American Opinion: A Georgia jury correctly draws the line on stand-your-ground rights
American Opinion: Jurors in Georgia, fortunately, saw through this bogus Second Amendment argument and carefully weighed the facts on their own merits. They properly concluded, at long last, that stand-your-ground authority doesn’t give gun owners a right to go on human hunting sprees.
The multiple guilty verdicts Nov. 24 against three white Georgia men who cornered and murdered a Black jogger marked a refreshing turn of justice. A jury drew a much-needed line between stand-your-ground laws and gun-carrying vigilantes who have been emboldened to go on human hunting sprees. The nearly all-white jury decided that spurious assertions of self-defense and false allegations of hostile intent by the victim, Ahmaud Arbery, were no excuse for the reckless actions of defendants Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor, William Bryan.
That’s how the system is supposed to work every time. Unfortunately, the results too often lead to disappointment for Americans who want to see punishment for vigilantes who go out with guns looking for trouble and wind up killing people without justification. Long before the Nov. 20 not-guilty verdict for teenage vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse in Wisconsin , there was George Zimmerman in 2012. He stalked Black teenager Trayvon Martin on a Florida street, confronted the unarmed boy without justification, then killed him. Zimmerman and Rittenhouse inserted themselves into dangerous confrontations without cause, then convinced jurors that self-defense was their only way to get out alive.
Race issues played a role in all three cases. But in Georgia, prosecutor Jackie Johnson smartly sidestepped potential racial motivations to focus on the way gun owners misinterpret stand-your-ground laws as a license to kill.
Arbery was an athlete and avid jogger. He was out for a run at midday on Feb. 23, 2020, when he paused to explore a construction site in a white residential neighborhood. Then he resumed his run. The McMichaels and Bryan decided to chase Arbery down with their vehicles and corral him. As Travis McMichael later testified, Arbery had made no hostile gestures and carried no weapon, nor had he taken anything from the construction site. The three assailants simply assumed he was up to no good, and Arbery paid for that assumption with his life.
At trial, Jackson avoided mentioning Arbery’s race or the overtly racist statements the defendants had made after the murder. Jurors didn’t hear about the Confederate flag that adorned Travis McMichael’s license plate. It was a smart decision by Johnson because, regardless of whether racism played a role in the defendants’ actions, they were not facing hate crime charges in the state case. So why introduce that distraction?
Johnson kept the case simple: Possession of a gun doesn’t give people the right to force others into submission. Just because people have guns and claim to be standing their ground doesn’t mean that they automatically qualify as the National Rifle Association’s “good guy with a gun” stopping the bad guy.
Jurors in Georgia, fortunately, saw through this bogus Second Amendment argument and carefully weighed the facts on their own merits. They properly concluded, at long last, that stand-your-ground authority doesn’t give gun owners a right to go on human hunting sprees.
This American Opinion editorial is the opinion of the editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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