Governor Brian Kemp signed a repeal of the civil war detention law in Georgia on Monday

May 10, 2021, 7:52 p.m.

4 min read

ATLANTA – The mother of a black man who was persecuted and killed by white men who said they suspected him of a crime, says she is “grateful, very grateful” that Georgia overturned its civil war-era citizen’s detention law have.

Wanda Cooper Jones, the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, spoke Monday after Governor Brian Kemp signed House Bill 479, under which Georgia spectators can no longer make arrests if a crime is committed in their presence.

“I think signing this bill will make people think before they take action,” said Cooper Jones. “Unfortunately we had to lose my son that way. If this bill had been in force, I think it would protect it.” young men jogging down the street. “

The law is an ongoing response to Arbery’s death, which was videotaped by one of three men now charged with murder. The outcry over the shooting also prompted lawmakers to pass a new law on hate crimes in Georgia last year, more than 15 years after the Supreme Court overturned an earlier law.

“This bill makes Georgia the first state in the country to repeal its citizen’s arrest statue,” Republican Kemp said before signing the measure. “Today we are replacing this civil war law, which is ripe for abuse, with language that balances security and the right to self-defense against person and property with our shared responsibility to eradicate injustices and make our state a better one Bring away. ”

Those who had long pushed for repeal said the law was passed in 1863 to round up escaped slaves and was later used to justify lynching of African Americans. Some other states are now also considering repealing such laws.

Arbery, then 25, was fatally shot while walking through a neighborhood near Brunswick on the Georgia coast in February 2020. It would have been days since his 27th birthday, and Cooper Jones said she viewed the law as a birthday present for her son.

The father and son who persecuted Arbery – Greg and Travis McMichael – were not arrested or charged until the state took over the case more than two months after the shooting. A prosecutor originally responsible for the case had cited the Georgian Citizens’ Detention Act to argue that the shooting was justified. Lee Merritt, the family attorney, said Arbery’s relatives continue to want the prosecutor to face criminal charges.

Defense attorneys said the McMichaels tracked Arbery and suspected he was a burglar after security cameras previously recorded him entering a house under construction. They said Travis McMichael shot Arbery while fearful for his life when they wrestled over a shotgun.

The video of the fatal encounter was recorded by William “Roddie” Bryan, a neighbor who has joined the chase. All three men are charged with murder. Prosecutors said Arbery didn’t steal anything and only went jogging when the McMichaels and Bryan were chasing him. They remain locked up without bail.

Issues related to the arrest of citizens could be raised in pre-trial hearings in the coming days.

Under the Repeal Act, people who are merely spectators or witnesses generally no longer have the right to arrest people. Lethal force cannot be used to arrest someone unless it is in order to protect yourself, protect a home, or prevent a violent crime. The changes maintain Georgia’s “Stand your Ground” law, according to which a threatened person is not obliged to withdraw.

It still allows business workers to arrest people they believe have stolen, and restaurant workers can arrest people who try to leave without paying for a meal. Licensed security guards and private investigators can also detain people.

Anyone detained must be released with their personal effects if a police officer or sheriff’s deputy does not arrive within a reasonable time.


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