AHMAUD ARBERY: MORAL PANIC

“A moral panic is a widespread fear, most often an irrational one, that someone or something is a threat to the values, safety, and interests of a community or society at large….Moral panics are often centered around people who are marginalized in society due to their race or ethnicity, class, sexuality, nationality, or religion. As such, a moral panic often draws on known stereotypes and reinforces them. It can also exacerbate the real and perceived differences and divisions between groups of people. Moral panic is well known in the sociology of deviance and crime and is related to the labeling theory of deviance.”

The prosecution should have had an academic testify about moral panic.  It is a familiar term, used all the time in sociology, especially among those who work in the fields of criminology and social deviance. 

The people in Satilla Shores worked themselves up into a moral panic about crime in the neighborhood.  It is relatively easy to create such a panic just by word of mouth.  Social media just makes the creation of a moral panics easier.  Once people started talking about, posting about, “intruders” in the neighborhood, and items being stolen, the narrative took on a life of it’s own.

Every unrecognized person becomes an “intruder.”  Every misplaced item becomes “stolen.” Even when individuals encounter facts which disprove the “intruder/crime” label, they rarely go around the neighborhood and tell everybody that they were mistaken.

Several witnesses in this trial admitted that while they had heard that the owner of the construction site thought he had had items stolen from his boat, they never heard that Larry English had driven that boat back and forth to various locations and wasn’t sure himself where these items had been stolen.  English never even told the police that the items were stolen in Satilla Shores.

It was brought out through testimony that strange cars were reported as being in the neighborhood only to later be identified as cars belonging to relatives of residents.  Items that were reported as stolen (including a supposedly loaded gun belonging to Travis McMichael) were left in unlocked vehicles.  One woman who testified whose purse was widely discussed, left her own purse in an unlocked car and it wasn’t stolen.  Somebody reported that their brother-in-law had a case of beer stolen out of a car parked in Satilla Shores.  (Folks, if you believe that one, you are really sheltered.)

What happens when people work themselves up into a moral panic is that every misplaced item becomes “stolen” and fodder for more gossip and speculation. 

RACISM AND AHMAUD ARBERY.

I watched every minute of the trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery. 

It was a weekday afternoon and the Medical Examiner took the stand.  I was tired, everybody seemed tired.  The Medical Examiner was not the most riveting witness.  He had retired and then decided he wanted to go back to work, so he came to Georgia and was hired as the Medical Examiner.  He was professional, soft spoken, and businesslike.

Like most people, probably, my mind was wandering.

Then, Bob Reuben, defense attorney for Travis McMichael asked the Medical Examiner (ME) if Ahmaud Arbery’s body had “long, dirty toenails.”  The ME said yes. 

What?  My head popped up.  Even my tired ears perked up.  What the devil was that about?

I was appalled.  What reason could Reuben have for asking such a question?  But, no more was made out of it.  I tweeted about it at the time.  What reason, I asked, other than just trying to make Ahmaud Arbery seem distasteful, could the defense have for asking this question?

I found out the answer on Monday. 

Laura Hogue, attorney for Greg McMichael, got up before the jury and blew every racist, fear mongering whistle imaginable.  Then, she commented that Ahmaud Arbery was wearing tennis shoes, without socks to “cover his long dirty toenails.”  Again, I was just appalled.  She drew out the words, speaking every one of them distinctly as if conveying meaning to the jury.  “…long……..dirty……toenails.”

This was no off-the-cuff remark.  It was intentional, prepared for by Reuben asking the question of the ME.  Hogue couldn’t have used in closing something that wasn’t entered into evidence. Reuben asked the question to get it in and Hogue followed up by using it in the closing.

Arbery’s parents were mortified.  The father left the courtroom and both parents commented on the courthouse steps about how disgusting it was for the defense to try to smear Ahmaud Arbery’s character.  I completely agree.

