ATLANTA – Georgia on Wednesday revised a Civil War-era law that allowed residents to arrest anyone suspected of committing a crime – an “arrest of citizens” law invoked by the defense of the three men who were accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery last year.

The Arbery case generated international outrage as civil rights activists said it was another example of a targeted attack on a black man.

The Georgia General Assembly passed the bill across party lines by a wide margin in both the House and Senate, and it is now being passed to Republican Governor Brian Kemp, who has announced that he will sign it.

“Ahmaud was the victim of vigilante-style violence that has no place in Georgia,” Kemp told the media.

Kemp said in a press release that the bill will repeal “a civil war-era language in our law that is ripe for abuse.”

Republican MP Bert Reeves, the bill’s main sponsor, said the bill was “common sense that should have been made a long time ago.”

The Citizen Arrest Act was put to the test following the death in February 2020 of 25-year-old Arbery, who was persecuted and shot while jogging through his neighborhood in South Georgia. The shooting was captured on a cell phone video that went viral.

In the 1863 law of Georgia, Georgia allowed any resident to arrest anyone they suspected had committed a crime.

The prosecution initially did not bring charges against the three white men, citing the citizen’s arrest law as the reason, as all three said they believed Arbery was a burglar.

A former Glynn County Police Officer Gregory McMichael and his son Travis were charged with murder and aggravated assault, but only after state authorities intervened about two months after the shooting.

A third man, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the McMichaels to hunt down Arbery, police say, and filmed the video of the incident on his cell phone.

The McMichaels lawyers did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Bryan’s attorney Kevin Gough said the civil arrest law was one of the foundations of defense for all three of the defendants, and the new General Assembly action hadn’t changed the law over the past year.

Gerald Griggs, vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Atlanta, said the law must be repealed.

“It allowed people to just play cops when they didn’t know what they were doing,” Griggs said. “In the case of Brother Ahmaud, it was fatal.”

No negotiation date has yet been set for the three.