Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Criminal Vigilantism

 

Vigilantism is much in the news these days.

Depending on the definition you choose, vigilantism may or may not be inherently illegal. Concerned citizens standing in front of a jailhouse to prevent a lynching, as depicted in To Kill a Mockingbird for example, would be performing a completely legal kind of vigilantism by some definitions. Usually, however, the implication of vigilantism, and particularly of “vigilante justice,” is that citizens are taking it upon themselves to act as judge, jury, and, occasionally, executioner in order to impose their idea of justice — and doing so illegally.

A distinguishing trait of vigilantism is that it is undertaken with “good” intentions. I use the word “good” advisedly, since it’s a highly subjective term and never more so than when used in this context: the things that vigilantes have considered “good” range from putting down killers in the Old West to lynching blacks in the Old South. What distinguishes vigilantism from plain, old violent crime is that vigilantes believe they’re doing what they do for the benefit to their group, community, country, etc.

The Arbery killing in Georgia is, in my opinion, an example of criminal vigilantism. I believe it’s also an example of grotesque police misconduct, as ugly and wrong as the more famous incident involving Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis.

The riots that have torn our cities apart for the past few weeks, and that have led to violence and bloodshed on the streets of Seattle, are a mix of vigilantism and plain old criminality. Some folks just want a new TV; they’re just criminals. But to the extent that the people doing it think they’re in the right, believe they’re serving a higher calling by tearing down statues, burning police cars, etc., they’re criminal vigilantes — just like the thuggish killers of Georgia who caused the death of Mr. Arbery. Black Lives Matter and Antifa, and all of the excitable young people who follow in their wake, are guilty of the same moral arrogance as the Ku Klux Klan, the Weather Underground, and every other group that imagines it has the authority to wield illegal violence in order to achieve its twisted idea of “the good.”

Playing the race card doesn’t make criminal vigilantism suddenly noble and good. It’s barbarism, and it should be condemned as such.

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  1. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Hank, what is your understanding of the facts leading to the death of Ahmaud Arbery? I find my understanding of the facts difficult to square with your description of the McMichaels as “thuggish killers.”

    • #1
    • June 29, 2020, at 1:22 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Jerry, my understanding is that two men saw Arbery on the road; that they thought he might be a man whom they thought might be involved in alleged local burglaries; that they grabbed a shotgun and a handgun and pursued him in their pickup truck; that the armed men cut him off and demanded that he stop; that Arbery tried to evade them and they again made pursuit; that one of the men exited the pickup truck with his shotgun and again demanded Arbery stop; that a scuffle then ensued, multiple shots were fired, and Arbery was killed.

    As I understand it, the men had not witnessed Arbery committing a crime, yet were attempting to detain him with the threat of lethal force. If that’s true — and I think it is — then Arbery was, in my opinion, in his rights to try to defend himself, and his death was the fault of the vigilantes who took it upon themselves to deprive Mr. Arbery of his liberty.

    • #2
    • June 29, 2020, at 1:43 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jerry, my understanding is that two men saw Arbery on the road; that they thought he might be a man whom they thought might be involved in alleged local burglaries; that they grabbed a shotgun and a handgun and pursued him in their pickup truck; that the armed men cut him off and demanded that he stop; that Arbery tried to evade them and they again made pursuit; that one of the men exited the pickup truck with his shotgun and again demanded Arbery stop; that a scuffle then ensued, multiple shots were fired, and Arbery was killed.

    As I understand it, the men had not witnessed Arbery committing a crime, yet were attempting to detain him with the threat of lethal force. If that’s true — and I think it is — then Arbery was, in my opinion, in his rights to try to defend himself, and his death was the fault of the vigilantes who took it upon themselves to deprive Mr. Arbery of his liberty.

    OK, I understand.

    Does it change your view if it turns out that the McMichaels saw Arbery exit, at a run, from a house under construction? Does it change your view if Georgia law does not require witnessing the crime, but rather witnessing (or having something like “immediate knowledge”) of events that provide probable cause?

    As far as it goes, your account may be correct, though it’s not clear to me that either of the McMichaels ever demanded that Arbery stop. Would that make a difference to you?

    The video that I watched showed Travis McMichael standing in the roadway holding a shotgun, which is generally lawful, and I didn’t see him make any aggressive moves towards Arbery. Arbery charged him and tried to take away the gun.

    Personally, my view is that whoever had won the battle over the gun would have had a justifiable homicide defense. I don’t view this as necessarily an either-or situation. If Arbery had killed Travis McMichael, I think that it would have been justified, just as I believe the reverse.

