The Arbery Trial

On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African-American male, caught the attention of two white men, Travis and Gregory McMichael, who saw him jogging through their Glenn County, Georgia neighborhood. They thought he was a thief and pursued him in their truck, soon joined by another resident, Roddie Bryan. The three men chased Arbery in their vehicles, showing they were armed and demanding that he stop. When he couldn’t run any more, he faced the men. Travis McMichael exited his truck, shotgun in hand. He and Arbery scuffled over the weapon. Three shots were fired. Arbery died soon after McMichael discharged the third at point blank range. Bryan recorded it all.

One chapter of this horrible crime concluded on November 24: a mostly-white jury convicted the McMichaels and Bryan of murder. Sentencing takes place soon.

The verdict surprised many who watched the trial. Gregory McMichael had so many ties to local law enforcement that a judge from another district had to preside. Defense attorneys struck all but one African-American juror from the jury. More mysteriously still, lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski mentioned race only one time during the entire trial: during her closing statements. Pundits accused her of whitewashing the victim and believed that the defendants would be acquitted.

Instead, the jury found McMichaels and Bryan guilty.

Dunikoski’s reluctance to make the racism of the defendants part of the prosecution’s strategy merits commentary. It proved to be a winning strategy. However, it drew the ire of progressive commentators who thought she squandered opportunities to highlight inequalities endemic to American–and specifically Southern–culture. What do you think?

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16 Responses to The Arbery Trial

  1. This case is a prime example of the systemic racism in the United States. Crimes committed against black people are not taken seriously. This is proven by this case because when race was not mentioned, the defendants got charged. It was smart to not bring race into the courtroom because it is shown to change the outcome of the ruling. However, this is not how the justice system should work. The fact that the trial ended the way it did with the case given calls attention to the racism that resides in our justice system. This case needs to be discussed in contrast to other cases to raise awareness in hopes of sparking change.

  2. Aaron Sharp says:

    The interesting thing about this case is how it was handled. Sadly the case is no longer surprising, a black man being shot down by a white man because of some “self-defense”, “act of heroism”, or some other garbage excuse is just another day in America. The distinguishing thing about this case is how the trial went down. The lead prosecutor mentioned race only once in the trial, and while some might not like this because it doesn’t highlight the problems in the world, it might be a good thing. We want equality, and whether this man was black or white or anything in between, he was murdered, and the people who killed him should be prosecuted.

  3. Bill Arnoldus says:

    I think mentioning race only once was a good thing. Seeing past the color of a persons skin is something activists have been fighting for for decades. Trying to bring it back up seems counter productive.

  4. Christina Zhang says:

    The murder of Ahmaud Arbery sent shockwaves of disgust and horror for citizens worldwide, but it served as a long overdue wake-up call for Southerners on how deeply enrooted white privilege is in our culture. Arbery, a 25-year-old black man in Georgia was killed by three white men during an afternoon jog around the neighborhood. The footage, recorded by William Bryan Jr. was publicly released in May of 2020. The video is hard to watch, and what makes it even more uncomfortable is the video’s ability to evoke anger and disappointment, but, more importantly, the lack of surprise amongst Southerners. What is surprising is that a majority-white jury was able to solidly convict the three men of murder, along with other appropriate charges. What we can deduce from the video is that this was a modern-day lynching that somehow keeps occurring in the deep south, as one even occurred in 2019 in Columbus that was ruled as a suicide. The Arbery Trial is different in the way that the pattern of lousy investigation for black murder cases was disrupted. Hopefully, with the publicity of the Arbery case, along with possible sentences of life in prison, all Southerners can finally begin to notice the immense problems within our culture.

  5. India White says:

    I agree with Will, the fact that race did not need to be mentioned to win the case is a positive thing. It shows that Ahmaud Arbery was not treated as just a black man. He was treated as a U.S. citizen with the same rights as a white citizen. In my opinion this case showed progress because the jury and prosecutor were willing to look past the color of the victim’s skin and put their own views and opinions on the racial issue aside to see the facts of the case.

  6. Everett "CJ" Mason, Jr says:

    Somehow, years after all races were constitutionally proclaimed as equal, racist occurrences such as the constant slaughterings of black people never seem to cease. Even though it might seem like a bad thing at first glance, Dunikoski’s refusal to include racism as part of her argument might have been a progressive step for the future. I am sure we all agree that the attack on Arbery was blatantly racist; there seems to be no collective doubt about that, and Dunikoski did not feel that it was necessary to restate the obvious. In this case, instead of wasting valuable time showing how obviously racist the heinous act was, Dunikoski manages to plea better with the jury by making them think of the case instead as simply a case of Arbery’s rights being violated as a human, not as yet another color.

  7. Sawyer Levenson says:

    I agree with Bill and India to some extent. It is good that the case was not based on race which shows that some judges and juries are starting to move on from the 20th century and earlier ways. However, it is still sad to say that if race was mentioned more than once, there could have been a different verdict. We still have a long way to go and there needs to be consistency in the courtroom but this is still some sort of an improvement and we might be going in the right direction.

