Lee Merritt, Esq. and Joy Reid talk through the tragic events leading up to the killing Ahmaud Arbery, and the shameful negligence on the part of Georgia authorities to take any action against the killers until over two months later.
May 9, 2020

More than two inexcusably long months after the modern-day lynching of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, the two men who ambushed and shot him for the "crime" of jogging-while-Black have been arrested and denied bond.

Mind you, it took that long, and cycling through three district attorneys to find one who would even go so far as to seat a grand jury to consider if there was enough evidence to charge these men with a crime, let alone arrest them. They were walking around free as birds, while Mr. Arbery's mother approached her son's birthday and first Mother's Day without him, in anguish.

What finally got them arrested, charged, and denied bond was the leaking of video taken by a man driving a truck behind the two who killed Mr. Arbery, shooting a video as grotesquely nonchalant as if he was simply recording his kids in a cute game of Cops and Robbers. Ironically, the video was leaked by a friend of the arrested men, in an attempt to clarify events surrounding the shooting. It was the resulting national outcry that motivated authorities in Georgia to finally take definitive action to cage the beasts and charge them with murder. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over and is now in charge of the case.

Joy Reid hosted renowned attorney, Lee Merritt, who has been retained by Mr. Arbery's family, and they discussed the video, and the laws in Georgia that have promulgate a culture that allows such a thing to happen with such ease, and to be swept under the rug for so long.

She first asked Merritt about the role of the man in the truck behind the men who killed Mr. Arbery. Were they together, chasing him on purpose, or was it a coincidence that he "happened" to catch everything on video?

MERRITT: So we're not clear yet, because there was never really a full investigation into what happened. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, for the first time, is sending out agents to gather this information. The video alone, though, establishes that there was an ambush set up for Ahmaud during his run, and the police report, and these individuals' previous statements have established that they were coordinating together. They were blocking Ahmaud's points of ingress and egress, and they were tracking him and they eventually killed him. As a result, anyone who participated in that coordinated ambush is a criminal suspect.

REID: When you say it was an ambush and they blocked his egress, does that mean both cars were blocking him, that basically two cars made it impossible for him to get away?

MERRITT: That's exactly it. We see the video from the perspective of the car in the back. And actually, if you listen closely to that recording, you hear him cock his gun. And so, that is an armed man who is recording this incident. And if you notice, he doesn't even flinch when Ahmaud is killed. He doesn't say, "Oh, my god," or anything, he's not surprised. He's documenting his role in this ambush.

There was never a full investigation into what happened, he said. Two months later. The GBI is just now beginning to investigate. And yet, the authorities knew at the time that they had ambushed Mr. Arbery and killed him. Unarmed as he was. Without cause.

Reid asked Merritt about the laws in Georgia, and how it is they give so much police-like power to civilians (let's be honest — only the white ones).

MERRITT: In Georgia, citizens do have the right to perform a citizen's arrest, but there are parameters by which they can do that. They need to observe a felony or be in the immediate knowledge of a felony. What they alleged to observe was Ahmaud entering a property that was under construction. Properties that are under construction people often went by. This property, people often went by. He did not take anything from that habitat that was under construction. So as a result, trying to apply a citizen's arrest to these facts doesn't fit, because there's no crime for which to perform an arrest.

REID: You've described this as a lynching. There is no hate crimes law in the state of Georgia. So that's not going to be part of the prosecution, but I've seen other interviews where you've described it as a lynching. Is that what you believe this was?

MERRITT: This was a modern lynching. Look, these men could have believed that they were protecting their community from a criminal element, but they impugned criminality on the first black man that they saw. So when you impugn criminality on them, and then you unlawfully use deadly force in order to stop them, and then you film it, and brag about it, and go home, and there are no consequences, that's by definition a lynching.

There is NO HATE CRIMES LAW in Georgia. Gee. Raise your hand if you're shocked by this. And try, just TRY to imagine the following imagined scenario: a Black man, legally carrying a gun, witnesses Mr. Arbery's killing. He sees the entire thing, from his running past the construction site to the convoy of trucks, with three armed men trying to trap him so that he couldn't get away. They shoot and kill that unarmed jogger as he ran away. Then try to imagine this armed, male Black witness attempting to make a citizen's arrest of any of these three white "alleged" murderers. With him having met all the legal qualifications to make a citizen's arrest. Is there any universe in which you can imagine our heroic Black witness attempting this and getting out of it alive? Let alone, not arrested and prosecuted for murder immediately?

I didn't think so. Neither can I.

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