Ahmaud Arbery shooting being investigated as federal hate crime, family’s lawyer says

Department of Justice can establish whether killing was motivated by racial bias and therefore a federal crime

Andrew Naughtie
Tuesday 26 May 2020 08:59
Comments
The McMichaels are arrested for murder of Ahmaud Arbery

A lawyer representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery has said that the US Department of Justice is investigating his killing as a possible hate crime.

Lee Merritt said federal authorities are not only pursuing the hate crime line, but are also investigating two local county officials, George Barnhill and Jackie Johnson, who recused themselves from the case shortly after the killing in February, according to several news reports quoting him.

Mr Barnhill and Ms Johnson both resigned under pressure over conflicts of interests, as they had professional connections with the killers, Gregory and Travis McMichael – and in his letter of recusal, Mr Barnhill recommended that no arrest be made in the case. Ms Johnson is alleged to have made a similar recommendation.

Mr Arbery, who was black, was killed by the white McMichaels after they chased him down their street, where he was jogging, and began an altercation with him while each carrying a gun. The incident ended with Mr Arbery fatally shot.

While the killing occurred on 23 February, it was only after a video of the killing shot by a neighbour of the McMichaels recently went viral that the two men were arrested and charged. The man who shot the video, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., has since been charged with charges including felony murder.

While the state of Georgia does not have a hate crimes law, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is reportedly co-operating with the federal Department of Justice as it looks into the case.

There are several sets of circumstances under which a hate crime can be prosecuted by the department’s Civil Rights Division instead of state authorities, including that “a prosecution by the United States is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice” and that “the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to state charges did not demonstratively vindicate the federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence.”

The law was originally introduced in the late 1960s to sanction bias-motivated crimes at the federal level. It has in part been used to ensure that hate-motivated crimes can be investigated and prosecuted even where they occurred in states whose authorities had a history of routinely overlooking them.

The original law included race, color, religion and national origin as circumscribed motives for committing a crime against somebody; over the years, gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation have been added to the definition.

As the fallout from the Arbery killing has continued, other incidents involving him have come to light, recently including a 2017 encounter with the police in which an officer attempted to tase him. He was apparently being questioned by them after they asked him why he was sitting in his car alone in a park.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in