How racism failed the defense miserably in the trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers

When the three men facing murder charges in connection with the killing of Ahmaud Arbery were on trial in Georgia, their defense team resorted to overt racism in the hope of getting an acquittal. But even though there was only one Black person on the jury, it didn’t work; a predominantly White jury in the Deep South delivered “guilty” verdicts for all three men. And in analysis for CNN’s website, Nicole Chavez and Brandon Tensley stress that in the Arbery case, racism failed miserably for the defense team.

“Ahmaud Arbery was the victim,” Chavez and Tensley explain. “But for weeks, he was painted as a brute and a thug in the trial of the three White men who killed him. This tactic isn’t new, but rather, the latest example in a long history of court cases that criminalize and dehumanize Black victims.”

Chavez and Tensley point out that although racism didn’t work for the defense team in this case, it often worked for defense teams in the past when the aggressors were White and the victims were Black.

“Emmett Till. Jordan Davis. Trayvon Martin. Botham Jean. George Floyd — all of them Black, all of them victims, just as Arbery was,” Chavez and Tensley note. “Arbery’s family can now feel a sense of justice after Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, Jr. were convicted on Wednesday, but that outcome is a rare exception to the rule.”

Chavez and Tensley point out that the defense team resorted to racism countless times during the trial, from describing Arbery as having “dirty toenails” to claiming that African-American pastors who attended the trial were there to be intimidating.

“Fear was another racist dog whistle used by defense attorneys, who highlighted the worries prompted by a string of unreported crimes in the neighborhood,” Chavez and Tensley observe. “Travis McMichael testified that on the night of February 11, 2020 — nearly two weeks before Arbery’s shooting — he saw someone ‘creeping through the shadows’ in the neighborhood.”

But in this case, racism couldn’t prevent a conviction for White defendants.

“Nearly ten years after (Trayvon) Martin’s death,” Chavez and Tensley write, “civil rights activists and protesters secured some solace from Wednesday’s verdict in the Arbery death trial case.”

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