Top line

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) on Monday signed a bill repealing a law on the arrest of citizens once used to justify post-civil war lynching after the law was brought into national limelight and widely condemned as a prosecutor it used it to justify vigilante justice for the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery last year.

A mural depicting Ahmaud Arbery on July 17, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Rayford / Getty … [+] Images)

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Important facts

A bill repealing has been in the works for about a year, and Arbery’s mother and sister joined Kemp on Monday to sign the bill.

Arbery was rammed with a pickup truck before he was shot while jogging through the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia by men who claimed they tried to arrest the unarmed black man by a citizen.

The father-son couple Gregory and Travis McMichael were charged with murder on February 23, 2020 along with William “Roddie” Bryan Jr.

The defendants said the killing was due to mix-up as they believed Arbery was responsible for local break-ins.

All three have pleaded not guilty.

A prosecutor to whom the case was initially brought said the shooting was justified and referred to the citizen’s arrest law.

What to look out for

The trial of the Arbery murder begins with the selection of the jury on October 18.

Ultimate quote

“I believe that the bipartisan support this bill has received is evidence of the fundamental nature of our state,” said Kemp on Monday. The bill passed the State House unanimously 169-0 and the Senate 52-1.

Key background

The US still has laws designed to arrest citizens, but they can vary widely depending on the jurisdiction and are sometimes subject to broad legal interpretations. In Georgia, the current law states that “a private person can arrest a perpetrator if the crime is committed in his presence or with his immediate knowledge”. Arbery’s killers claim they mistakenly mistook Arbery for a burglar, but many – including the Justice Department – believe race is a factor. Late last month, the DOJ brought federal hate crimes charges against the three men charged with the murder, and a pre-trial hearing last year included several examples of Travis McMichael using racist language, such as allegedly standing over Arbery’s body and gave him a “damn ——-” after he was killed.


Citizens’ arrest laws date back at least to 1285, when King Edward I of England passed a law in response to a rampage.

further reading

Georgia Legislature Wants to Repeal Citizens Detention Act of 1863 After Arbery’s Murder (Forbes)

In Ahmaud Arbery case, judge finds probable reason for charges of murder of 3 men (Forbes)

Citizens’ arrest laws are not in a nutshell. You need to know that (CNN)