Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

The Arbery trial / Follow-up: Various

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To continue the recent discussions of race and treatment in the courtroom, etc. (cf. [1], [2]):

Today, we saw a near complete conviction of the three accused in the Ahmaud Arbery shooting. (Travis and Gregory McMichael, William Bryan. By “the shooter” I refer to Travis McMichael.)

At a minimum, this speaks against the claimed-by-the-Left pervasive problem with anti-Black judgments (juries, judges, police, whatnot). It might even speak in favor of anti-White or anti-Right judgments (etc.).

I have not followed this trial anywhere near as closely as the Rittenhouse trial, and I do find the behavior of the convicted potentially* much more troublesome than anything that Rittenhouse did. In particular, the type of “provocation” reasoning that (rightfully) failed against Rittenhouse might very well have worked here**—that Arbery might never have grabbed the gun, had he not been followed and spoken too for a prolonged time before the final scene. (Note also the asymmetry that Rittenhouse was trying to get away from the persons that he shot, while here the person shot was the one trying to get away.) Moreover, there might have been lesser crimes (cf. below) involved in a more legitimate manner than for Rittenhouse. At a minimum, there was a lot of stupidity on display.

*The usual disclaimers and reservations like “I was not there” apply.

**With obvious reservations for the different jurisdictions.

Still, I had expected the two non-shooters to be cleared of at least the murder charges. (While the shooter presented a trickier call—at least, based on my level of knowledge.)

This is not at all what happened. Instead, they were deemed guilty almost throughout, including some oddities. A large portion of this is explained by the absurdity that is felony murder—i.e. commit a felony that, even inadvertently, leads to a death and you are a murderer. As can be seen here, the consequences can be entirely out of proportion. Laws concerning felony murder must be removed or reduced to a more reasonable scope.* I am also strongly puzzled over the multiple counts of felony murder per convict, as only one person died.** More generally, as with Chauvin, I find it annoying with multiple convictions for the same crime. (Not to be confused with multiple convictions for different crimes during the same overall event, say false imprisonment at time X and murder at X + two minutes).

*For instance, if someone brings a gun to a bank robbery, even without the intention of more than threatening, a resulting death from an intended warning shot might be a reasonable case of a modified felony murder, because a willingness to kill can be presumed in a different manner than with the Arbery case. (This while deliberately killing someone with the same gun would be regular murder.) However, extending culpability to other participants would, even in this scenario, be very disputable.

**I have not investigated the details of this, but would speculate that each separate felony led to a separate felony-murder charge.

So far, we have mostly issues with unsound laws, not something that involves race.

However, if we look at malice murder (of which only the shooter was convicted), I have considerable doubts. The linked-to page claims:

Malice murder is a criminal offense in the U.S. state of Georgia, committed when a homicide is done with express or implied malice.

[…]

Express malice is “that deliberate intention unlawfully to take the life of another human being which is manifested by external circumstances capable of proof.” Malice is implied when “no considerable provocation appears and where all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.”

I cannot see malice, per this definition, as sufficiently clearly present (remember: beyond reasonable doubt) that a conviction would be possible.* On the contrary, if this had been the case, just shooting Arbery as he moved along would have been easily possible. On the outside, I could imagine a situation where someone tried to provoke an apparent self-defense situation in order to shoot with plausible deniability, but this is far-fetched, would be very hard to prove, and seems like far more planning and intelligence than plausible with the current trio and in the comparatively short time-frame.

*But I caution that courts often ignore the “plain text” reading in favor of a slippery slope of diverging precedent. A Georgia lawyer might see it differently.

On the contrary, I see a very large risk that race and/or political opinions* played a greater part than the events and what was plausible to assume from the events.

*I have not studied their opinions in detail, but my superficial impression is that these were legitimately unkosher. (To be contrasted with e.g. the fake claims against Rittenhouse or the general “all Republicans are evil” attitude shown by some Leftists.) Still, the opinions should only be of tangential importance, and only play in where it is important for the case.

Speaking as a non-lawyer, something like manslaughter would have been a more reasonable charge, with “guilty”/“not guilty” hinging on how a self-defense claim played out with the jury.

Other convictions, e.g. for false imprisonment, might very well be justified. (Here I would need a deeper study of the details, but I suspect that, had I been in Arbery’s shoes and had the police arrived before the shooting, I would have filed legal charges of my own.)

Finally, on the race of Arbery: From what I have seen so far, he was not targeted because he was Black, but because he was very legitimately suspected of repeated criminal activities in the neighborhood. Indeed, there is a very fair chance that he actually had just engaged in such activities at the time. (I do not remember whether something conclusive was said on this.)

Excursion on calling the police:
Much of this might hinge on whether the claim, by the shooter, was true that he genuinely believed that the police had been called at a very early stage. If true, it puts a potentially different light on many behaviors; if false, they look very odd indeed.

Excursion on what I thought happened:
I suspect that the convicted were more lacking in judgment than overflowing with malice, that they genuinely thought that they were helping the police and the neighborhood, and that they had no a priori intention of harm, but that their behaviors put Arbery in a position where a great many others would have reacted similarly, e.g. to “grab the gun before he shoots me”. This then followed by a reverse “fire the gun before Arbery can take it and shoot us”.

Excursion on the potential negative influence of anti-White stereotypes on Arbery:
If we look at the scenario in the previous excursion, it might very well have been made worse by the attempts to paint Whites as racists, many of whom would just love an excuse to get rid of a few Black guys. What if this type of propaganda left Arbery with a “they are out to kill me” instead of a “they will drag me to the nearest police station”?

Excursion on another self-defense case/Andrew Coffee:
In parallel with the Rittenhouse case, a Black man was (almost entirely) acquitted on grounds of self-defense, despite having been involved in a shoot-out with the police, instead of fighting of unlawful assailants. Cf. e.g. [3]. So much for Rittenhouse receiving special treatment for being White.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 24, 2021 at 10:54 pm

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