    • #3
    • June 29, 2020, at 1:50 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jerry, my understanding is that two men saw Arbery on the road; that they thought he might be a man whom they thought might be involved in alleged local burglaries; that they grabbed a shotgun and a handgun and pursued him in their pickup truck; that the armed men cut him off and demanded that he stop; that Arbery tried to evade them and they again made pursuit; that one of the men exited the pickup truck with his shotgun and again demanded Arbery stop; that a scuffle then ensued, multiple shots were fired, and Arbery was killed.

    As I understand it, the men had not witnessed Arbery committing a crime, yet were attempting to detain him with the threat of lethal force. If that’s true — and I think it is — then Arbery was, in my opinion, in his rights to try to defend himself, and his death was the fault of the vigilantes who took it upon themselves to deprive Mr. Arbery of his liberty.

    OK, I understand.

    Does it change your view if it turns out that the McMichaels saw Arbery exit, at a run, from a house under construction? Does it change your view if Georgia law does not require witnessing the crime, but rather witnessing (or having something like “immediate knowledge”) of events that provide probable cause?

    As far as it goes, your account may be correct, though it’s not clear to me that either of the McMichaels ever demanded that Arbery stop. Would that make a difference to you?

    The video that I watched showed Travis McMichael standing in the roadway holding a shotgun, which is generally lawful, and I didn’t see him make any aggressive moves towards Arbery. Arbery charged him and tried to take away the gun.

    Personally, my view is that whoever had won the battle over the gun would have had a justifiable homicide defense. I don’t view this as necessarily an either-or situation. If Arbery had killed Travis McMichael, I think that it would have been justified, just as I believe the reverse.

    Jerry, I appreciate your perspective.

    No, it wouldn’t change my view if either of the McMichaels saw or thought they saw Arbery exit a building under construction. It isn’t obvious that Arbery committed a crime by entering the building. What is obvious is that three men chased down another man without, the men admit, actual knowledge that he was involved in anything illegal (but a “gut” feeling, as one of the McMichaels put it), repeatedly tried to corner him, then exited their vehicle and confronted the man with a gun before ordering him to the ground and, in the subsequent scuffle, killing him.

    Sorry. I’m as pro-gun, pro-self-defense as you’ll find, but I have no sympathy for these guys.

    • #4
    • June 29, 2020, at 2:08 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    What is obvious is that three men chased down another man without, the men admit, actual knowledge that he was involved in anything illegal (but a “gut” feeling, as one of the McMichaels put it), repeatedly tried to corner him, then exited their vehicle and confronted the man with a gun before ordering him to the ground and, in the subsequent scuffle, killing him.

    You may have more information than me. I haven’t looked into this since my post on the subject on May 15.

    I have not heard or read anything about the McMichaels ordering Arbery to the ground. Do you remember the source of this information?

    • #5
    • June 29, 2020, at 2:23 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    What is obvious is that three men chased down another man without, the men admit, actual knowledge that he was involved in anything illegal (but a “gut” feeling, as one of the McMichaels put it), repeatedly tried to corner him, then exited their vehicle and confronted the man with a gun before ordering him to the ground and, in the subsequent scuffle, killing him.

    You may have more information than me. I haven’t looked into this since my post on the subject on May 15.

    I have not heard or read anything about the McMichaels ordering Arbery to the ground. Do you remember the source of this information?

    I don’t recall the source, but I do remember that the claim made was that Travis McMichael said that he told Aubrey to get on the ground — forget the exact words — prior to the fatal shooting. If I can find it again I’ll post it. It was not obvious from context whether the order was given before or after the initial, non-fatal shots were fired.

    As usual, trying to find information is difficult. I hope that more details come out during trial. One things that frustrates me is the obsession with the racial component. I don’t care if the McMichaels were or were not bigots; they should be judged on their actions. Personally, based on what little information I have, my view is that their recklessness and poor judgment led to a man’s death. Part of my staunch defense of the Second Amendment is, I feel, a duty not to condone its abuse. I think this was a fatal abuse.

    [ Disclaimer: It is of course possible that everything has been wildly misreported — and that I’m mistaken. I’ll continue to try to learn more. ]

    • #6
    • June 29, 2020, at 2:35 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  7. lowtech redneck Coolidge

    I’m going to post this video here as well (skip the first minute):

    This does not seem like a clear-cut case at all, and the accused certainly don’t appear to be ‘thuggish killers’.

    • #7
    • June 29, 2020, at 2:41 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):

    I’m going to post this video here as well (skip the first minute):

    This does not seem like a clear-cut case at all, and the accused certainly don’t appear to be ‘thuggish killers’.

    Thanks, but I’m not going to watch it. I just don’t do videos much, because they’re hard to fact-check and hard to quote. I’m sure that, if the points raised are worthwhile, someone will bother to express them in print.

