The Ahmaud Arbery trial: Justice was served, just as it was in the Rittenhouse trial


I’ve seen a fair amount of negative comment about the guilty verdicts for the three defendants in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial.  I think such comments are not only misplaced, but display a fundamental misunderstanding of the law in almost every jurisdiction.

The law does not give anyone a license to play vigilante, which is what the three men just convicted were clearly doing.  They admitted as much in their own words.  Even worse, from their point of view, they admitted it to police while they were being questioned, but before they had a lawyer to advise them.  There’s a reason defendants are advised to say nothing to the authorities before they’ve consulted their defense attorney.  The three men in this case ignored that time-honored advice, and it came back to haunt them.

In most US jurisdictions, citizens do have a right to make an arrest – but only when they see a serious crime being committed in their presence, and are in a position to immediately stop that crime, or prevent the escape of the perpetrator, by detaining him until arresting officers arrive on the scene.  If they see someone after the commission of the crime, even if they suspect he’s the guilty party, they do not have that certain knowledge – only suspicion.  They can call the police, describe him, describe his vehicle, tell them where he is and where he’s going, and so on – but they do not have the right to “play cop” and arrest him, because the element of immediacy is lacking.  Jurisdictions vary in how they word their legislation to that effect, but the general principle is usually as I’ve described it.

Too many people get carried away by their sense of macho.  “I’m capable of doing it, so I’m gonna do it!”  Sadly for them, that’s simply not true as far as the law is concerned.  We should be grateful for that – otherwise we’d have wannabe cops springing up like mushrooms all over the place.  The history of vigilantism offers many examples where innocent persons have suffered under “mob law” because there was no attempt to establish the facts of the matter.  I’ve seen that personally in other parts of the world, and it’s sickening.  (I described one such incident in an earlier blog post.)

There does appear to be evidence that Ahmaud Arbery may have been guilty of theft immediately prior to his death.  However, we’ll never know for sure now, because he was killed before he could be tried and convicted.  Those who murdered him have now been convicted themselves, largely on the basis of their own prejudiced attitudes and ill-advised admissions.  They broke the law, they admitted to it, and they’ve been convicted of it.  Whether or not Mr. Arbery was guilty, that’s as it should be.



  1. My biggest problem with the conviction is that there are numerous guilty of murder charges when only one person was killed. You can only kill him once.

  2. Agenda driven responses are the norm today, rather than the exception. And the Farcebook experts don't know/understand basic principles of law.

  3. In most jurisdictions, if it's a felony crime you don't have to see it committed. You only have to know for a fact that it was committed and have reasonable suspicion that the person that you are arresting committed it.

  4. @Redneck: I'm sorry, but that's not correct. In most jurisdictions, felony crime or not, unless you intervene to stop it while the crime is in progress or to stop the escape of the perpetrator, you don't have the right to make a citizen's arrest. The element of immediacy (or, rather, the lack thereof) is one of the main reasons that Arbery's killers were convicted.

  5. Peter, have you read the Georgia Citizen Arrest Statute? First it is somewhat unclear because it has been on the books for nearly 150 years and changes in language have made it a little obscure. They discussed it on Legal Insurrection. However, what @Redneck stated is a possible correct interpretation of the Georgia Statute. The jury in the case had to judge both the law and the facts in the case; the judge did a terrible case of jury instruction on the law.

  6. I'm reminded of this passage from Albert J Nock's "Our Enemy The State" in which he writes:
    "Moreover, it follows that with any exercise of State power, not only the
    exercise of social power in the same direction, but the disposition to
    exercise it in that direction, tends to dwindle. Mayor Gaynor
    astonished the whole of New York when he pointed out to a
    correspondent who had been complaining about the inefficiency of the
    police, that any citizen has the right to arrest a malefactor and bring
    him before a magistrate. "The law of England and of this country,"
    he wrote, "has been very careful to confer no more right in that
    respect upon policemen and constables than it confers on every
    citizen." State exercise of that right through a police force had gone
    on so steadily that not only were citizens indisposed to exercise it, but
    probably not one in ten thousand knew he had it." (

  7. I support the three White guys. They were originally cleared by the police until the communist press go involved.

    I'd rather have them for neighbors any day over the alleged victim.

  8. Remember, folks, vigilantism is committing justice without a license. The State cannot allow you to usurp its authority. Only the police can apprehend criminals. And if they choose not to, well, that's just too bad.

  9. Having watched the video of what happened it is clear that they are innocent. Arbery literally ran to them and attacked. All this talk about citizen arrest is just a distraction since they never even tried to stop him. They had called the cops and were waiting for them to arrive.

    1. Yeah, considering Albert was trying to grab the shotgun, I’d say they are guilty of manslaughter at most, not murder.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *