What is the citizen's arrest law in Ahmaud Arbery's murder trial?

Now-repealed law allowed to be used by defence team in Georgia trial originated in the Civil War era

The defence team in the Georgia trial over the death of a black jogger by three white men in their closing arguments on Monday is using a now-discarded state law that allowed for citizens to arrest other people.

Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbour William "Roddie" Bryan have pleaded not guilty to charges, including murder, in the death of Ahmaud Arbery when he was running through their neighbourhood on February 23, 2020.

Georgia had a law that permitted individuals to arrest an offender within their proximity if they had "reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion" that the person committed a crime and the person is fleeing.

The law originated in the Civil War era where police officers were not as prevalent or accessible today.

The law also has racist ties where it allowed for people to use it as reasoning for slave recaptures or lynching black people.

Citizen's arrest laws of various forms are not uncommon across the US and repeal efforts are in effect in many states.

Lawmakers now limit citizen detainment to specific circumstances, such as shopkeepers who see a theft or restaurant workers seeing a "dine-and-dash".

The law was repealed in Georgia this May after Arbery's death, when Governor Brian Kemp declared, "This bill makes Georgia the first state in the country to repeal its citizen’s arrest statute".

For the current ongoing trial, it was ruled that the defence team could still use the repealed statute because it was the current law at the time of the fatal shooting.

The prosecution later argued that "this was not a citizen's arrest" as a response to the defence's claim.

"This was not legitimate, he had no probable cause, you can't do this based on the law, then guess what? They're not justified in killing him, they're not justified of any of the felonies they committed against him," prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said.

Reuters contributed to this report

Updated: November 23rd 2021, 12:37 AM
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