Phyllis Law - June 2020 | 404.514.3397

Protecting Bright Futures

JUNE 2020

Bright Futures Bulletin

A person commits the offense of felony murder when, in the commission of a felony, he or she causes the death of another human being irrespective of malice. We know the shots fired that day killed Arbery. So to prove felony murder, the state prosecutor must prove the underlying felony, which, in this case, is aggravated assault. A person commits the offense of aggravated assault when he or she assaults: (1) with intent to murder, to rape, or to rob; (2) with a deadly weapon. The second criterion is clear. No one disputes the McMichaels used a deadly weapon, which resulted in Arbery’s death. The first criterion will be in dispute at trial. Did the defendants intend to murder Arbery without justification? We already know the defendants are claiming that they were making a citizen’s arrest. In Georgia you may arrest anyone who commits a felony in your presence or with your immediate knowledge. A citizen's arrest occurs when a citizen prevents a suspect from leaving a scene. This kind of arrest most often occurs in cases like shoplifting when the store's manager detains the suspected offender until the cops can arrive on scene. Many believe the extension of a citizen’s arrest power to this scenario is a far overreach and should not be allowed. When making a citizen's arrest, a person may not use more force than is reasonable to make the arrest. Deadly force is limited to self-defense or to instances in which such force is necessary to prevent certain felonies. The right of private citizens to make a citizen's arrest is limited. The problemwith the citizen’s arrest defense is that Arbery was unarmed, and so far, we do not have any clear evidence that he had committed or was in the commission of a felony. Video evidence shows Arbery leaving the scene of a

TheDeathof AHMAUDARBERY The Laws Behind the Case

Gregory and Travis McMichael (father and son) were arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) 74 days later on charges of aggravated assault and felony murder. The case has outraged Americans due to the following circumstances. 1. The victimwas black, and the accused men are white. Many believe the McMichaels' actions were racially motivated. 2. Video evidence indicates the McMichaels chased Arbery down in a pickup truck with loaded firearms — at least one shotgun and one handgun. 3. The father, Gregory McMichael, worked in local law enforcement, and many argued the police and prosecutors were protecting their own (i.e., “home cooking”). 4. Three different district attorneys failed to make an arrest, and only after public outcry and national media attention did the GBI take over the case and arrest the McMichaels. Then our own Cobb County got involved. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr appointed Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes to prosecute the case after the third prosecutor recused himself. Here is what the state prosecutor must prove to get a felony murder conviction.

This article is intended to explain the laws at play in this heartbreaking case that has gripped our nation since early May. Because there have been so many “opinion” pieces written nationwide, I want to leave opinion out and instead explain the laws that will be debated at trial. On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed in the middle of a neighborhood street a fewmiles from his home in Brunswick, Georgia. The assailants claimed Arbery was a suspect in a string of recent burglaries nearby and a burglary that same day, and they were attempting to make a citizen’s arrest.

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