And now, gentle readers, I feel morally compelled to reflect upon the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and the audacity of his killers’ defense at the subsequent trial.
My reiteration of the events relating to Arbery’s murder will be brief. My goal is not to revisit this crime in all of its horrific and absurd minutia. A recap:
On February 23rd, 2020, a young Black man (Arbery) who was a devoted jogger and aspiring electrician was jogging along the streets of Satilla Shores, Georgia, in a neighborhood where some of the residents don’t, well, cotton to a young Black man jogging along their streets, because, dog gone it, if he’s running he must have done something wrong. Two men, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34 had seen Arbery in the neighborhood before, which reflexively raised their suspicions. Gregory and Travis, along with neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 50, in separate trucks pursued and cornered Arbery. When Arbery was boxed in, Travis jumped from his truck, aimed his shotgun point blank at Arbery’s chest, and as Arbery tried to escape he was shot three times. The pursuit of Arbery was ostensibly to affect a citizen’s arrest because they believed Arbery may have been involved in a series of burglaries (not to digress, but a citizen’s arrest where there is no actual evidence of a crime is illegal- even in the state of Georgia.) For reasons I will conjecture upon later, “Roddie” videoed the pursuit and killing with his cell phone. Initially, no charges were filed. The presiding D.A., Jackie Johnson, knew Gregory, who once worked for her. Ah, the prevailing attitude- let’s sweep this one under the carpet, tidy things up a bit and move on. But alas, the video was inexplicably turned over to police by “Roddie.” Somehow, he later claimed, it would justify the actions of him and his friends. Not surprisingly, it leaked, and soon went viral, generating global outrage. The case was turned over to The Georgia Bureau Of Investigation. The bureau concluded that all three men “Chased, hunted down and ultimately executed Arbery.” In due course, the case went to trial.
But, the murder was on video, for gosh darn. The accused men’s’ attorneys heads were spinning for a defense. Brainstorm! That’s it- defense- self defense! Why, it’s all there in, well, Black and White. When Arbery was cornered between the two trucks, “Trapped like a rat,” as Gregory later stated, Travis jumped out of the truck, aimed his shotgun point blank at Arbery’s chest, and shot him three times. But you see, he had to! He had no choice. When the unarmed Arbery instinctively tried to wrest the shotgun barrel from his chest to save his life, he could have- no, better, make that would have- wrenched the gun away and murdered poor Travis. Why, it’s common sense that this would have happened. Look- look you eleven out of twelve White Georgian jury members. Yes, yes, we’re not supposed to think these things, but you know how these people are. How fast, powerful and violent they are. Why, as one of the defense attorneys stated, “Arbery was not an innocent victim. Why, he wore no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.” Ah ha- a smoking gun, if you will. By the way, not to digress, as I am wont to do, but how did she get close enough to Arbery’s feet to discern the state of his toenails? Fascinating thought- does she live a secret life as a necrophiliac foot fetishist, sneaking into morgues at dead of night to drool ghoulishly over dead men’s feet? Did she produce evidence, statistics or scientific studies that suggest that long dirty toenails correlate to criminality? I mean the dirty toenail argument is pretty slim pickins’, but they have to come up with something. Or, perhaps she thought a radiantly stupid, racist, ad hominem and non sequitur attack on the victim might sway some fence straddlers on the jury.
But the defense’s case was problematic. Optics are important. It didn’t help that the three defendants looked like racist rednecks plucked out of Hollywood central casting. What to do? Ignorance of the law may not be an excuse, but how about severe stupidity? That was the track taken by “Roddie’s” lead attorney. His counsel brilliantly did the impossible, by characterizing “Roddie” as even more dimwitted than his co-defendants. Yes, his attorney argued, that even if a crime had been committed, his client was such a dullard as to be rendered harmless. Look at him- the neighborhood fool. A bumbling buffoon lacking the grey matter to participate in a homicide. Oh the chutzpah! Could Alan Dershowitz have argued more effectively?
Was this a racially motivated hate crime? Nonsense, the attorneys would opine. When interviewed by police, “Roddie” of the dim light stated that Travis called Arbery “A fucking nigger” as he lay dying on the road. The image of the Confederate flag appeared on Travis’s truck, and overtly racist text massages were found in “Roddie’s” phone. Irrelevant- coincidental! Uncanny perhaps, but nothing of import nonetheless. And that video. As mentioned, though not a member of Mensa, did “Roddie” really believe it was to their benefit, proving they tried to arrest Arbery- proving if nothing else his attorney’s depiction of his client’s mental acumen? But allow me to posit an alternate explanation:
The video does not show decent citizens protecting their neighborhood. No. This was a lynching. A father and son bonding lynching as in the good ole’ Jim Crow days. Why did “Roddie” video the proceedings? Why do some hunters bring along a buddy to video the taking down of an elk- or a buck? To memorialize the victory for posterity.
Ultimately they overplayed their cards, an inherently losing hand. The mostly White jury didn’t close ranks along racial lines. They had it within them to think critically, examine the evidence, and arrive at a just decision. All three, guilty of various counts of murder.
And so, for all you White supremacists, look at your shackled brethren. Do they look supreme, slouching as they shuffle from the court room to their new home- the penitentiary?
Take pride. They may be the best and the brightest of you.