Lawyers on national television criticized the comment, but then defended Laura Hogue’s right to use it.  As one attorney commented, the defense attorney has the obligation to use whatever it takes to defend the client.  But, that is just bullshit.

It’s the kind of reasoning that allows lawyers to argue that they do not have any obligation to moral standards at all.  And, it is simply not true.  It’s the kind of argument that allows lawyers to sleep at night and be accepted at the Bar Association cocktail party.  It makes me furious.

No lawyer had the obligation to use racist hate mongering and smear tactics to defend their client. 

Hogue (female) has, of course, defended herself by saying that she was merely trying to demonstrate that Ahmaud Arbery was not a jogger.  I’ve got news for her.  Some people jog without socks.  And, even if you accept the no-socks defense as fair game, the “long, dirty toenails” was not.

Trust me, the same lawyers who will gin up racial hatred and dehumanizing stereotypes will also try to pick a fascist jury, arouse fascist sentiments and dehumanizing stereotypes to defend Nazis.  It’s only a matter of time.  And they will go on national television and defend themselves and their colleagues will defend them as well.

This behavior by the defense, and it does not only apply to Hogue (the female) was planned defense strategy. Reuben asked the ME the question to get the testimony on the record.  Hogue (the female) hit it out of the park.  All the defense attorneys in this case are part of the racist defense strategy utilized throughout the entire trial and they should all be condemned, shunned and disbarred.

Citizen’s Arrest Laws: Ahmaud Arbery

Citizen’s Arrest Law

  • The Glynn County Police Department initially made no arrests in the Arbery case.  Watching the body cam videos of the officers who arrived on the scene, several things are notable.
  • The officers never once thought they were in danger from the three men who had just hunted down another man and killed him in the street.
  • Even though these officers testified that officer safety was paramount in such scenes, they were obviously not in the least afraid of the three men.
  • None of the men were even searched to see if they had weapons.  They were not separated from each other when the statements at the scene were being taken.  One officer, supposedly interviewing Greg McMichael, allowed another man who has yet to be identified, to come up and interrupt his interview.  When the prosecutor asked this officer why he had allowed this to happen (contrary to all standard operating procedure) the officer said: “I can’t give you a good answer to that question.”
  • It was obvious that the officers who responded were clear that the McMichaels and Bryan were friends, colleagues, on the same side.
  • One of the officers even said, commiserating with the McMichaels, “I can imagine.”
  • When Greg McMichaels asked if the police were going to handcuff Travis (the shooter) the female officer says: “No. Why would we handcuff him?”  Why indeed.
  • Two of the three men were allowed to go home and “clean up” before driving themselves to the police station to give a statement.
  • Nobody who has any sense would believe that if the racial composition of this were changed (the hunters and killers were black and the victim was white) the outcome would have been the same.
  • Additionally, Greg McMichael was all over that crime scene.  He was photographed talking to everybody, Travis, Bryan, the coroner, the officers, Diego Perez, a neighbor.  He also let no opportunity go by in which he didn’t inform everybody that he was a former investigator for the DA’s office.
  • Greg McMichael’s race and his status as former law enforcement, did the trick. 
  • Later, after the DA recused herself (because Greg McMichael worked in her office), the case was passed on to the District Attorney in Waycross, Barnhill.
  • In a letter to the Glynn County Police Department, Mr. Barnhill, who eventually recused himself from the case, wrote that the men were in “hot pursuit” of Mr. Arbery, and that they had “solid first hand probable cause” that he was a “burglary suspect.  He therefore, recommended no arrests.
  • There were no arrests until the men themselves released the video of the killing.  One of the female neighbors who was a witness, testified that Travis McMichael talked to her about leaking the video.  But, when the released it, they didn’t get the “positive” reaction they had anticipated. 
  • These men actually thought that releasing the video of them murdering another human being was going to get a “positive response.”

Citizen’s Arrest Laws: Ahmaud Arbery

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.

