The Arbery case should help allay the concerns of blacks, who have been led to believe that the American justice system always works against equal justice under the law.
One must first understand that there is a distinct difference in cases decided by a jury and those that are what are called “bench trials.” (I will deal with that distinction in a later commentary.) Today’s juries are not like those in the old Democrat-run Dixie – where laws and outrageous racial prejudice worked against the black community at every turn, including arrest, prosecution, adjudication and sentencing.
Predicting the guilty verdicts in the Arbery case was not difficult. If you followed the case, heard the testimony and viewed the videos, any rational and reasonable person would have had sufficient prescience to predict the outcome. Even Arbery’s mother believed the jury would find the defendants guilty once the case got to trial. In responding to the verdict, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, praised the American jury system. The Arbery case was not an exception to the American jury system, it was characteristic of it.
Arbery’s mother had greater concern when it appeared that the case would result in any charges. There was a long two-month delay in the arrests – and it took the removal or one of the prosecutors, Jackie Johnson, for misconduct in allegedly protecting the defendants from prosecution. But the skullduggery by Johnson resulted in her being fired and indicted for criminal misconduct. She will now have to be subjected to the decision of a court. If she has the option under Georgia law, I bet she picks a bench trial rather than face a jury.
The Case of the Errant Prosecutor did not get a lot of attention in the major media, but it should have. That was another victory over injustice in the judicial system. More proof that even in conservative Republican rural Georgia, it is a much different day than when the Democrats ruled over the south.
Then there is the Arbery case, itself. It was a very simple case – although the news media tended to overdramatize it as a “complex case.” Not really. The facts were overwhelming.
No matter how the race card was being played – and who was playing it – the case was decided without much consideration of race. It played out as three guys – with malicious intent for whatever reason – tracked down and killed an innocent human being. Prosecutors never even brought up a racist motivation.
That is likely to be the case in the federal prosecution of the three defendants. In that case, the three are charged with hate crimes, violating Arbery’s civil rights and kidnapping – a federal crime. They will also face any number of civil suits where the threshold is lowered from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to the “preponderance of evidence.”
If you are wondering how all that can happen under the constitutional protection of “double jeopardy” – being tried for the same crime a second time. Double Jeopardy is compromised by a legal nuance called “separate sovereignties.” Simply put, even if you are found guilty or acquitted of a crime in a state court, you can still be tried for related federal crimes in a federal court. And being sued for monetary compensation in a civil suit does not involve prison time – so … no double jeopardy. You will recall that O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder but lost his case in a civil suit in which the jury concluded that he did commit the double murder.
In the court-of-public-opinion, however, race was played out on a daily basis in the Arbery case. It started with the jury selection. Through a strategic use of attorney objections, the jury – drawn from a black majority community – had only one black juror.
It seems clear that the defense believed that the jury would respond to the race issue. Several times during the trial, the defense complained about “black pastors” and “black protestors” as a problem. Their moves for a mistrial were unsuccessful in every case.
If the defense was deploying a racist strategy, they completely misjudged the judge and the jury in their own community. They were living in the past. Their antics only served to add more fuel to the overly hyped and largely exaggerated narrative of pandemic racism in America.
As with the Rittenhouse case, it did not take a psychic or a lawyer to predict the outcome of the Arbery case. The law and the facts made this one a rather simple case.
This was a victory of American justice, and it does not need the “but” that the race-baiters use to spin back to their exaggerated racist narratives. Despite what most agree were correct verdicts, Vice President Harris responded to both the Rittenhouse case and the Arbery case the negative spin that “ there is still a lot of work to do.” Yes, there are examples of residual institutional racism to be found in the court systems in our major segregated cities, but racial prejudice is not a defining characteristic of the American people in general. Not even the characteristic of white America. The Arbery case is yet another example that justice can prevail.
So, there ‘tis.