    • #8
    • June 29, 2020, at 2:52 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):

    I’m going to post this video here as well (skip the first minute):

    This does not seem like a clear-cut case at all, and the accused certainly don’t appear to be ‘thuggish killers’.

    Thanks, but I’m not going to watch it. I just don’t do videos much, because they’re hard to fact-check and hard to quote. I’m sure that, if the points raised are worthwhile, someone will bother to express them in print.

    That’s OK, but I’ve watched the video previously, and I think that Tatum does a better job than anyone I’ve seen in print (other than myself).

    • #9
    • June 29, 2020, at 3:17 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    About criminal vigilantism: I just learned about the March 14, 1891 New Orleans lynchings. The Wikipedia entry is here, and all of the following is according to this summary.

    A bunch of Italians were rounded up after the police chief of New Orleans was murdered. Nine of them were tried, resulting in 6 acquittals and 3 hung juries. People of Italian descent were excluded from the jury.

    After the acquittal, these 9 remained in the prison, along with 10 other Italian prisoners. A group of apparently prominent city leaders riled up a mob, battered down the door of the prison, and killed a bunch of them. 11 were killed, including 3 who had been tried and acquitted.

    Does this mean that I can claim victim status in the intersectional hierarchy? All of you nasty Dago-hating white supremacists owe me reparations!

    • #10
    • June 29, 2020, at 3:23 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. lowtech redneck Coolidge

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):

    I’m going to post this video here as well (skip the first minute):

    This does not seem like a clear-cut case at all, and the accused certainly don’t appear to be ‘thuggish killers’.

    Thanks, but I’m not going to watch it. I just don’t do videos much, because they’re hard to fact-check and hard to quote. I’m sure that, if the points raised are worthwhile, someone will bother to express them in print.

    Hard to quote, but no more difficult to fact-check than a typical newspaper article or news broadcast.

    The gist of it is that Arbery was seen trespassing inside an unoccupied dwelling by one of the accused, and subsequently running away when confronted by another man, while the accused was on a 911 call to the police. This provides reasonable suspicion of a felony (first-degree burglary) taking place, minutes before the incident in question. The trespassing and running away from the scene are caught on the security camera of a house across the street. It seems to me that the question is whether Georgia law allows for citizens arrests (including detainment) on the basis of reasonable suspicion (of first-degree burglary, that is, not trespassing inside a private dwelling, which is undisputed, but apparently not a felony).

    • #11
    • June 29, 2020, at 3:26 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):

    I’m going to post this video here as well (skip the first minute):

    This does not seem like a clear-cut case at all, and the accused certainly don’t appear to be ‘thuggish killers’.

    Thanks, but I’m not going to watch it. I just don’t do videos much, because they’re hard to fact-check and hard to quote. I’m sure that, if the points raised are worthwhile, someone will bother to express them in print.

    Hard to quote, but no more difficult to fact-check than a typical newspaper article or news broadcast.

    The gist of it is that Arbery was seen trespassing inside an unoccupied dwelling by one of the accused, and subsequently running away when confronted by another man, while the accused was on a 911 call to the police. This provides reasonable suspicion of a felony (first-degree burglary) taking place, minutes before the incident in question. The trespassing and running away from the scene are caught on the security camera of a house across the street. It seems to me that the question is whether Georgia law allows for citizens arrests (including detainment) on the basis of reasonable suspicion (of first-degree burglary, that is, not trespassing inside a private dwelling, which is undisputed, but apparently not a felony).

    I don’t think that constitutes “reasonable suspicion of a felony.” I’m not sure that it even constitutes reasonable suspicion of criminal trespass. Was the property posted? Was there any evidence that Arbery had taken anything with him when he left the property? Was there any evidence that he had criminal intent when he entered the property?

    It would have been entirely plausible that he had no more criminal intent than did the several other people, including families with children, who had been observed entering and leaving the property prior to Mr. Arbery’s visit.

    Again, let the law be upheld. But if upholding the law can lead to these men being incarcerated, then I hope that’s what happens.

     

    • #12
    • June 29, 2020, at 3:44 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Okay, I watched the video, because it was so strongly recommended.

    At about 5:45, this fellow says:

    “So Georgia law gives Greg and Travis McMichael lawful reason or lawful ability to conduct a citizens arrest on Mr. Arbery who they witnessed commit a crime.”

    No. No no no no no.

    The did not witness Mr. Arbery commit a crime. One or more of them witnessed Mr. Arbery enter and/or leave a building. In order to have “witnessed a crime,” a crime would have had to have been committed. In order for a crime to have been committed, Mr. Arbery would have had to perform criminal trespass. In order to have performed criminal trespass, Mr. Arbery would have had to have entered the property with criminal intent, or actually have taken something with him.

