Our Justice System Needs to Do Better
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
While it’s been a few months since the video footage was released and the nation was appalled at what they saw, the Ahmaud Arbery case is still relevant because it is a perfect example of the United States inherently flawed justice system. In case one doesn’t know who Ahmaud is, I’ll sum it up. Ahmaud Arbery was targeted and shot in Brunswick, Georgia by a father and son duo, Gregory and Travis McMichael. Brunswick is the neighboring town to where I live. I was disturbed and horrified, to say the least. What disturbed me the most in all of this was the fact that until the video footage was released, the death of an unarmed black man was treated as inconsequential, the McMichaels were not arrested until two months after they committed the crime. There is a possibility that they might still be walking free today, with no repercussions or consequences, if that video had not been released. And I’m sure that there are others who do not have a viral video to bring justice to their case, whom we don’t even know the names of.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation heard about the incident two months later when the video came out. That is not normal. Jackie Johnson, the local district attorney, who had previously worked with McMichael recused herself shortly after the shooting but passed it on to George Barnhill who is also associated with the McMichaels. He recused himself as well, but not before officially stating that there is not enough probable cause to arrest the McMichaels. Considering that someone had died, and video footage was released that showed the McMichaels chasing down and gunning an innocent man trying to arrest him with no probable cause to do so themselves, should be enough probable cause to bring the McMichaels to trial and arrest them. Furthermore, while some may say that they had the right to shoot in self-defense, the McMichaels approached and harassed Ahmaud first, not the other way around. Self-defense is when you are attacked, not attacking. The plain fact, in this case, is that a man died, and if the roles (and races) were reversed, there’s a more than a fair chance, (taking into account Georgia’s history), that the men would be arrested immediately. For me, the real antagonists in all of this are the Brunswick justice system, especially District Attorney Jackie Johnson, who mishandled this case from the start and has done so in the past. One of those cases was Caroline Small’s, an unarmed woman who was shot to death by two police officers. During this case, Ms. Johnson did not recuse herself despite an apparent conflict of interest, which involved her career path. The endorsement for her elevation to county DA was made by the same police department she was investigating. According to former prosecutors, she protected the two officers, just like she protected McMichael, her former investigator, by postponing his arrest. She has allowed uncontested factually inaccurate information in the courtroom, according to a 2015 report of the investigation into Small’s case.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a tragedy for just Ahmaud and Caroline Small and the rest of the cases handled by Ms. Johnson, this is a tragedy for everyone else’s case who has been swept under the rug, in the entirety of the US, for those who don’t have a viral video to bring them justice. Jackie Johnson, who is still in office, is one of many district attorneys and law enforcement that goes unchecked. Our justice system should not be a place where connections put you above the law, it should not be a place where the media has to bring people justice, or where trespassing can be punishable by death. An arrest for a homicide should not happen two months after the fact. “Justice delayed is justice denied.” (William E Gladstone).