It Astounds and Depresses Me: Ahmaud Arbery

I have spent two weeks watching every minute of the trial of the men who hunted down Ahmaud Arbery and killed him in the street.

I am reminded of something my mother said about the O.J. Simpson trial.  After watching for a week or so, she phoned me and said: “I think they should put them all in jail.”  “Who?” I asked.  “Everybody,” she replied.  “The judge, the lawyers, the police, O.J. Simpson, the media, everybody.”

As usual, she made me laugh.  But, I’m not doing much laughing at the moment.  I’m glad she’s not alive to have gone through four years of Trump, the rise of the fascist Republican party, and the flourishing of the worship of guns and violence.  And, I’m glad she’s not seeing the trial in the Ahmaud Arbery case, or the Rittenhouse fiasco. 

The trial of the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery and the Rittenhouse case reveal such a disturbing, depressing side of this country, I can hardly breathe.

The defense in the Ahmaud Arbery trial has been pure racist fear mongering.  Ahmaud Arbery was described over and over again as “creeping” and threatening.  Travis McMichael testified that there was something not right about him.  One defense attorney pointed out that Larry English’s 15-year-old daughter had been on his property.  What if, the lawyer exclaimed, she had run across Arbery?  “Who knows what would have happened.”  One of the defense attorneys actually asked the medical examiner (for no reason other than racist smear mongering) whether Ahmaud Arbery’s toenails were “long and dirty.’

An essential part of the case of the defense has been that the Satilla Shores neighborhood was in fear, under siege, under attack.  But, not even the prosecution pointed out in any systematic way that this “neighborhood on edge” was a classic case of what sociologists call a “moral panic.”

Through Facebook and neighborhood watch social media (and probably Fox News) the members of this little subdivision worked themselves up into a frenzy in which mothers were texting other mothers to “get the boys inside” there’s an intruder in the neighborhood and other alarmist messages.  One of the neighbors was spending all her time watching surveillance monitors and running armed into the front yard when she suspected something was happening.

You must understand that these people loved what they were doing.  They were playing a part in a self-created drama.  No matter how much they whine and complain about the danger they were in, they actively participated in ginning up that fear and exaggerating that danger.  They shared stories about “intruders” even when those intruders turned out to be relatives of their neighbors whose cars weren’t recognized.

A couple of witnesses even admitted that they never passed information along or heard information which indicated that these alarm notifications were groundless.  The initial “crime” that was talked about all over the neighborhood was the stealing of expensive equipment out of Larry English’s boat.  At least two witnesses claimed not to have ever known that English himself admitted that he had driven the boat back and forth to several locations and wasn’t sure himself where the equipment was stolen.

But, the neighbors all participated in and got pleasure from sounding the alarm, running armed into situations, telling themselves they were heroes protecting their children. One of the female neighbors testified in talking about one of these incidents something like: My children (elevated voice, MY CHILDREN) were feet away.  But, this same woman when she saw police cars with lights on in the neighborhood, drove with all her children in the car to the site of the murder.  This woman, so terrified of “intruders” that she freaked out when a man was walking around the neighborhood taking pictures, drove her own children to a murder scene and then complained about how shocking it was.

(Note: She also later went on a boat ride with one of the men who committed this murder).

This woman, who carried a gun herself, was at one point so afraid of what might happen that she thought the McMichaels were going to shoot her husband who was in a vacant house at night searching for an “intruder.” 

And we all know how the neighbors whittled down the available suspects who were in the neighborhood (a white couple, white children, a white homeless person, a white man who was arrested in the neighborhood by the federal police) to focus in on the one young black man seen inside the vacant house building site.  Well, they actually didn’t “whittle.”  They jumped with all the feet they had on this one person, sure that he had committed a crime.

The belief that neighborhood gossip and postings on Facebook are reality, the willingness of people to pass around this speculation as fact, the willingness of these people to run into the streets armed with guns willing to shoot somebody (as long as they are black), and the belief to this day that they did nothing wrong just astounds and depresses me.

