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.”
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.
One of the ironic things about the Ahmaud Arbery case is that because of the shoddy, good-ole-boy “investigation” of his killing, the defense is busily planting doubt in the minds of the jurors.
This “investigation” was carried out by the Glynn County Police Department which has a history of corruption and questionable police tactics. The investigation of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery is just the most recent in a long list of corrupt practices.
In April 2019, Action News Jax (Jacksonville, Florida) reported that an internal investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) had uncovered misconduct within the Glynn-Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team. This investigation led to the unit being disbanded.
Narcotics Enforcement Teams are not disbanded without good reason, and not without an enormous amount of pressure being exerted on the law enforcement agency.
As with the Arbery case, the GBI had to be called in to “investigate after Chief of Staff Brian Scott was notified of reported inappropriate behavior involving an officer assigned to the GBNET” (the drug squad).
A report on the internal investigation included findings that Investigator James Cassada was involved in sexual relationships with two confidential informants (CIs) and had been conducting these sexual relationships since 2017. Cassandra resigned in February (2019) at the initial phase of the investigation.
Not only was Cassada having sex with his informants, he told another investigator not to pursue drug charges against his CI. One of Cassandra’s CIs told investigators that Cassada had asked her how much it would cost him to have sex with her. The CI said she and Cassandra had had sex twice in his department issued vehicle.
There were also allegations in the report that Cassada had used cocaine and methamphetamine and supplied the drugs to CIs, but there was insufficient evidence to support the claims.
The Police Department, according to the JAX reporting, announced the commander of GBNET was facing disciplinary action for his conduct. We do not know at this time whether this disciplinary action was ever carried out.
According to the JAX report:
Three officers from the GCPD came to Capt. Davis Hassler, who was commander between 2016 and 208, with information about the misconduct, but he never opened an investigation.
During the interview, Hassler denied having any knowledge of the allegations. He said if an employee had come to him with the allegations, he would have investigated them.
Hassler announced he now plans to resign and retire.
A joint investigative unit will be established in the future identified as the Brunswick-Glynn Special Investigative Unit. The unit will conduct investigations concerning narcotic crimes, prostitution, human trafficking, illegal gambling, criminal street gangs and alcoholic violations.
At the end of the JAX article about the report on the Drug Unit, this sentence appeared:
Action News Jax reached out to the District Attorney’s Office to find out how many cases could be affected. We’re still waiting on a response.
This is the DA’s office lead by Jackie Johnson who has herself now been indicted for her handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case.
I’ve spent a week and a half grumbling and grinding my teeth about the jury selection in the Ahmaud Arbery case.
Defense attorneys in this case wanted to shield the questioning of the jurors from the public entirely. The judge, in what is called a “compromise” ruling, allowed two reporters at the time to listen in on individual questioning of potential jurors and take “notes.” There is no transcript that is released to the public and as far as I know the general public is not allowed to sit in the courtroom and listen. *
Jurors are being called in 20 at the time. First they are asked general questions by the Judge, the state prosecutor and each of the three defense teams. Then, jurors are moved to another room and individual jurors are questioned out of hearing of the other jurors.
It is this last part of jury selection that the judge decided to shield from the public and only allow reporters (two at the time) to sit in and listen to.
These reporters supposedly release their notes not to the general public, but to other journalists. So, what we the public have been left with every day are a few quotes from the potential jurors and some demographic information, that a couple of reporters think are important.
This is completely unhelpful for those of us in the public who feel we have a Constitutional right to observe pubic trials, especially ones this important and controversial.
As Shaun King notes in “The Breakdown” podcast, (10/18/21) there are a lot of reasons to worry about the jury selection process, especially in a state like Georgia in a rural area like Glynn County.
As King notes, blacks are eliminated from the jury pool before we ever get to a trial. For various reasons (such as involvement with the criminal justice system) many are not included on voter roles at all and therefore don’t appear on the lists of people who can serve as potential jurors.
Compound this with the questions defense attorneys are being allowed to ask potential jurors (Do you support the Black Lives Movement in any way?) and anyone with a brain would be concerned with black jurors (or even white jurors who have a social justice consciousness) who will make it onto the jury.
The questions about supporting (in any way) the Black Lives Movement, or what defense attorneys are calling the “social justice movement” have been allowed by the judge, again in what is being called a “compromise.” Jurors are not being asked if they voted for Trump or support Trump “in any way.”
And, remember these are questions that are being asked in the general questioning. We know about them. We do no know the questions nor the answers being allowed in the individual juror questioning.
