Nothing in the Constitution’s text supports a state secrets privilege—in fact, it runs counter to upholding a government by the consent of the governed.
— Read on www.thenation.com/article/world/supreme-court-state-secrets/
Nothing in the Constitution’s text supports a state secrets privilege—in fact, it runs counter to upholding a government by the consent of the governed.
Tuesday, 22 February 2022
There was a verdict in the federal hate crimes trial of the three men who hunted down and shot Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. The three men were convicted of all charges. This trial followed a state trial where the men were convicted of murdering Arbery. Neither trial would have taken place had it not been for Ms. Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother.
After Mr. Arbery was killed in 2020, county officials at all levels attempted to block prosecution of the case which involved a former police officer and investigator for the DA’s office. The DA was one of the first people Greg McMichaels phoned after the killing. It is almost certain that no arrests would have even been made in the case had it not been for a video of the shooting released by Greg McMichaels.
The defense attorney for Greg McMichaels argued in the hate crimes trial that the release of the video proved that the three men didn’t have “consciousness of guilt.” What it in fact proved was that Greg McMichaels and the other two men were such blind racists they actually thought the video would exonerate them. As one of the witnesses for the men said during the state trial, it didn’t work out like they had intended.
When the video of the killing went viral, the state of Georgia stepped in and took the case out of the hands of Glynn County law enforcement officials. A prosecutor for the State of Georgia won the case not because of the local case, but despite it.
At every step of the way, Ms. Wanda Cooper-Jones was pushing and advocating and arguing. It is thanks to her that the case was ever prosecuted.
Then, after winning at the state level, the Department of Justice was to try the three men for perpetrating a hate crime, for murdering Mr. Arbery because he was black. But, secretly, behind the back of the Arbery family, federal prosecutors made a plea deal with the three defendants. The plea deal would have allowed them to spend their sentences in a federal prison instead of the hell hole of state incarceration.
Again, Ms. Wanda Cooper-Jones has to plead, argue, advocate, and in her own words “beg” for the plea agreement to be thrown out. Even after hearing her plead in court with the judge, prosecutors continued with their pressure on the judge to accept the plea agreement. But, Ms. Cooper-Jones prevailed. The judge set the date for the trial.
In the previous state trial, a tactical decision was made to leave any discussion of race out of the case. The hateful social media and personal statements of the three men were not entered into evidence. By securing a trial, however, this evidence was brought out in front of the public and another jury. The men were convicted again, in the deep South, where some people at least understand at a gut level the violence and cruelty and pain such language involves.
But, even after having to fight for two years for the simple dignity of a trial for her son’s killers, Ms. Wanda Cooper-Jones came out of the courtroom thinking about others, others who had not received justice. Standing in front of the Court House, she blasted the DOJ and their prosecutors who deceived her, tried to make a plea deal behind her back and even after hearing her pleas, continued to ignore her. She named names. She was not afraid to remind people just how hard it had been to secure these convictions. And, she was fighting for other families, other families who had been denied justice.
7 January 2022
Sentences for the men who hunted down and murdered Ahmaud Arbery were handed down in a Brunswick, Georgia courtroom today. Two of the men, Greg and Travis McMichael, were sentenced to life without parole plus additional years. William Bryan was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole and a consecutive number of years. This means, for Bryan, that after he is eligible for parole in 30 years, this additional sentenced will be added on.
There is no way to celebrate the sentencing of men to prison, but these men participated in a crime so hateful and cruel no other alternative was possible. It bears remembering, though, that had this case been left in the local jurisdiction, there would have been no trial, no conviction, no sentencing.
The local Glynn County authorities tried their hardest to cover up, gloss over, minimize this case. The District Attorney at the time, Jackie Johnson, has herself been indicted for the way she handled the case.
Because of the tenacity of Ahmaud Arbery’s mother and the work of various other civil rights activists, this case not only was brought to trial, but was taken out of the hands of the local authorities. So many things had to go perfectly for a guilty verdict to have been rendered.
As a citizen of Glynn County I am still amazed that a nearly all-white jury handed down a guilty verdict.
But, as the prosecutor pointed out, even though the actual chase and killing of Ahmaud Arbery involved minutes, this event was a product of years of preparation. The men involved spent years festering in a stew of racial hatred, suspicion, and entitlement. That has not gone away. It was obvious from the testimony of some of the people in the Satilla Shores neighborhood that they shared the ingrained racism of the defendants.
I do not believe that the case of the District Attorney has been taken out of the hands of local authorities.
When the Ahmaud Arbery case was first being tried, members of the families of others who had been violently treated by local police (and police pretenders) were present. The parents of a young woman who had been shot through the windshield of her parked car and killed were present. The police officers involved were protected and not prosecuted by the office of Jackie Johnson. There are many other cases handled by the DA’s office that we don’t even know about.
I don’t think there can be justice when a young man is hunted down and shot in the street for nothing more than being in a neighborhood where men are prepared to kill if they cannot intimidate. We will soon see if this justice extends to the people who tried to cover it up.
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.”
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. 
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.” 
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.
 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.
 I do not know if this “stand your ground” law is still in effect. I think it it.
Jury selection in the trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery is starting this morning. Speculation is that the process may take as much as three weeks. Over 1,000 people have been called for jury duty which is a much larger pool than is usual in most cases, even in high profile cases like this one. Attorneys have said that they have never heard of a case where this many potential jurors have been called. There is speculation that many of the people called will not show up – for legitimate reasons and because they don’t want to take part.
