Georgia Governor Repeals Citizen’s Arrest Law After Ahmaud Arbery Killing
The defence of the three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery has led to Georgia repealing one of its citizen arrest laws.
In February of last year, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, went for a jog when he was chased by three white men and shot dead. The attackers, father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and neighbour William ‘Roddie’ Bryan Jr., claimed they suspected Arbery of burglary.
The three men have pleaded that they should not be charged because of a rule in Georgia that was enforced during the Civil War era. The law from 1863 states that people can detain someone they suspect of a crime. This law was implemented so people could capture those who were attempting to escape slavery.
The old citizen’s arrest law used as a defence by the men was not recognised, and they have been charged with murder by the state and face federal hate crime charges. Off the back of the case, the state of Georgia has re-evaluated the law. The legislation, House Bill 479, repeals the right to detain someone you believe has committed a crime.
This bill now only allows citizens to detain one another if it is in self-defence or to prevent a forcible felony. The term forcible felony covers armed robbery or murder. This new legislation will not impact business owners who will still be able to detain someone who they suspect of stealing until the authorities arrive at the scene.
Lawmakers in Georgia’s House and Senate passed the bill last year, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the legislation on Monday, May 10, officially repealing the old law. Speaking about the signing, Kemp said it was ‘replacing a Civil War-era law ripe for abuse,’ HuffPost reports.
The Republican governor spoke publicly about the murder of Arbery and the footage that surfaced, noting that ‘one year ago a video shocked the world and sickened hearts.’ Kemp went on to say Arbery was a ‘victim of vigilante-style violence that has no place in our country or our state.’
Others shared the sentiment of the governor. Republican Representative Bert Reeves, the primary sponsor of the bill, claimed that it was a ‘common-sense move that should have been done a long time ago. It achieves meaningful reform to prevent vigilantism.’
Rev. James Woodall, president of the Georgia National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said signing the bill was a ‘huge step forward’.
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