    His intent is unknown; he’s dead. His intent may have been no more criminal than that of anyone else who trespassed on the property ahead of him.

    What we have here is three men who attempted to detain another man based on their gut feeling (in one account, an FBI agent says that “gut” is actually the word used by one of the McMichaels to describe his suspicion).

    It’s going to take a more compelling argument than “we saw him come out of the building [empty handed, aparently] and run when shouted at, so we felt justified in grabbing our guns, cornering him, and detaining him against his will.”

    • #13
    • June 29, 2020, at 4:01 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. lowtech redneck Coolidge

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

     

    I don’t think that constitutes “reasonable suspicion of a felony.” I’m not sure that it even constitutes reasonable suspicion of criminal trespass. Was the property posted? Was there any evidence that Arbery had taken anything with him when he left the property? Was there any evidence that he had criminal intent when he entered the property?

    It would have been entirely plausible that he had no more criminal intent than did the several other people, including families with children, who had been observed entering and leaving the property prior to Mr. Arbery’s visit.

    Again, let the law be upheld. But if upholding the law can lead to these men being incarcerated, then I hope that’s what happens.

     

    Open houses are generally either posted or arranged for interested parties; entering without permission is criminal action, not just criminal intent. Theft of copper pipe and wiring, among other things, is extremely common, and I would argue that its reasonable for someone to suspect burglary when an illegal trespasser runs away after being confronted, especially if there have been similar crimes in the area. It might not be reasonable to make a citizens arrests on that basis, but in that case the law itself should be changed. The people who confronted Arbery at the time, or who called the police, lived in the neighborhood, and were in a good position to know the details of when entry into the dwelling was permitted.

    Finally, I have no faith at this point that the law will be upheld, if it conflicts with a politically preferred narrative whose proponents have proven all too willing to punish those who do not comply with their wishes.

    • #14
    • June 29, 2020, at 4:16 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

     

    I don’t think that constitutes “reasonable suspicion of a felony.” I’m not sure that it even constitutes reasonable suspicion of criminal trespass. Was the property posted? Was there any evidence that Arbery had taken anything with him when he left the property? Was there any evidence that he had criminal intent when he entered the property?

    It would have been entirely plausible that he had no more criminal intent than did the several other people, including families with children, who had been observed entering and leaving the property prior to Mr. Arbery’s visit.

    Again, let the law be upheld. But if upholding the law can lead to these men being incarcerated, then I hope that’s what happens.

     

    Open houses are generally either posted or arranged for interested parties; entering without permission is criminal action, not just criminal intent. Theft of copper pipe and wiring, among other things, is extremely common, and I would argue that its reasonable for someone to suspect burglary when an illegal trespasser runs away after being confronted, especially if there have been similar crimes in the area. It might not be reasonable to make a citizens arrests on that basis, but in that case the law itself should be changed. The people who confronted Arbery at the time, or who called the police, lived in the neighborhood, and were in a good position to know the details of when entry into the dwelling was permitted.

    Finally, I have no faith at this point that the law will be upheld, if it conflicts with a politically preferred narrative whose proponents have proven all too willing to punish those who do not comply with their wishes.

    It may well come down to what constitutes a “reasonable” basis for suspicion.

    Since I think anyone who grabs a gun and attempts to arrest a fellow for the “crime” of suspiciously leaving an unlocked house empty-handed is already exhibiting bad judgment, I’m perfectly willing for him to be incarcerated should a death ensue. Again, if the law allows for that.

    • #15
    • June 29, 2020, at 4:24 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. Richard Fulmer Member

    Deleted

    • #16
    • June 29, 2020, at 5:47 PM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.
  17. Acook Member

    I can’t tell you how often my husband and I (and our daughter) would go in houses being framed and look around. It’s great fun. Our dog even liked it since there would frequently be remnants of lunches about. We’ve even done it recently in our current neighborhood with daughter and now son-in-law. Until the doors go on and the place is locked and you can’t get in, OR if they post a No Trespassing sign, then we feel intimidated and don’t go in. I’m wondering if the McMichaels would react differently to seeing my husband and I (older white folks) exiting the house empty handed vs the young black man. I hate to say it, but was this ….racism? Or reality. 

    • #17
    • June 29, 2020, at 8:24 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron MillerJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Police cannot be everywhere. Most basic crimes occur within minutes. There is no conceivable system of justice in which police can bear the full burden of protection of person and property. A legal regime which denies that is corrupt and tyrannical. No good government can have an absolute monopoly on force. 

    As you suggest, there is a problem of definition. Vigilantism, like torture, is a term about which general agreement is hard to find. 

    Suffice it to say that there is a difference between defensive actions and punitive actions or aggression, regardless of how one measures justice.