Defense Strategy: Gough

15 November 2021

The State today called a witness from the State Crime Lab who testified to finding tee shirt fibers on the truck of William Bryan.  When the state asked about the ease with which fibers can be transferred from one surface to the other, Defense attorney Gough objected. 

Gough, in his usual, “let’s try to make a big deal out of nothing” strategy (to legal argument as well as life, it seems) tried to say that there was a “casym” of difference between what she testified to and what she wrote in her report.

She wrote in her report that she couldn’t exclude the possibility that the fibers were from Arbery’s tee shirt.  She said in court that could not definitely say that these fibers were from Ahmaud Arbery’s tee shirt.

When Gough implied that he had uncovered the “Perry Mason” discrepancy in testimony, the technician replied that the two statements were not mutually exclusive.  I really hope the jury is not hopelessly stupid.

When this witness took the stand, I started wondering how hard a person with a tee shirt on needed to come in contact with a truck door to leave fibers.  Gough, evidently saw this as a problem as well since he objected when the State asked about different surfaces and the ease with which fibers can be transferred.

Gough also once again used the hopelessly inadequate investigation by the Glynn County Police (GCPD) to plant doubt in the minds of the jurors.  He asked the technician if she had collected fibers from the grill of the truck, the front of the truck, the back of the truck.  There was no objection about the relevance of this questioning.

The investigation by the GCPD has been a repeated theme for all the defense attorneys, but especially for Gough.  They are using the fact that the GCPD virtually accepted every word said on the scene of the murder by the white defendants and didn’t investigate to create doubt.  And there is a lot of room to maneuver here.  GCPD did not separate the defendants; they did not search the defendants.  They did not include the trucks in the crime scene and allowed at least Greg McMichaels to drive his own truck to the police station.

Again and again, the defense has used this against the state.  This evidence wasn’t collected, this part of the crime scene wasn’t preserved.  For example, Gough asked if the entire path of Arbery’s run was checked for evidence.  He was implying that Arbery had a weapon that was not recovered.  The defense attorneys are trying to encourage the jury to have doubt of guilt because the police failed to do an adequate investigation.  It’s the O.J. Simpson defense. 

Also, the defense attorneys have used the fact that the GCPD didn’t make any arrests as an indication that the men weren’t guilty.  The argument is that they weren’t arrested at the time, so there was no reason to arrest them.  I suppose, the extension of that thinking is that since “the media” has transformed this into a case about race, the men were only arrested because of inappropriate pressure by “civil rights activists.” (And we have Jesse Jackson sitting in the courtroom).

Jurors were questioned and some eliminated because they had supported the “social justice movement” (an ill defined term) in any way. 

There are people on Twitter who believe that there is a chance of getting a guilty verdict in this case even with eleven white jurors.  I am not that optimistic.  Gough was a public defender in this county for decades.  If nothing else, he knows his jurors and he is clearly laying a map for racist thinking in this case, providing pegs for the jury to put their racist Col. Sanders hats on.

“And you took that as a green light.” Ahmaud Arbery case and Kevin Gough

Blog 11/12/21

At the end of the trial day yesterday, defense counsel Kevin Gough expressed his usual consternation on finding out that Al Sharpton had been sitting in the courtroom in the Ahmaud Arbery trial.

Gough, in typical fashion he has displayed throughout the trial, popped off and tried to make an enormous issue out of nothing.  Gough maintained that the judge should bar Sharpton and other high profile black preachers from the courtroom.  Gough specifically said that the presence of Sharpton was “intimidating.”

“We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here,” Gough spouted, making a fool out of himself yet again.  Various web sites posted photographs of his co-counsel putting her head in her hands as he spoke.

Gough, not having said enough had to use the phrase “these people” referring to exactly whom we don’t know.

