Blog 21 November 2021: Citizen’s Arrest

This is the text of the Georgia Citizen’s Arrest law that is being used in the defense of the three men who hunted down Ahmaud Arbery and killed him in the street.

“A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge. If the offense is a felony and the offender is escaping or attempting to escape, a private person may arrest him upon reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion.”

https://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2010/title-17/chapter-4/article-4/17-4-60/

According to Joseph Margulies, of Cornell University, citizen’s arrest laws date back to before the founding of the country. These laws allowed citizens to detain someone they had seen commit a crime.  The laws were designed for an environment in which there were few police.

The Georgia law, updated since then, was put into effect in 1863 and was designed as a slave catching statute.  Georgia along with other states, primarily in the south, later expanded these laws to cover citizens arresting someone they reasonably suspected of trying to escape from a felony.

This law was only repealed after Ahmaud Arbery was killed.  [1]

The jury will have to decide whether the three men “reasonably suspected” Arbery of committing a felony and trying to escape.    The issue will be whether the predominately white jury thinks that the three white men reasonably believed that Arbery had committed a crime.

Margulies also points out that there is a “stand your ground” law in Georgia which allows the use of deadly force if a person “reasonably believed that they were at risk of serious bodily injury or death.” [2]

NPR Article: https://www.npr.org/2021/10/26/1048398618/what-is-the-citizens-arrest-law-in-the-trial-over-ahmaud-arberys-death

Ira P. Robbins, a law professor at American university who studies these citizen’s arrest laws, wrote: “…a member of the public doesn’t know — and likely cannot understand — the nuances of citizen’s arrest, particularly when it comes to the use of deadly force.” “That’s why it is so dangerous for people to take the law into their own hands.”

In an article in the New York Times, a case in surburban Atlanta is described.  “…Hannah R. Payne, 22, is awaiting trial on murder charges for the shooting death of Kenneth E. Herring, a 62-year-old mechanic who left the scene of a fender bender last May. Ms. Payne, who was not involved in the crash, chased Mr. Herring in her Jeep.”

“Witnesses told police in Clayton County, Ga., that Ms. Payne blocked Mr. Herring’s truck, approached the open driver’s-side window of his vehicle and punched him with her left hand as she pointed a 9-millimeter firearm with her right.”

“A 911 dispatcher told her (Payne) to stand down, but the police said the call recorded Ms. Payne’s demands: “Get out of the car,” she yelled, using a vulgarity. A single shot was fired, and Mr. Herring stepped out of the truck and died.”

Payne was described by her lawyer as an “all-American girl” who “thought she was helping out,” but she is now “facing a long prison term for a killing that shares eerie similarities to the shooting death of Mr. Arbery, who was killed in February after a father and son told the authorities they thought he was the suspect of a rash of recent break-ins in their neighborhood.”

After the refusal of a Wisconsin court to convict Kyle Rittenhouse for taking it on himself to go armed into a situation where he knew he was going to be at risk and put other people at risk, there will be more of these incidents.

People (including women) are bragging on social media about how they will “pop” you if you cross them.  They are proud of this aggressiveness.  Women have adopted this Marjorie Taylor Greene “packing and proud of it” mentality.  One of the neighbors in the Satilla Shores neighborhood where Ahmaud Arbery was killed, testified about usually carrying a gun and running out in the dark in her neighborhood when she thought something was happening.  She even testified that she feared her own husband was going to be shot by the McMichaels one night because the husband was in a vacant house site looking for “intruders.”

These citizen’s arrests laws are dangerous, unconscionable, and completely unnecessary.   


[1] In this article, published by NPR, the killing of Ahmaud Arbery is said to have happened “after a fight broke out in the road…”  A fight did not “break out.”  Three men were pursuing Arbery, cutting him off and positioning themselves so that Arbery was “trapped like a rat” as described by Greg McMichael. 

[2] I do not know if this “stand your ground” law is still in effect.  I think it it.