    Vigilantism is a word associated most strongly today with lynch mobs, which are clearly aggressive and unjustifiable. Vandalism of statues is aggressive. Guarding a home or business is defensive. Chasing a criminal after witnessing a crime to detain that person is a more complicated and particular dilemma, with examples on both sides. 

    There are two major problems in news today regarding police- vs citizen-action.

    First, some communities distrust their local officials to defend their life and liberty generally. Whether or not that distrust is merited, it must be rectified for police and laws to be effective. An appropriate response might focus on policing or legislation, but it might focus on media and politics if the problem is misinformation or ignorance. 

    Second, some officials have blatantly, formally abandoned their duty to protect citizens or property in specific circumstances. Such situations obviously encourage non-police to pick up the slack, because letting predation run rampant is always intolerable. 

    If government abandons citizens, citizens abandon government. Perception doesn’t always jive with reality. The danger today is that such a perception is held on both sides for different reasons. 

    Still, marching on a target to destroy or intimidate and stationing oneself by a place to defend it are clearly different. 

    • #18
    • June 29, 2020, at 8:47 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Police cannot be everywhere. Most basic crimes occur within minutes. There is no conceivable system of justice in which police can bear the full burden of protection of person and property. A legal regime which denies that is corrupt and tyrannical. No good government can have an absolute monopoly on force.

    As you suggest, there is a problem of definition. Vigilantism, like torture, is a term about which general agreement is hard to find.

    Suffice it to say that there is a difference between defensive actions and punitive actions or aggression, regardless of how one measures justice.

    Vigilantism is a word associated most strongly today with lynch mobs, which are clearly aggressive and unjustifiable. Vandalism of statues is aggressive. Guarding a home or business is defensive. Chasing a criminal after witnessing a crime to detain that person is a more complicated and particular dilemma, with examples on both sides.

    There are two major problems in news today regarding police- vs citizen-action.

    First, some communities distrust their local officials to defend their life and liberty generally. Whether or not that distrust is merited, it must be rectified for police and laws to be effective. An appropriate response might focus on policing or legislation, but it might focus on media and politics if the problem is misinformation or ignorance.

    Second, some officials have blatantly, formally abandoned their duty to protect citizens or property in specific circumstances. Such situations obviously encourage non-police to pick up the slack, because letting predation run rampant is always intolerable.

    If government abandons citizens, citizens abandon government. Perception doesn’t always jive with reality. The danger today is that such a perception is held on both sides for different reasons.

    Still, marching on a target to destroy or intimidate and stationing oneself by a place to defend it are clearly different.

    Agreed, on all counts.

    It’s also worth noting, I think, that everyone now carries a video camera about with him, and the means to summon authorities. I have no problem at all with nosy neighbors recording what goes on, following people they think suspicious, calling the police and showing them the pictures, etc. There is a place for active neighborhood monitoring. There’s even a place for responsible local “policing,” in the form of volunteer or hired but unofficial security. People have a right to defend themselves and what’s theirs. But concern, or passion for a cause, can’t justify lawless behavior.

    • #19
    • June 29, 2020, at 9:00 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. D.A. Venters Member

    Part of the problem with vigilantism is that most cases have some level of complexity to them, and the vigilante’s response blows right by that. Usually, it takes quite a bit of investigation to really sort out the facts, especially when a number of people are involved. When more than one person is involved in a crime, it is sometimes hard to figure out who is most responsible. Motive often has little to do with guilt or innocence, but it may have a big impact on what a just punishment is. When you have a mob or even just one or two people who take it upon themselves, making all kinds of assumptions, jumping to conclusions, it would only be by blind luck if you end up with a just result. The Arbery case is an excellent example of how this kind of act goes horribly wrong.

    Vigilantism + the increasing tribalism / clannish nature of our society would be a particularly dangerous combination. We should be guarding against both.

    • #20
    • June 30, 2020, at 7:49 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Okay, I watched the video, because it was so strongly recommended.

    At about 5:45, this fellow says:

    “So Georgia law gives Greg and Travis McMichael lawful reason or lawful ability to conduct a citizens arrest on Mr. Arbery who they witnessed commit a crime.”

    No. No no no no no.

    The did not witness Mr. Arbery commit a crime. One or more of them witnessed Mr. Arbery enter and/or leave a building. In order to have “witnessed a crime,” a crime would have had to have been committed. In order for a crime to have been committed, Mr. Arbery would have had to perform criminal trespass. In order to have performed criminal trespass, Mr. Arbery would have had to have entered the property with criminal intent, or actually have taken something with him.

    His intent is unknown; he’s dead. His intent may have been no more criminal than that of anyone else who trespassed on the property ahead of him.

    What we have here is three men who attempted to detain another man based on their gut feeling (in one account, an FBI agent says that “gut” is actually the word used by one of the McMichaels to describe his suspicion).