Gough talked about Rev. Jesse Jackson as well and then finished up by saying that “If a bunch of folks came in here dressed like Col. Sanders with white masks sitting in the back…” people would protest. I am not at all sure what Col. Sanders has to do with anything, but that’s Kevin Gough.

It breaks my heart to know that Gough was the Glynn county Public Defender for years.  He is such a disastrously bad lawyer I cannot imagine how many poor people are in prison because of his incompetence.  Every person who went to prison after being defended by this man should have a new trial.  It is just one more instance of total incompetence and corruption by the Glynn County government.

Gough, after other defense attorneys went to the mics to denounce his statement, apologized today just in case he had inadvertently insulted anybody.

And on he went as he has been going for decades.

After a particularly long and inane cross examination of the GBI investigator who took over the Arbery case today, it occurred to me that one of Gough’s strategies was to be so confusing that the witness appears confused.  He then hopes that the witness will look more confused to the jury than he does.  In this particular case, he is hoping that the young black female prosecutor will object to his confusion and therefore look like a bitch.

I just cannot imagine that this man has gotten away with this incompetence for decades.  But, as one of the commentators after today’s performance pointed out, it could be that Gough is a person the jury identifies with. The commentator was pointing out that the GBI agent came off as smooth and professional.  The commentator posited that the jury might well identify with the shambling, stumbling Gough rather than the outsider, the smooth, polished, intelligent GBI agent.  I don’t know. I find it hard to believe that anybody could watch Kevin Gough, who has questioned whether Joe Biden is president in court, and think he is anything but a disaster.

Gough is like a bad actor who loves to act and has no idea that he is bad, really bad.  I have seen hundreds of them.  Now that I think about it, the entire “Gong Show” was based on such people.

Gough depends on making a lot of noise, but rarely has any legitimate legal point, and also seems completely disorganized.  Today, he seemed unable to fix on any one theory of his case.  He just kept throwing out option after option – Bryan was an idiot, Bryan had learning disabilities, Bryan was trapped by the GBI agent into saying things he didn’t mean, Bryan couldn’t remember what happened on the day of the killing and the GBI agent had taken advantage of him in some way, Bryan was only a witness, the GBI didn’t immediately arrest Bryan, throw it against the wall….

It did occur to me, however, that Gough had rather cleverly set up one of his defenses in advance.  When Bryan went to the GBI to be questioned, Gough asked the GBI agent to come out of the room so he (Gough) could explain what a hard time Bryan had following and explaining what happened in narrative form.  Gough essentially told the GBI agent that he had to talk down to Bryan, explain everything to him directly.

So, the GBI goes back in the interrogation room and explains things to Bryan as if he were a child, directly and simply.  And then Gough gets up in court and accuses the GBI agent of putting words in Bryan’s mouth by directly explaining things to him.  Gough set that one up, deliberately, methodically, and ahead of time.

But, I think Gough had not counted on the steely nature of this GBI agent.  Gough started down a path of condemning the GBI agent for setting up a reenactment where the GBI agent drove the truck and asked Bryan to tell him what happened.  Gough had made a point of telling the agent that Bryan was basically slow and he had to break down things to him and that Bryan had difficulty explaining things in a narrative fashion.  Then, when the GBI agent set up the reenactment with himself driving, and Bryan telling him what to do, Gough attacks the agent for not having Bryan drive the truck.

Gough berated the agent saying, you just had to have this reenactment  didn’t you, implying that the agent had forced the poor ignorant Bryan into doing this reenactment.  The agent calmly fired back, you were the one who demanded the reenactment because you said Bryan couldn’t talk through this in a narrative form.  Gough, didn’t skip a beat.  And you took that as a “green light” he fired back.  That’s my favorite quote of the day, perhaps of the week.

“You did this.”

“You told me to do it.”

“And you took that as a green light.”

It was Greg McMichael Who Controlled the Crime Scene

Greg McMichael was all over that crime scene.

