Updated: May 21
A good friend of mine, a realtor in California, approached me for advice some years ago following an interaction with a member of the Marine Corps. It was an issue regarding rent owed. The young Marine refused to pay and had made some scary threats. I was able to connect her with the Marine’s Commanding Officer, and the matter was resolved very quickly.
She was confused when she initially spoke with me. “Jerry I thought all Marines were of high character and trustworthy.”
Filters Are Not Perfect
At the beginning of my afternoon walk yesterday I was passed by a sheriff’s deputy driving in the opposite direction. I was given a wide berth on the small country road. I recall a feeling of trust during that brief moment. I’ve always held a sense of admiration towards peace officers.
A few moments later, before the pleasure of a soaking rain to finish my walk, my thoughts had turned to Ahmaud Arbery. George McMichael and his son, Travis, have been arrested and will stand trial for the murder of Ahmaud.
The thing which now bothers me, what I can not get past, is the time it took for the arrests to happen.
The trial will not be about racism within the courtroom. The McMichaels have been charged with aggravated assault and murder. Racism is not a prosecutable offense in Georgia. Even if it was, I think it would be tough to prove. The jury would have to rule on the state of mind of George and Travis.
One of the things I was pleased about when I joined the Marine Corps was the teaching of morality and ethics. Doing the right thing. It was emphasized throughout my training. Yet the Marine Corps still ends up with people who do not live up to those standards.
I’ve known a number of people who became peace officers; city, highway patrol, and sheriff’s departments. In the interview and training process, these departments do the best they can to hire and train quality people. I feel I can state that, by and large, across our country, most peace officers are good people with a sound moral compass. But every organization has to deal with bad apples. It just happens.
If the process to become a Marine, or a Peace Officer, can not effectively filter out people of poor character, then can we state the same for law school?
More Than Just A Murder
There are many things we don’t know about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and the subsequent arrest of the McMichaels. These potential unknowns will hopefully be resolved during the trial. The only things we know at this point are:
Two private citizens took the law into their own hands, which resulted in the death of a young man
It was over two months before those two citizens were arrested
The video of Ahmaud’s murder was in the hands of the original prosecutor within a day of the incident. Probably soon after George McMichael was interviewed, as a witness, by the local sheriff.
As a result of a prior professional relationship with George McMichael, the initial prosecutor recused herself. The second prosecutor did the same, for the same apparent reason, but issued a statement in his recusal that he felt there was not enough probable cause to arrest the McMichaels. In legal terms, this might fall within the category of being prejudicial.
The McMichaels would not be arrested for another two months. Not until the video went viral forcing the authorities in Brunswick, Georgia to act.
Other videos have surfaced. There is one of Ahmaud walking through a construction site the day of this death. There are videos of other people walking through the same construction site, even a family. More recently, a video has emerged of Ahmaud Arbery being questioned by two deputies in a park. This was in 2017 via a body cam on one of the officers.
Attempts are already being made to tear down the character of Ahmaud. This will probably continue. From my seat, in my little hometown of Chapin, it is the only chance the McMichaels have to avoid life in prison.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, Ahmaud was a nuisance within his local community. Maybe a young man who had lost his way and was stealing in order to purchase drugs. If this was true, and it appears to be unlikely, did he deserve to die? I hope the obvious answer remains a resounding NO.
Ahmaud Arbery did not deserve to die. Not by any definition.
What Is The Color Of Justice?
For me, it is the handling of his case, prior to the arrests, where evidence of racism potentially exists. Two months. It took two months to arrest the McMichaels, and their arrest only happened as a result of the video going public. At the very least, this looks bad for the community where this crime occurred. At the very least, this looks bad for the local police force and the office of the prosecutor.
The sheriff interviewed George McMichael as a witness. He found no cause to arrest either of the McMichaels. In my opinion, the sheriff was making a determination that Ahmaud deserved to die.
More than one prosecutor passed on charging the McMichaels with anything. In my opinion, each one of them made the judgment that Ahmaud deserved to die.
As a society, if we truly want to uphold the rule of law, if we truly believe all men and women are equal in the eyes of the law, then we must investigate the handling of this case. The sheriff’s office, and the prosecutor's office, must be investigated by an outside independent authority.
According to the NY Times this is going to happen. The Attorney General of Georgia has requested a federal investigation into the handling of this entire case.
I hope the McMichaels are found guilty and spend the rest of their life in jail. I have trouble visualizing any other outcome.
And I hope the federal investigation into the handling of Ahmaud’s death answers a personal question of mine. Is white the only color of justice in Brunswick?