    It’s going to take a more compelling argument than “we saw him come out of the building [empty handed, aparently] and run when shouted at, so we felt justified in grabbing our guns, cornering him, and detaining him against his will.”

    Hank, I don’t think that you’re applying the right standard. One does not have to “know” that a crime was committed. I think that what one needs to have, under Georgia law, is probable cause.

    The Georgia statute (17-4-60) uses the term “reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion.” Based on the DA letter finding no basis for an arrest of the McMichaels, I think that this is equivalent to probable cause. Probable cause is the usual standard required for an arrest.

    I do not have personal experience in the evaluation of probable cause, and I doubt that you do either. This is an issue about which cops, prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers, and judges have special knowledge.

    Arrest does not require knowledge that a crime has been committed. It requires probable cause. A trespasser who runs out of a house certainly looks suspicious. Doing so in a neighborhood that has apparently experienced a rash of burglaries is more suspicious, and doing so when this particular house has been the target of a prior unlawful entry adds suspicion.

    I don’t know whether this helps. What I can say is that Officer Tatum (the guy in the video) is more experienced about this than you or I.

    Let’s think about this hypothetical. What if the McMichaels had called the cops (which they did, by the way), and that the cops had tracked down Arbery and arrested him on suspicion of burglary. Would that have been OK?

    • #21
    • June 30, 2020, at 8:59 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    I don’t know whether this helps. What I can say is that Officer Tatum (the guy in the video) is more experienced about this than you or I.

    Well, what Officer Tatum actually said in the video, however, was “So Georgia law gives Greg and Travis McMichael lawful reason or lawful ability to conduct a citizen’s arrest on Mr. Arbery who they witnessed commit a crime.”

    They didn’t witness a crime.

    I’ll of course leave it to the courts to decide whether or not the McMichaels had probable cause. Since I think they acted irresponsibly with deadly force, resulting in a man’s wrongful death, I’ll continue to hope that a valid interpretation of the law allows them to be sent to jail.

    • #22
    • June 30, 2020, at 9:36 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  23. Buckpasser Member
    BuckpasserJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    It’s also worth noting, I think, that everyone now carries a video camera about with him, and the means to summon authorities

    After watching Tucker Carlson play that 911 call on his show I don’t think “summon the authorities” means what it used to mean.

    • #23
    • June 30, 2020, at 9:47 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  24. D.A. Venters Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Okay, I watched the video, because it was so strongly recommended.

    At about 5:45, this fellow says:

    “So Georgia law gives Greg and Travis McMichael lawful reason or lawful ability to conduct a citizens arrest on Mr. Arbery who they witnessed commit a crime.”

    No. No no no no no.

    The did not witness Mr. Arbery commit a crime. One or more of them witnessed Mr. Arbery enter and/or leave a building. In order to have “witnessed a crime,” a crime would have had to have been committed. In order for a crime to have been committed, Mr. Arbery would have had to perform criminal trespass. In order to have performed criminal trespass, Mr. Arbery would have had to have entered the property with criminal intent, or actually have taken something with him.

    Hank, I don’t think that you’re applying the right standard. One does not have to “know” that a crime was committed. I think that what one needs to have, under Georgia law, is probable cause.

    The Georgia statute (17-4-60) uses the term “reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion.” Based on the DA letter finding no basis for an arrest of the McMichaels, I think that this is equivalent to probable cause. Probable cause is the usual standard required for an arrest.

    I do not have personal experience in the evaluation of probable cause, and I doubt that you do either. This is an issue about which cops, prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers, and judges have special knowledge.

    Arrest does not require knowledge that a crime has been committed. It requires probable cause. A trespasser who runs out of a house certainly looks suspicious. Doing so in a neighborhood that has apparently experienced a rash of burglaries is more suspicious, and doing so when this particular house has been the target of a prior unlawful entry adds suspicion.

    I don’t know whether this helps. What I can say is that Officer Tatum (the guy in the video) is more experienced about this than you or I.

    Let’s think about this hypothetical. What if the McMichaels had called the cops (which they did, by the way), and that the cops had tracked down Arbery and arrested him on suspicion of burglary. Would that have been OK?

    The cops would not have had probable cause to arrest Arbery for burglary. They may have had reasonable suspicion of trespass, which would only allow them to briefly detain him and ask him questions. There was no evidence at all that anyone had committed a burglary. As far as we know – even now – no one had. There was only some evidence, not even first hand, that he might have committed a misdemeanor trespass on the construction site, a very common and usually harmless offense. 

    To react the way the McMichaels did was absolutely ridiculous, and if GA law allows that reaction, it should be changed.