Immediately after the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in the street in Glynn County Georgia by Gregory Michael and his son Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael (a former police investigator) took over the crime scene investigation.  There is little evidence that the police officers who arrived at the scene did much besides follow Gregory McMichael’s suggestions.

They allowed him to take over the situation.

For example, G. McMichael was not separated from the other men involved in the crime.  He repeatedly told his son (who pulled the trigger) “You had to do it.  You had to do it.”  In other words, say this is self defense, boy.

Police arrived within minutes of the shooting, but Greg McMichael and Travis Michael and the buddy in the chase, William Bryan, were allowed to roam around the crime scene, talk to each other and to other people, including witnesses like Diego Perez.  Their trucks were never searched.  The trucks they had used to chase down Arbery and hem him in were never even made part of the crime scene.

Even though police were on the scene, Gregory McMichael can be seen taking to his son, William Bryan and Diego Perez a witness to the crime.  Even when an officer was trying to interview Greg McMichael, an unidentified white male just strolled up and started talking to McMichael.  When the prosecutor asked the Glynn County Police (GCP) officer why he had allowed this, he said: “I don’t have a good answer for that.”

When the same officer was talking to someone from the Coroner’s office, Greg McMichael walked up and interrupted and started telling her what, in his version, happened.  The officer did not stop this.

No.  The officer did not have a good answer for why he allowed  McMichael to talk to other people and come up and interrupt a conversation the officer was trying to have with the coroner.  And, the GCP still don’t have a good answer for why they failed to secure the crime scene, allowed the assailants to leave the scene, change clothes and eventually go home.

In the aftermath of an event in which three men chased down a young black man because they thought he might have stolen something, thought he might have hurt somebody, thought he was up to no good, thought he might be on drugs, the GCP made no arrests, detained none of the men involved.  They interviewed them and sent them home.

When Greg McMichael was being interviewed by the GCP he directed them about what to do.  He told them they needed to go out and canvas the neighborhood because Arbery might have gone in somebody’s house.  Gregory McMichaels says in his statement: “he might have gone in somebody’s house.”  Officers, instructed by a man who was involved in the crime, dutifully went out and canvassed the neighborhood to see who else thought Arbery had committed a crime.  In the meantime, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis, went home. 

They stayed at home and would never have been prosecuted if the GBI hadn’t taken over the case. 

The Damn Victim: Ahmaud Arbery Case

What happened in Satilla Shores in late 2019 and 2020, was what sociologists call a “moral panic.” 

Neighbors in an almost exclusively white neighborhood started exchanging stories of supposedly stolen property, break ins.  They posted these stories on the internet, specifically on a website that was a neighborhood sharing site.

They were drawn in and drew other people into a dramatic narrative.  There was danger in the neighborhood. 

People just like drama, most of them.  And, this is a culture where crime drama is big business.  Just think of the amount of money that is made off marketing crime, true and fiction.

There are entire TV networks that depend on crime for their cash stream.  Think about Court TV, Headline News and all the reality crime shows like Cops.  Think about the fictional crime series, Law and Order which I think is in it’s 100th season.  People love a good crime drama.

In Satilla Shores, in late 2019 and into 2020, there was a great crime drama shaping up.  The problem was that it was largely in the minds of the residents. 

Larry English was building a house in Satilla Shores.  He had been working on that house for over two years.  The house was framed in, but without doors and windows at least in the front of the house.  English did not live there.  He lived in Douglasville and commuted back and forth to Brunswick to work on his house.

The house was completely open. There were no trespassing signs on it.  There was no fence, there was essentially nothing to prevent any remotely curious person from coming in and walking around.

And, curious people did. 

Larry English had had his boat parked at the house, in the opened RV garage.  One day, when English got up on a ladder, he noticed that items had been stolen out of his boat.  He then began telling neighbors that these items had been stolen.  The problem was that English had not always had the boat parked at the property at Satilla Shores.  He had taken the boat back and forth from Douglasville (and I presume other places).  So, English had no idea that the property was stolen from the location at Satilla Shores.

