Jury finds Ahmaud Arbery's murderers guilty. But the racist defense arguments still sting.

4 min read
Yes, the defense counsel must advocate for their clients. But there is a line between zealous advocacy and exploiting pernicious racial stereotypes.
There's an old saying in the courtroom that when the law is against you hammer on the facts, when the facts are against you hammer on the law, but when both are against you hammer on the table. This week, a defense attorney for the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia chose to pull out a different hammer to distract from both the facts and the law: the racist hammer.

Yet, by its guilty verdict Wednesday, the jury rejected the defense's obvious efforts to exploit what it hoped would be the racial undercurrent.

Instead, the jury did its duty and followed the law by answering "no" to the critical legal question: whether the three defendants, Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan validly engaged in a citizen's arrest that led to a justifiable use of deadly force against Ahmaud Arbery?

They did not, and as a result, all three men were found guilty of felony murder. They must be accountable for the unlawful killing of this innocent victim.

More: Ahmaud Arbery was murdered or, more accurately, lynched

This was a good day for justice. But the verdict cannot and should not negate the way in which race permeated this case.

For the prosecution, it was nothing more than the victim's race – or more precisely the inherent bigotry triggered by his race – that led the three defendants to chase him down and initiate the alarmingly violent confrontation.

For observers, the legal process that allowed the defense to remove all but one African American juror from the case in a community that is nearly 27% Black – even with the judge voicing his concern that the tactic appeared to indicate discrimination – seemed perplexing.

And for too many Americans, it was once again time to brace for the all-too-common "not guilty."

A jury on Nov. 24, 2021, found three Georgia men guilty of murder in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery last year.

But for all of us, this case is a powerful illustration of how the legitimacy of criminal justice is always vulnerable to the…
Njeri Mathis Rutledge and Geoffrey S. Corn
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