     

    • #24
    • June 30, 2020, at 10:02 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Let’s think about this hypothetical. What if the McMichaels had called the cops (which they did, by the way), and that the cops had tracked down Arbery and arrested him on suspicion of burglary. Would that have been OK?

    That’s a good question, and one worth exploring.

    Are citizens allowed to conclude that they are being kidnapped by police officers acting in the line of duty? If an officer walks up to someone and tells him that they’d like to ask him a few questions, does the individual have the legal right to walk away? Can an officer legally detain that individual and, if he does, is any use of force by that individual in resisting by definition an illegal assault on the officer? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I’m going to guess that the police have authority to restrain people, briefly, that citizens lack.

    So here’s another hypothetical for you. Suppose Mr. Arbery had no criminal intent when he entered that house, and so was innocent of any crime. Suppose he perceived the “citizen’s arrest” (a phrase and a concept I am growing to loathe) as an aggressive act by two armed thugs bent on illegally restraining him (which is pretty close to how I’d characterize it, actually). If that’s his understanding, what legal obligation is he under to accede to their demands or allow them to forcibly restrain him without putting up a resistance?

    Are the two situations — that of a police officer restraining a person, and that of citizens restraining a person — really very much the same, in terms of the obligations they impose on the individual being restrained?

    Not intended to be rhetorical questions. I have opinions, obviously, but I’m interested in yours.

    • #25
    • June 30, 2020, at 10:10 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    . . .

    Let’s think about this hypothetical. What if the McMichaels had called the cops (which they did, by the way), and that the cops had tracked down Arbery and arrested him on suspicion of burglary. Would that have been OK?

    The cops would not have had probable cause to arrest Arbery for burglary. They may have had reasonable suspicion of trespass, which would only allow them to briefly detain him and ask him questions. There was no evidence at all that anyone had committed a burglary. As far as we know – even now – no one had. There was only some evidence, not even first hand, that he might have committed a misdemeanor trespass on the construction site, a very common and usually harmless offense.

    To react the way the McMichaels did was absolutely ridiculous, and if GA law allows that reaction, it should be changed.

    D.A., sorry not to remember your background, but do you have professional expertise about this?

    The Georgia District Attorney on the case concluded that they did have probable cause. Others have disagreed, though not until after the public uproar. Personally, I don’t think that I have the expertise to evaluate a probable cause determination in a close case.

     

    • #26
    • June 30, 2020, at 12:09 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  27. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Let’s think about this hypothetical. What if the McMichaels had called the cops (which they did, by the way), and that the cops had tracked down Arbery and arrested him on suspicion of burglary. Would that have been OK?

    That’s a good question, and one worth exploring.

    Are citizens allowed to conclude that they are being kidnapped by police officers acting in the line of duty? If an officer walks up to someone and tells him that they’d like to ask him a few questions, does the individual have the legal right to walk away? Can an officer legally detain that individual and, if he does, is any use of force by that individual in resisting by definition an illegal assault on the officer? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I’m going to guess that the police have authority to restrain people, briefly, that citizens lack.

    So here’s another hypothetical for you. Suppose Mr. Arbery had no criminal intent when he entered that house, and so was innocent of any crime. Suppose he perceived the “citizen’s arrest” (a phrase and a concept I am growing to loathe) as an aggressive act by two armed thugs bent on illegally restraining him (which is pretty close to how I’d characterize it, actually). If that’s his understanding, what legal obligation is he under to accede to their demands or allow them to forcibly restrain him without putting up a resistance?

    Are the two situations — that of a police officer restraining a person, and that of citizens restraining a person — really very much the same, in terms of the obligations they impose on the individual being restrained?

    Not intended to be rhetorical questions. I have opinions, obviously, but I’m interested in yours.

    You didn’t answer my hypothetical question, but I will answer yours.

    Even without agreeing with your characterization of the McMichaels as “armed thugs bent on illegally restraining them,” I think that Mr. Arbery would not have been criminally liable if he had won the struggle over the gun, and shot Travis McMichael. I think that even if the McMichaels were behaving lawfully, it was also reasonable for Mr. Arbery to believe that he was threatened with lethal force, and to try to take the gun away.

    • #27
    • June 30, 2020, at 12:52 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  28. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Let’s think about this hypothetical. What if the McMichaels had called the cops (which they did, by the way), and that the cops had tracked down Arbery and arrested him on suspicion of burglary. Would that have been OK?

    That’s a good question, and one worth exploring.

    Are citizens allowed to conclude that they are being kidnapped by police officers acting in the line of duty? If an officer walks up to someone and tells him that they’d like to ask him a few questions, does the individual have the legal right to walk away? Can an officer legally detain that individual and, if he does, is any use of force by that individual in resisting by definition an illegal assault on the officer? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I’m going to guess that the police have authority to restrain people, briefly, that citizens lack.

