Op-Ed: Justice is done for Ahmaud Arbery, but a legacy of racial injustice can't be answered in one verdict

4 min read
fairly easy
In this case, even with overwhelming evidence, justice could easily have been denied.
A mural of Ahmaud Arbery is displayed in Brunswick, Ga., where the 25-year-old was shot and killed in February 2020. (Sarah Blake Morgan / Associated Press)

In hearing the guilty verdicts of those who murdered Ahmaud Arbery, I felt a sense of relief that justice was done in a case where the evidence was so clear that the defendants were guilty. Yet that reaction, which I am sure was shared by many, reveals a great deal about our country's history in cases dealing with race — and about a frightening attitude toward vigilantism at this time.

Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was jogging in a primarily white neighborhood. Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael, who are white, grabbed guns and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after spotting him running through the subdivision. They said that they were going to make a citizen's arrest of Arbery because they had seen him in a house that was under construction and there had been burglaries in the area.

Neither had seen Arbery, who was unarmed, commit any crime. No police officer could have arrested him because there was no probable cause that he had violated the law.

A neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, joined the chase. Bryan told police he used his truck to run Arbery into a ditch and cut off his route, while Greg McMichael told officers they had him "trapped like a rat." Bryan recorded the video of Travis McMichael opening fire as Arbery threw punches and tried to grab for McMichael's shotgun.

The jury found Travis McMichael, who fired the shots, guilty of malice murder and four counts of felony murder. The other defendants, Gregory McMichael and Bryan, were convicted for felony…
Erwin Chemerinsky
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