LISTEN HERE (Support this project at patreon.com/AfricanElements)
Last month, a jury found three white men, Travis and Gregory McMichael and William Bryan, guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery as the 25-year-old Black man jogged through their Georgia neighborhood in early 2020. The defendants had claimed they were merely trying to execute a citizen’s arrest on Arbery, who they falsely believed was responsible for a series of burglaries in the area.
South Carolina, for example, gives people the right to kill in self-defense during a citizen’s arrest. A Connecticut code allows a private person to use deadly force in a situation calling for self-defense but not if deadly force can be avoided. In Mississippi and Alabama, the justification for a citizen’s arrest is loose, granting people arrest powers even if the alleged crime didn’t happen in their presence.
“Generally speaking, I think all these laws should be abolished,” said Ira P. Robbins, a legal scholar and professor at American University’s Washington College of Law. “We don’t need people taking the law into their own hands, and we don’t need defendants to raise citizen’s arrest in their defense. The claim in the [Arbery] case was an invalid citizen’s arrest.”
“I think that is hardly a coincidence,” Robbins said. “It is bad enough to have cops doing improper policing, and when you layer that on with citizens with racist motives taking the law into their own hands, you end up with a lawless society.”
Arbery, 25, was fatally shot by Travis McMichael on Feb. 23, 2020, in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia. He and his father, Gregory McMichael, said they approached Arbery because he was seen trespassing at a construction site, though surveillance footage had captured multiple people walking through the site.
But the laws are in place almost everywhere. In Virginia, private citizens are allowed to execute a citizen’s arrest simply if there is a breach of peace in their presence. Maryland allows a citizen’s arrest if a felony is committed either in a private citizen’s presence or even outside of the person’s presence if they have probable cause to believe the person committed one.
A Pennsylvania statute says private citizens can arrest another person only if the other person has committed a felony, misdemeanor or breach of peace. The statute also allows the person committing or assisting in the arrest to use deadly force only in a case of self-defense.
This content was originally published here.