Just because there is injustice in the world, doesn't mean there isn't justice.
It has been a few weeks since the Ahmaud Arbery case became the focus of national attention. And like anything else in "the news" we find out a lot of what we heard early on isn't accurate, or that there is more to the story. We will no doubt find out more, later on, and maybe a decade from now, have the perspective to understand what really happened. Meanwhile a jury will have to make a choice.
Maybe the media reads my blog, but they are now correctly reporting that Satilla Shores is not a neighborhood "in Brunwick" but "near Brunswick" - that's a start. I tried to look up Mr. Arbery's address online, but had no luck. A friend reports he lived in a neighborhood across Route 17 (which is a divided highway, quite busy!) so he was at least a half-mile away.
I am guessing here, but the closed-loop neighborhood of Satilla Shores was more conducive to jogging than his own, on a busy street. It is like these rich jerks with their $5000 bicycles who come to our island to ride in the road - because they've ruined their own island with over-development and thus it is deadly to ride in the road there. So yea, you might go to an adjacent neighborhood to jog, if that was your thing.
We also learned that the abandoned house that Mr. Arbery was seen in (on camera) has been visited by a number of people. As I noted before, on our island, this is common for people to walk around or inside a house under construction (often pilfering scrap lumber from the dumpster - I usually ask first). Again, a guy in a jogging outfit - what could he possibly be stealing other than air?
We also learned that Mr. Arbery tried to run away from this "posse" of four people and two vehicles, but that they circled around to box him in. He tried to run to the opposite side of the pick up truck, but the driver (with the shotgun) intercepted him.
What happened next is not clear from the video - as the initial confrontation occurs off-screen and there is no audio. What we see next is two men struggling with a gun, after two shots have been fired. A third is fired and it appears Mr. Arbery punches the shooter in the head after being shot and then staggers away and dies.
The national news media is finally picking up on the fact that the Glynn County police department has a very checkered record - in fact, legislation has been passed in Atlanta, to allow the department to be abolished and replaced by the Sheriff's department. There are scandals galore, and the head of the narcotics wing is under indictment by a grand jury. I recounted before how a friend of mine in that department told me they had no shortage of volunteers for the drug interdiction program, as they "got off on the adrenaline" - enjoying, apparently, stuffing and cuffing suspects into cruisers. Frankly, anyone who volunteers for such duty should be immediately disqualified.
The defense will no doubt bring up Mr. Arbery's past in the trial - try to make him out to be a drug addict, mentally ill, and whatnot. And maybe some of that is true, I don't know for sure. They will also argue "self-defense" and that Mr. Arbery tried to wrestle away the gun from the shooter - but since the video cuts away during that initial encounter, it may be hard to tell. Reasonable doubt rears its head.
People are saying this is an injustice, but again, like so many other events in the news, it really is too early to tell. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating. A Grand Jury is being impaneled. The prosecutor in Glynn County recused himself - as he should - and handed the case to a neighboring jurisdiction. Charges have been brought, arrests have been made. But don't get your hopes up - a jury could still reasonably find that the struggle for the gun was "self defense" and convict only on a lesser charge of assault (manslaughter charges were not brought yet - an example of how over-charging may be used to get someone off). When this happens, well, people will lose their minds.
Some protesters are calling for the driver of the second vehicle (who took the cell phone video) to be charged as well. This makes me nervous, as when mobs of protesters call for someone to be indicted, it smacks of.... well.... how things were done in Georgia in a different era. Mobs would decide they didn't like how the justice system worked, and took matters in their own hands. I'm not saying that is what is happening here, but that mobs of people shouldn't be deciding the law. It is a thin line to walk, between protesting injustice and creating it.
My take on all of this? I don't want to be on that jury for all the tea in China. It would be a difficult case and no matter what the outcome, you would be vilified. That is the problem with trying cases in the media - this could turn into another Bernhard Goetz, Trevon Martin, or OJ Simpson - justice will not be done, because people are sensationalizing the case.
These folks were not "deputized" or authorized to go after anyone on suspicion of burglary. And it should have been quite clear that someone dressed as scantily as Mr. Arbery hadn't stolen anything. You go chasing after someone with guns in hand, bad things are going to happen. That is assault right there, before you even pull the trigger - manslaughter or reckless homicide after. Just call the cops and be done with it - nothing was even stolen from that house - and quite frankly, when you leave a house "under construction" (abandoned) for as long as that guy did, you just invite people to walk in.
But people are trying to do the right thing. Like I said, a Grand Jury is being impaneled, charges are being brought. An injustice has occurred here, and justice in this case might not be done as some would like. But that doesn't mean there is no justice.
The problem with cases like this is the facts are muddied. If Arbery grabbed the gun from the shooter (the barrel end, no less) it is possible that grabbing the gun - pulling back on it - pushed the shooters trigger finger to pull back and fire the weapon. If I was the defense attorney, that's what I would argue. And since that initial encounter isn't on the video, maybe we'll never know - only the survivor's story will be told.
The "standard of proof" in criminal cases is "beyond a reasonable doubt" and it is possible a jury could find reasonable doubt, unless some really compelling evidence comes forward at trial.
In the meantime, it is going to be a media shit-storm. And it is sad, this young man lost his life, and it all could have been avoided, if people didn't think they needed to form a "posse".
One last thought. I asked a friend who lives nearby Satilla Shores what she thought of the place. "Nothing but a bunch of dumb rednecks living there," she said. And she's from an old Georgia family, born and raised, ten generations.
What a fucking nightmare.