The potential jurors have been asked to fill out a questionnaire. It is not a long questionnaire especially not in comparison with other trials of this prominence. Some of the questions are: Have you seen the video of the shooting in Satilla Shores? How many times have you seen the video. Have you been to the neighborhood? Potential jurors will then be asked questions in the courtroom. Commentators are creating the impression that
Social media posting will be searched for the potential jurors. Strict rules about how they can access that information. They cannot sneak onto their social media, but it is generally accepted now that the lawyers are responsible for searching any information that is public. There will be people who have posted about this case, about the issues related to this case. A lawyer is saying that she was not going to convict another black man. She said that she was going to court and would not convict.
No matter how many times people are told, and how many times they see other defendants’ videos of jailhouse conversations (Casey Anthony), they assume privacy when they post on the internet and talk on the telephone. It is also difficult for people even if they know they are being taped, to remember this once they get into a conversation.
One of the issues that was raised in this case was the use of the jailhouse phone conversations of the defendants. As I previously posted, there are notifications literally beside the phones in jails and prisons informing people that their conversations will be recorded, but people still make those phone calls and conduct those conversations like it was 1950. The judge in this case, for that reason, turned down a defense motion to exclude all the jailhouse conversations of the defendants. They argued 14th amendment, they even argued for Gregory McMichaels, spousal confidentiality. But, the judge ruled, once you are informed that you are being recorded and you pick up that phone you make a decision to give up all those rights.
The host of Court TV today is again repeating the William “Roddie” Bryan. I have no idea why this middle name is repeated by almost every commentator on television and every print journalist.
Court TV is doing live coverage of the trial. There are also several interesting interviews with attorneys in the case posted on the site.
Notes: 600 of the called 1,000 potential jurors showed up on Monday 18 October 2021. The court interviewed 8 of them in individual voir dire. One juror was dismissed after stating that he had negative views of Gregory McMichael but evidently not Travis McMichael. The potential juror said that Gregory McMichael appeared to be the “lead dog.”
Case of Police Violence
Gregory McMichael was an investigator for the DA’s office for more than 20 years and was a Glynn County police officer for seven years before that. He retired in May of 2019.
When Gregory McMichaels saw a young man jogging past his house, he called to his son. They immediately armed themselves, jumped in a pick up truck, and drove after Arbery. They cut him off in the street with their truck and the truck of a neighbor who (of couse) saw the chase and joined in. They shot and killed Arbery in the street.
Three men, saw a black man jogging past their houses, armed themselves and gave chase. Defense attorneys plan to argue that information Arbery was on probation should be admitted to the trial because that information explains why Arbery ran from the men.
First, Arbery was already running. He was jogging. He wasn’t in the beginning running FROM anybody. Second, the fact that he kept running and did not stop does not necessarily mean he was running FROM the three men. Third, Arbery had no obligation to stop running because someone ordered him to. Even if you concede that Arbery was running FROM the men at some point in the chase, what of it? I am a 71 year old white woman and I would have run from three white men (two of them armed) in pick up trucks who were driving after me and trying to cut me off when I was walking down a residential street. Third, none of these men could have known that Arbery was on probation, and even if they did, they had no right to stop him.
Greg McMichaels has agued that he thought Arbery was a man who had burglarized a house in the area that was under construction. But the owner of the house had access to all the video from the site. The owner did not phone the police or become concerned about anything he saw on the videos. So, who does Greg McMichaels think he is to try to hold a man even if he entered the house site? Second, there is video of various people walking in and out of the house site. Why is Arbery considered different from the other people (white) who entered the construction site? Third, McMichaels has provided no evidence to demonstrate why he thought Arbery was one of the people on the video tape who had entered the house.
It is obvious that Gregory McMichaels still considered himself active law enforcement, able to chase, stop and detain other people at will. And, also McMichaels also thought he was perfectly within his rights to arm himself and chase down another human being. None of the men saw Arbery commit any crime. They saw a black man in a predominately white neighborhood and assumed he had committed a crime. They armed themselves and hunted him down and killed him in the street.
A GBI investigator testified that Travis McMichaels used the N word in the conversation that occurred with the police officers who arrived on the scene of Arbery’s killing.
On a Sunday afternoon, February 23, 2020, a retired police investigator, Greg McMichael, 64, sees a young black man, Ahmaud Arbery, 25, jogging down the street past McMichael’s house. As it has been described, McMichael goes on “high alert.” He calls out to his son Travis McMichael who also lives in the neighborhood, grabs his 357 Magnum and runs to his white pick up truck. Travis McMichael grabs a 12-gage shotgun and jumps into the driver’s seat.
Arbery is jogging down the street with no cell phone, no weapon, wearing jogging clothes.
The two men, the McMichaels, later claimed that they were on high alert because they recognized the young man. They (with amazing rapidity) formed a self-appointed posse to hunt the young man down.
Ahmaud Arbery was a jogger. He had jogged in the Satilla Shores neighborhood before. In fact, this was part of the reason the two men (joined by another) pursued him. The McMichaels claimed that Arbery had been observed on video tape, entering a house in the area which was under construction.
The owner of the house under construction had set up the video equipment and had also viewed the tapes. Nothing he saw on the tapes alarmed him. There was a curious white couple who entered the house, a group of white young people who carted off pieces of wood. Arbery has also been filmed wandering around the house and leaving without disturbing anything. The owner didn’t call 911. He didn’t even notify the authorities.
But, evidently, there was a buzz in the neighborhood about trespassers. I would be willing to bet my bottom dollar this buzz wasn’t about the white couple, or the white kids who stole from the site. It was about a young black man daring to act like any number of other people fulfilling their curiosity about the new construction.
This is the kind of “buzz” that leads to two white men arming themselves in a matter of minutes and hunting down a young black man on the street. This is the kind of “buzz” that gins up hyper vigilance for men who see themselves as protectors of white privilege. It makes them feel special, like heros, like warriors. They love it.
And, they thought they were perfectly justified in arming themselves, jumping into a truck and pursuing another human being, cutting off his escape and murdering him in the street.