Tag Archives: McMichael

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.

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.

Ahmaud Arbery: Jury Selection Notes

  • Defense attorneys wanted to prevent the media from having access to the answers of potential jurors during the jury selection process.
  • Since members of the public not involved in the case are not allowed in the courtroom, this essentially would prevent the public from knowing about the jury selection process.
  • The judge “compromised” by allowing two reporters to take “notes” during the individual sequestered questioning of the potential jurors. These notes have consisted of almost nothing every day.
  • Trials are supposed to be public.  Public scrutiny of the trial process is an essential check on the process.  Glynn County, however, has held the trial in a normal courtroom, completely ignoring the importance of the case.
  • Court TV is supposed to be line-streaming the trial, but after the first day of jury selection, they have moved on to other trials.
  • This situation effectively blocks the public from examining one of the most important parts of the trial.
  • Citizens in a democratic society should not be shielded from answering questions when they serve on a jury.  Citizens should not be afraid or ashamed of answering questions in public about their views and opinions.
  • One criminal defense lawyer on Court TV commented that she felt questions like “Do you think displaying the former state flag of Georgia is racist” were “lazy.”  An attorney from Georgia maintained that lawyers in Georgia have to start with a general question and then go onto a specific question in individual questioning.
  • When I used to teach, I used an article entitled “Is it Possible to Pick a non-racist Jury?”  The jest of the article was that asking blunt questions like “Do you consider this or that racist” were not useful.  A much more useful way of getting at racial prejudices was to ask, for example, if jurors had ever had a member of a racial minority in their house.
  • On Tuesday, the state objected to the defense attorney for Travis McMichael using the fact that T. McMichael had worked for the Coast Guard in asking potential jurors if they knew Travis.  The Assistant DA argued that the attorney was trying to introduce character evidence into the jury selection process.
  • A criminal defense lawyer interviewed later in the day pointed out that Assistant DA, Dunikowski, is normally an appellate lawyer and she is particularly sensitive to protecting the process from later appeals.
  • While I am sure that attorneys regularly introduce their clients with their arm slung over their shoulder, this seemed particularly hokey yesterday when it was done.  Travis McMichael stood up (cleaned up to look like a law clerk) and the attorney stood next to him hugging him like he was Travis’ father.  Maybe people fall for that kind of cheap showmanship, but I doubt it.
  • My impression of Sheffield is that he is an expert at introducing minute signals to the jury that slide under the level of something that would be successfully objected to, but which are nevertheless intended to leave a message.
  • For example, when Sheffield was questioning potential jurors yesterday, he would add a comment after he got a show of hands.  “Very good, thank you.”  He would say after the response to some questions and not others.
  • This may seem like a small point, and I am sure he would argue that he was just trying to establish rapport with the jury pool, but those affirmative responses can influence a juror.
  • When I was a teenager, the brother of a friend was a graduate student and he sat each of us down individually and asked questions about an interaction between two people.  He would respond positively (like “Very good, thank you.”) to responses to some questions but remain silent after the responses to other questions.
  • When he had finished the interview he asked if I knew what he was doing.  “You were responding positively when I answered questions supporting actor A, but not respond when I gave answers supporting actor B.  this was in fact exactly what he was doing.
  • The point of the experiment was to demonstrate that psychiatrists and psychologists could mold the answers of their clients by small positive or negative responses.
  • Sheffield asked if there were any negative feelings about criminal defense lawyers and no one raised their hands, he said: “This is very encouraging.”
  • I don’t see the need for Sheffield to make any evaluative comment in response to the juror responses.  But, I also don’t see the state objecting to it.  It is just too subtle.
  • Assistant DA Dobronski was already getting criticism for objecting to the identification of Travis McMichael as a former member of the Coast Goard.  One of the attorneys on Court TV noted that repeated objections to things this small would annoy the judge and slow down the trial.
  • The judge, while repeatedly claiming that he will take all the time needed, also repeatedly reminds people that they need to speed up.
  • He had initially thought that the attorneys could get through 40 potential jurors a day.  They have gotten through less than 20.

The Attorneys

  • The Assistant DA who is doing the jury selection had concerns about biases against the prosecutors because they came from outside of Glynn County.
  •  

GEORGIA KILLING: Aubrey

video

This is a video of the cars parked along HWY 17 in Brunswick , Georgia.  These brave people gathered to protest the government inaction in the case of the killing of Ahmaud Aubrey.  These people gathered in front of the house of Gregory McMichael who along with his son armed himself and pursued Aubrey through their neighborhood, finally shooting and killing him.

When a team from CNN was later filming at the same location, automatic weapon fire was heard in the background.

The two men were finally arrested after two months of inaction and shifting the responsibility for the case around rural Georgia.