Georgia Governor Repeals 1863 Citizen’s Arrest Law Ahead Of Trial For Ahmaud Arbery’s Killers
The 25-year-old was gunned down last year while jogging in a Georgia suburb.
May 11, 2021 at 11:12 pm
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a repeal of the state’s 1863 citizen’s arrest law, which previously stated that bystanders could make an arrest if they witnessed a crime. The legislation, which was signed on Monday, comes a little over a year after Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot by white vigilantes who suspected the 25-year-old was a burglary suspect.
"I think the state of Georgia is moving in the right direction by passing this particular bill," Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said at the Georgia State Capitol, NPR reports. "Unfortunately, I had to lose my son to get significant change. But again, I'm still thankful."
According to ABC News, the original citizen’s arrest law was used as a way to corral runaway formerly enslaved people and was utilized to validate the lynchings of Black people.
“This bill makes Georgia the first state in the country to repeal its citizen's arrest statute,” Kemp said before signing. “Today we are replacing this Civil War-era law, ripe for abuse, with language that balances the sacred right of self-defense of person and property with our shared responsibility to root out injustice and set our state on a better path forward.”
The new legislation states deadly force can't be used to detain someone unless it’s in self-protection, protecting a home or preventing a forcible felony, maintaining Georgia’s “stand your ground” law. In addition, business employees are still allowed to detain someone they believe stole something, and lets restaurant employees apprehend anyone who tries to leave without paying for a meal. Licensed security guards and private detectives are also permitted to detain people, ABC News reports.
"I ask the governor and my fellow legislators to continue pursuing the goal of criminal justice reform,” Georgia Sen. Tonya Anderson said. “There is more work to do and we are prepared to do it, together as one Georgia."
The dated law is the second of its kind to be passed in light of Arbery’s death. Following the outrage of Arbery’s death, Gov. Kemp signed the Georgia Anti-Hate Crimes Act into law in June 2020 with bipartisan support, WABE reported. The bill imposes heavier consequences for anyone who commits crimes against a person based on their race, gender, sexual orientation and more.
"Last year, upon the passing of hate crimes legislation, the [Georgia Legislative Black] Caucus made a pledge to end the practice of citizen's arrest,” Anderson said. “[On Monday], with the signing of his name, Gov. Kemp has helped us keep that pledge. We are now the first state to repeal citizen's arrest and I hope not the last."
The three men involved in Arbery’s death, Greg and Travis McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan, are all facing state and federal murder charges. On Tuesday, all of the suspects plead not guilty in a new indictment handed down by a federal grand jury two weeks ago.
Bryan and the McMichaels are charged with one count each of interference of rights and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels were also each charged with using, carrying and brandishing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.
A trial for the three men is set for October on state charges of felony murder, malice murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal contempt to commit a felony in the shooting death of Arbery.
"The family is still focusing on criminal accountability and seeing this case through to a prosecution and appropriate sentencing on both state and federal levels," Cooper-Jones’ attorney, Lee Merritt said.