  8. Gordon Welch says:

    The United States constitution has declared every United States citizen as equal for decades now. This means that every US citizen should be treated equally in court. Therefore, I’m happy that the court didn’t bring race into it. Sadly, it’s almost guaranteed that if Arbery was white, then he would still be alive today. With that being said, the justice system did a good job charging all three men with murder while not letting race get involved. If cases like this are handled the same way in the future, then we will see improvements in racial equality.

  9. Jeremy Dawe says:

    The prosecution’s decision to not bring race into the trial was the best strategy to take in order to prosecute the McMichaels and Bryan. By excluding race from their argument, they avoided offending the almost all-white jury and focused on whether or not Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. This is how the justice system is supposed to work. If a white victim was murdered in the exact same away the outcome of the trial is presumed to be the same as Ahmaud Arbery’s trial. The success of this trial with the absence of any mention of race is a win for civil rights leaders.

  10. Jeremy Dawe says:

    The prosecution’s decision to not bring race into the trial was the best strategy to take in order to prosecute the McMichaels and Bryan. By excluding race from their argument, they avoided offending the almost all-white jury and focused on whether or not Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. This is how the justice system is supposed to work. If a white victim was murdered in the exact same away the outcome of the trial is presumed to be the same as Ahmaud Arbery’s trial. The success of this trial with the absence of any mention of race is a win for civil rights leaders.

  11. Hilldana Tibebu says:

    I agree with the prosecutor’s decision to rarely include race because she was being wary of her environment. A lot of people, especially in the South, like to avoid racism because it makes them uncomfortable. Had she included race the jury could’ve either gotten uncomfortable with making the claim that the murder was racially motivated, or they could’ve automatically taken the defendant’s sides because they are white. I’m sure the prosecutor didn’t necessarily want to leave out race for personal beliefs, but because her arguments have be targeted and appealing to the jury, she found it best to exclude race.

  12. Jay De Ochoa says:

    This case is obviously one of the thousands where race is involved. An innocent man suffered the consequences of white supremacy and although justice may be served here, many times that is not the case. Dunikoski’s strategy astoundingly worked and it’s likely due to the fact that many Americans choose not to deal with race at all. This is what erasure looks like. By not mentioning race at all it’s easy for Americans to argue that this case was not due to racism because it doesn’t exist. It was just a case where two Americans who happened to be white committed murder against an innocent man who happened to be black. I think that Dunikoski made a smart decision by ignoring race because they likely understood the repercussions of mentioning it in court. Justice would not have been served. Nevertheless, it pains me that there are still people who ignore racism in America and this case proves that.

  13. Nora Courtney says:

    At this point in our nation, it should be considered disgusting and vile that crimes like these still occur. Sadly, that’s not the case. A sad factor of this case was that one of the reasons it gained national attention was because it was recorded. Crimes like this occur frequently across the country despite progressive movements forward chosen by federal administrations. I think that the prosecutor made a smart decision by not making her entire case about race and mainly focusing on Arbery’s murder. When it comes to the justice system, the verdict is never decided on what is morally right and what is morally wrong, even though it’s supposed to. Instead, it is decided by which side has a more convincing argument for the jury. I think it is especially apparent in this case, but when a lawyer or prosecutor is making their case, they use facts, phrases, and wordings that will emotionally motivate or scar the jurors to rule in their favor. Because there was only one person of color on the jury, the prosecutor most likely would not have convinced more members of her case if she used race as a motivation rather than the apparent violence of the crime. Especially in the south, many white Americans become upset and uncomfortable when race is brought up. This is a heartbreaking notion, especially because it is such an importing issue that plagues our nation. I think that the prosecutor was more focused on getting the suspects convicted and getting justice for Arbery’s family rather than tackling a much larger and riskier subject.

  14. Oliver Higginbotham says:

    In this particular case, the including of race would not have any effect on the outcome of the jury’s decision. I think race might have been a motive for their actions, but this should be irrelevant in court as it was blatant murder no matter what race you are. This goes with every case in my opinion, where race should not have an effect in the place of court because court is a place to decide the consequences of a particular person’s actions and that the absence of mentioning race in this court case is a step forward in society.

  15. sephora says:

    I feel like highlighting the race of the victim in this event would have led to the jury voting the McMichaels and Bryan to be freed, or let off with just a few years. By not directly stating the race of her victim she turned him into a human rather than a statistic. The jury was then compelled to look at Mr. Arbery as a human and judge him and the actions of his murderers the way that human laws were designed to. The inequalities of African american people will always be a topic of major discussion and scrutiny but, in taking race out of the hands of a southern jury, a just trial was had.

  16. Krish Patel says:

    I think mentioning race only once was a good thing. Color is such a trivial matter that it should be insignificant. Shin color, a biological defense, is practically a worthless way to spend out time. It like they are trying to bring back the pain and exhaustion of a bygone and counterproductive era with worthless charades and problems.

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