Trials are public for a reason. Democracy works when the public can oversee the workings of government and the court system. We aren’t supposed to have secret trials in this country, but if jury selection can be conducted in secret, jury selection one of the most important parts of any trial, then the public can’t perform an oversight function.
In fact, the jurors in this trial are being treated as if they are flowers that might wilt and die at any moment. The media keeps talking about preserving their “anonymity.” We aren’t supposed to have anonymous jurors.
In the little town where I grew up, people were called for jury duty and were questioned. They answered supposedly as truthfully as they could. If they were embarrassed about their answers, they were embarrassed and needed to do some thinking about why they were embarrassed. Other members of the community were allowed to think badly about them for their answers. Members of the community had a right not to shop at their stores, or hire them for jobs depending on their answers. This is what it is like to participate in a community. If people are that embarrassed about their views then they damn well better think about asking themselves why.
People, citizens in a democratic society should be willing to stand up and say what they believe and take the consequences. That is what being a member of the community is about. We are a community, not a collection of secretive, units, obsessed with keeping our opinions and attitudes hidden from others. This is absurd.
But, the officials running this trial seem to think that jurors are fragile flowers who must be protected from giving an “unpopular” (not to say unjust) verdict. Defense attorneys have moved to have the few people outside the court every day removed across the street in a “First Amendment Free” zone. Folks, give me a break here, the United States is a “First Amendment Free” zone, not some parking lot designated as such by the Glynn County Sheriff’s office.
(Don’t get me started on Glynn County.)
To add to the problems caused by almost completely excluding the public from the jury questioning, for the past two days, the microphones in the court room have been turned down so low that even most of the general questioning cannot be understood. For the past two days of jury selection when the judge or the attorneys turn their heads a fraction of an inch to the left or right, or look down, there is unintelligible sound. No phone calls to the Clerk of the Court have been returned.
It might be useful to remember here that these three men are being tried by a county system that tried to cover up the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. A Glynn County police officer went to Mr. Arbery’s home and told his mother that he had been killed in the process of a burglary (in the middle of the afternoon). There were no arrests for two months after the killing and those only occurred because one of the perpetrators was stupid enough to think that releasing the video of the killing would help him. The GBI only took the case away from the County after this video went viral and the state of Georgia looked so racist and corrupt that they were shamed into taking the case away from Glynn County.
A few other facts you might want to remember when considering that Glynn County is trying these men:
The County DA in charge when the killing took place was such a close friend of one of the men (Gregory McMichaels) that he phoned her at the scene and told her (on a first name basis) that he needed advice.
The Glynn County Police Department did not make any arrests at the scene.
First responders (from the GlynnCounty Police) did not even offer assistance or try to see if Arbery was still alive when they first arrived.
Officers repeatedly reassured the assailants that everything was alright and that they (the officers) could “only imagine” the terrible situation the men had faced.
The DA (jackie Johnson, for whom Greg McMichaels had worked) recused herself and immediately phoned another DA and had him offer an opinion about the shooting to the police.
This DA (George Barnhill, Sr.) told the Glynn County police that no arrests were necessary since the men had acted in self defense.
Then when the case was taken over by the GBI, Barnhill, Sr. was given the case. Johnson did not tell the state attorney (who appointed Barnhill) that she had talked to Barnhill or that he had issued a letter absolving the men of responsibility.
Johnson has denied recommending Barnhill, Sr. to the office of the State Attorney.
Evidently when Barnhill, Sr. took the case, he also did not tell the state attorney that he had issued the letter.
The Glynn County Police Department has a history of corruption and brutality.
Their Drugs Unit was disbanded, the police chief was removed and indicted. They also killed a young woman in a hail of bullets because she did not immediately stop her car when they ordered her to do so.
The Glynn County Police continued to employ a man who was actively stalking a former partner and bragging about it to other officers.
This officer went to the former partner’s home, murdered her and her friend and then killed himself.
This is just what I know and I don’t keep close track of the goings on in Glynn County.
A new police chief has just been hired by the Glynn County Police who lied on his application for the job.
Members of the Glynn County Commission (voted out of office recently) prevented the citizens of Glynn County from even having the opportunity to vote on whether to disband the Glynn County Police.
One of the Commissioners who was central in preventing this vote from taking place was quoted in the media as saying “That’s not how it works.”
No, that’s not how it works. Citizens of Glynn County aren’t allowed to control their own police department.
The trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery hasn’t even started yet and I am furious, incensed, disgusted by the way in which the trial is being handled by the Judge, Glynn County and the media.