    So here’s another hypothetical for you. Suppose Mr. Arbery had no criminal intent when he entered that house, and so was innocent of any crime. Suppose he perceived the “citizen’s arrest” (a phrase and a concept I am growing to loathe) as an aggressive act by two armed thugs bent on illegally restraining him (which is pretty close to how I’d characterize it, actually). If that’s his understanding, what legal obligation is he under to accede to their demands or allow them to forcibly restrain him without putting up a resistance?

    Are the two situations — that of a police officer restraining a person, and that of citizens restraining a person — really very much the same, in terms of the obligations they impose on the individual being restrained?

    Not intended to be rhetorical questions. I have opinions, obviously, but I’m interested in yours.

    You didn’t answer my hypothetical question, but I will answer yours.

    Even without agreeing with your characterization of the McMichaels as “armed thugs bent on illegally restraining them,” I think that Mr. Arbery would not have been criminally liable if he had won the struggle over the gun, and shot Travis McMichael. I think that even if the McMichaels were behaving lawfully, it was also reasonable for Mr. Arbery to believe that he was threatened with lethal force, and to try to take the gun away.

    I apologize. I should have clearly stated my position.

    You asked if it would have been okay if the police had arrested Mr. Arbery on suspicion of burglary. I would say no, not in this case and based on what I’ve read, since I’m aware of no evidence that a burglary occurred, and arresting a man for a crime which didn’t occur seems not OK to me.

    What I was trying to explore wasn’t an arrest, per se, but rather the temporary forcible detention and questioning of a man on tenuous grounds. I can easily imagine that the police have considerable latitude in that regard — latitude that I suspect normal citizens don’t possess.

    Thank you for partially answering my question: I agree that Mr. Arbery would have been in the right to attempt to disarm his… what’s a good word? Assailants? Interlocutors? Pick something.

    However, that’s only half the question. The other half, and the part of my response that was intended to be responsive to your hypothetical, had to do with how that same question would be answered in the case of the police. Do you also believe that Mr. Arbery would not have been criminally liable if he had won a struggle with an officer and deprived him of his gun, possibly shooting him in the process?

    That’s the distinction I was trying to highlight in my response.

    • #28
    • June 30, 2020, at 1:12 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  29. jeannebodine, Verbose Bon Viva… Member

    Vigilantism can only be perpetrated by white people. I know because of the few instances I saw of white people defending their neighborhoods, every single one of them was identified as vigilantism and called out by every official in the cities or towns.

    • #29
    • June 30, 2020, at 1:47 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. D.A. Venters Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

     

     

    D.A., sorry not to remember your background, but do you have professional expertise about this?

    The Georgia District Attorney on the case concluded that they did have probable cause. Others have disagreed, though not until after the public uproar. Personally, I don’t think that I have the expertise to evaluate a probable cause determination in a close case.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned it, but yes I do have some professional expertise. I have been a lawyer for 17 years, the last 8 I’ve been an assistant public defender, in addition to a private practice. Not in GA, so there is that caveat, but most states are pretty similar on these things and the 4th amendment of course applies there.

    The thing about probable cause is that, yes, it’s a lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but it still has to be based on articulable facts, actually witnessed or documented, that point to an actual crime by a certain person. It cannot be based on speculation or rumors or inferences built upon other inferences. Maybe not right away, but in short order, to hold the accused, someone has to swear to these facts under oath. In Arbery’s case, for there to have been probable cause for burglary, you need specific facts that make it probable that he unlawfully entered the property with the intent to commit a crime therein. You can’t guess at what his intent might have been. There must be some fact that shows a crime was committed or intended. And then, you have to show a probability – again by some attestable fact – that Arbery did it.

    So if, for example, the owner of the property reported something missing, or something had been destroyed, or someone had been assaulted, there would at least be some facts to show a crime was committed on the property. If Arbery is then seen running from the scene shortly after the crime was likely committed, and he either fits the description from an eyewitness, or he is carrying the object said to have been stolen (or something like it), or if after an initial detention on reasonable suspicion he admits to having committed or intended to commit a crime in the property – then you would have probable cause to arrest him.

    The McMichaels were just purely guessing at what might have happened. And they were wrong about that anyway, as the property owner eventually said no crime (other than trespass which many different people had done) was committed on the property. 

    To answer Henry’s question – yes, the police have more legal authority to stop someone. They can upon “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity, detain someone on the scene to question them. They can’t arrest them without probable cause, but they can briefly detain them to investigate further. An ordinary citizen can’t do that (as far as I know in most states).

    • #30
    • June 30, 2020, at 2:22 PM PDT
    • 3 likes