ...
OPINION: The defendants claimed self-defense, but unlike the movies, you can't be the superhero and villain at the same time.

Remember when you rooted for the vigilante? I can think of countless movies, books where I wanted the vigilante to prevail – Batman, The Avengers, The Law Abiding Citizen. But what happens when the Vigilante is actually the villain?

On Feb. 23, 2020, Travis McMichael (35), his father Gregory McMichael (65) and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan (52) hunted down and murdered Ahmaud Arbery for jogging in their neighborhood while being Black. The McMichael's and Bryan claimed because of an uptick of "rampant crime" in their neighborhood, they attempted to effectuate a citizen's arrest, a Georgia law that has since been repealed because of Ahmaud's killing. In their failed attempt at citizen's arrest, they killed Ahmaud and conveniently claimed self-defense.

Self-defense is procedural vehicle used in a great deal of cases involving the killing of Black individuals – but the claim of self-defense can be tricky. In murder cases where self-defense is raised, the defendant essentially acknowledges the killing and the fact that the defendant played a role in the death of that individual. What is key in all self-defense cases is that the defendant must not be the aggressor, you cannot provoke the attack and cannot be committed in conjunction with a felony or attempted felony.

A demonstrator holds a sign at the Glynn County Courthouse as jury selection begins in the trial of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on Oct. 18, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Once the claim of self-defense is raised by the defendant, he or she is under no obligation to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the killing was not in self-defense and therefore unjustified.

When raising the claim of self-defense, the defendant must be in reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm.…
Stephanie Willis
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