*Phone calls to the Glynn County Clerk of the Court to complain about the microphone levels have not been returned.
The BBC is reporting that women staging a protest in Afghanistan were met with pepper spray by the authorities. They were demanding the right to work. Taliban leaders have said that women will not be given senior roles in the new government (BBC 9/4/1).
Fighting is still going on in the Panjshir Valley (BBC, 9/4/21).
The new caretaker government has been announced in Afghanistan including a new Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior (wanted by the FBI). There were no women or outsiders appointed (BBC, 9/8/21).
Protests of Pakistan’s support of the Taliban. Taliban fired in the air in response to the protests (BBC, 9/8/21).
The UN says that basic services are collapsing in Afghanistan (CNN, Podcast, 9/8/21)
9/11 planner, Shalid Sheikh Mohammed, is still awaiting trial. Lawyers for Mohammed are still awaiting documents. They argue that the government is trying to hide evidence of torture before Mohammed was moved to Guantanamo. Had he been tried in a normal court; this would have been over a decade ago. It is possible that there will never be a trial (Apple News, 9/8/21).
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.
On a Sunday afternoon, February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery jogged through a neighborhood in Glynn County, Georgia. He had jogged in the neighborhood before.
But, this jog ended with a retired police investigator and his son, Greg and Travis McMichaels, jumping into their pick up truck and pursuing Arbery. They shot Arbery in the street and killed him.
For nearly three months, the police, prosecutors, and press DID NOTHING. Only when a video of the killing surfaced on social media was national attention focused on the case and the total lack of action about the murder.
Another man in the Satilla shores neighborhood phoned 911 about Arbery jogging. After a few seconds, the caller said: “He’s running now” referring to Arbery. The 911 operator asked: “What is he doing?” Then, she asked: “I just need to know what he was doing wrong.”
Every citizen of this country needs to listen to the podcast about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery based on an investigation conducted by members of Emory University.
On the internet: Video after video of police officers behaving abusively, escalating situations, cursing at people, threatening them, intimidating them, killing them, all over the country. CNN has an expert on to explain that our brains work differently when we’re under stress.
The “stress professor” and the Vanderbilt guy both agreed that we need more training for police.
I’ve been involved in criminology in one way or another for fifty years. I did research on female police partners and male use of deadly force in the 70s. Training is not the problem. Minneapolis, for example, spent a small fortune on training.
Police culture will win out over all the training and policy in the world.
If you look at the Derek Chauvin case as an example, Chauvin didn’t take the stand because basically his defense is that he didn’t do anything wrong and that he would do it again if he had the chance.
It appears that Alexander Navalny is dangerously close to dying. In the past, he told colleagues he couldn’t understand people using hunger strikes to advance their cases. It seemed, to him, merely a way to hand the state a tool. But, evidently the situation for him in prison was so bad, he resorted to using his own body as a tool to try to get help. It’s unlikely to work. The world stands by and watches.
Gary Kasperov, former Russian chess player and current activist, pointed out on Twitter that the West continues to deal with Putin as if he were some quasi-democratic head of state. Kasperov noted that Biden’s decision to turn around a ship to try to appease Putin was the wrong tactic. Autocrats, kleptocrats, authoritarians view offers of compromise as weakness.
Biden deals with Putin the way the Democrats deal with the Republicans. When will they learn that authoritarians cannot be compromised with or appealed to?
Joe Scarborough, who helped elect Trump, is now back to his rabid Republican heckling. It is difficult for me to understand how anybody could think that Scarborough was an ally. He and the dreadful Mika were up Trump’s ass until Trump threatened to reveal their adulterous affair. People need to remember we have Mika on tape asking Trump’s permission to ask him a “hard” question. Morning Joe as outlived its usefulness if it ever had any. It belongs in the Chris Matthews trash bag of programming. MSNBC needs to do better.
While I’m on MSNBC, the nightly news programs continue to use Jason “island of misfit black girls” Johnson as a commentator. He lost his job at the Root for his nasty, racist comment about the women who worked for Bernie Sanders, and MSNBC punished him with a few weeks off air. But, he’s back now with a vengeance. Joy Reid loves him because she actively worked to destroy Sanders’ campaign. The lesson here? You can say anything and get away with it if it’s about Bernie Sanders or his campaign.
The new feral cat we are socializing woke me up at 3:30 in the morning because his food bowls were empty. I’m wide awake, but he’s back asleep, stretched out at the foot of the bed on a quilt. They learn so quickly. Cats are the masters of psychological manipulation. His name is Oliver Wendell Holmes.