But, either English didn’t make that clear to the neighbors, or they didn’t want to hear that.  They started buzzing about things being stolen, intruders who might possibly be in the neighborhood.

Also during this time period, a neighbor down the street, Travis McMichael, left his gun in his truck, parked outside his house.  His father, Greg, went out to move the truck and left it unlocked.[1]  The gun was reportedly stolen.  This also set off a buzz in the neighborhood.  A gun had been stolen, high drama.

I do not know, but I can imagine that in this circumstance, every other item that went missing in the neighborhood came to be yet another potentially stolen item, taken by the mysterious intruder, hyping the danger in the minds of the community.

A woman whose parents lived in the neighborhood testified on November 10, 2021 that her elderly parents were concerned about the amount of crime in the neighborhood and were therefore selling their house.  But, when you look at the official Glynn County data, this crime wave does not appear.  There was only one officer assigned to the entire area and it was considered a “low call” area for the police. [2]

But anyone can imagine how this worked.  The drama grew.  Items went missing.  Neighbors had something to talk about, post about.  All of a sudden, people had a mission, an endeavor that was larger than all of them and that united them in a common cause.

In steps Ahmaud Arbery, doing what I and countless people have done hundreds of times before, and walks into the open construction site to look around.  I want to make clear here.  I grew up in Georgia.  I live in Georgia now.  I have gone in a number of partially completed houses while out on a walk.  I have also gone in repeatedly to a house that was completed and had a door that was unlocked.  But, I am a 70-year-old white woman.  I am not a young black man with “dred locks” “fuzzy hair” “tatoos all down both arms” “colored”.

In the middle of all this drama, the perfect victim walked in.  Every racist joke and stereotyped reaction came to play to home in on this one young black man.  “Ya got ‘em?”  That’s what William Bryan shouted out to the two McMichael men in their truck following Arbery down the street.

The crime drama was about to be solved by two, then three, self imagined heroes.   “Ya got ‘em?”  Oh hell yeah, we got him.  These three men did what thousands and thousands of white men have done over the years in this country.  They targeted a young black man, armed themselves and hunted him down, they cornered him “like a rat.” [3] And then they killed him.

These men saw themselves as the avenging angels in this story.  You can still tell by looking at them that they feel that they are ones who are aggrieved here.  They are the ones who have been wronged.

Travis McMichael stood over the body of Ahmaud Arbery and expostulated “Damn Nigger.” [4]  Travis McMichael was swearing at Ahmaud Arbery, and/or about Ahmaud Arbery.  That N made me do this.  It’s all his fault.  And that’s exactly what the defense attorneys in this case are arguing.

This is all Arbery’s fault.  If he hadn’t been in the neighborhood.  If he hadn’t been curious.  If he hadn’t run.  If he had talked to them.  If he hadn’t reached into his pants.  If he hadn’t run at Travis.  If he had stopped.  If he hadn’t been “hauling ass,” nothing would have ever happened.  Everything would be alright.

White men commit the most unspeakable crimes and then blame it on the damn victim.


[1] Much has been made during the trial by the Defense that Greg McMichael is a trained law enforcement officer. Bur, this trained law enforcement officer left a gun in an unlocked truck outside his home. Any neighborhood child could have come and taken the gun and shot himself or others with it.

[2] When the Prosecution moved to place these official crime statistics into evidence, the defense objected.  The official statistics were “hearsay” claimed the defense even though this data was submitted regularly to the FBI and became part of national crime statistics.  The prosecution was required to “certify” the information.  We do not know how this happens or if the Prosecution will try to put the crime statistics on the record again.

[3] This is a direct quote from a statement made by Greg McMichael.

[4] I have never written that word before in my life and I have never said it unless I was describing another person’s statement.  I grew up in the South.  I know what that word means.