Georgia journalist explains why arrests in horrific Ahmaud Arbery murder shouldn’t have taken so long

[Editor’s note: It’s being reported this morning that police have finally arrested two men for the February murder of a Black jogger named Ahmaud Arbery in coastal Glynn County, Georgia. As veteran Georgia journalist and commentator Jay Bookman explains in the essay below that ran yesterday in our sibling publication, the Georgia Recorder, it’s an outrage that it took this long.]

Ahmaud Arbery was shot to death as he was running down this road through the Satilla Shores neighborhood in February. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is now taking on the case after local law enforcement stalled an inquiry. Wes Wolfe/Georgia Recorder

Waycross DA’s judgment of Brunswick shooting video ‘insane’

Somebody thought the video of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery had to be made public if Arbery and his family were to get a chance at justice.

That unknown somebody was right.

The 36-second video of Arbery’s death is a brutal, difficult thing to watch. It looks for all the world like a modern lynching. 

Even more damning, it makes the government response to Arbery’s death look exactly like a modern coverup of a lynching. It makes it look as if a brutal case of unprovoked racist vigilante violence has been sanctioned by a racist government, as if it’s 1920 not 2020.

The facts, briefly, are these:

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in late February, Arbery, 25, was jogging down the middle of a quiet suburban street near Brunswick on the Georgia coast. He was wearing jogging clothes – shorts, T-shirt, Nikes — as he always did on his regular runs. 

Arbery was Black. Two white men decided that the Black man jogging through their neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon was a burglar. They armed themselves and began to pursue him in a vehicle. They cornered Arbery, cut him off from all means of escape, and ended up shooting him three times. He died at the scene. He didn’t have a gun, he didn’t have a TV set smuggled in his running shorts.

More than two months later, no charges have been filed; no arrests had been made.

The first few times I watched the graphic video of Arbery’s killing, which surfaced Tuesday, I was trying to hope that it was new evidence, that the decision made weeks ago by local prosecutors not to file charges had come before the video came to light, before they had the benefit of seeing for themselves what had happened.

That hope was in vain. It turns out that local prosecutors have had the damning video from the beginning, and had made the decision not to prosecute despite having seen it. They also refused to release the video to the public, until someone, someone with access to it, decided it had to be seen. Read more

Commentary, Trump Administration

If Trump is innocent, why lock up the evidence?

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump has placed a heavy shroud of silence over the executive branch.

Under his orders, no witnesses from the State Department, the Defense Department, the Energy Department, the Department of Justice, the White House or any other executive agency will be allowed to testify under oath to Congress. It’s all shut down.

Likewise, no documents, no memos, no email or text-message exchanges will be made available to Congress as it considers impeachment.

That’s an odd thing to do if you’re innocent.

If you’re innocent, why would you keep all the copious evidence of your innocence locked away from Congress and the world? Why would you tell eyewitnesses to your innocence that they can’t utter a word about it? Why would federal judges feel it necessary to order you not to destroy evidence of this innocence?

The most obvious explanation is that you in fact are not innocent. The most obvious explanation is that you realize that your only hope of retaining office and any degree of public support is to hide as much evidence of your wrongdoing as possible, for as long as possible, using every desperate measure at your command.

In a letter to Congress this week, White House lawyers did just that.

“There is no basis for your inquiry,” those lawyers told Congress, condemning the investigation as “partisan and unconstitutional,” “constitutionally invalid,” “an unconstitutional exercise in political theater” and “illegitimate.”

Writing about a controversial phone call with the Ukrainian president, they claim that a rough transcript of that call proves it “was completely appropriate, that the President did nothing wrong, and that there is no basis for an impeachment inquiry.”

This would be the phone call in which the Ukrainian president begs Trump for permission to buy U.S.-made Javelin anti-tank missiles, which he needs to protect his country from Russian invasion. The very next words out of Trump’s mouth are fateful:

“I would like you to do us a favor though….”

As Trump explains, that favor involves two investigations. Read more