It is my understanding that three defendants face a Federal hate crime involving the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.
In April 2021, all three men were indicted on federal charges of one count each of interference with rights (a hate crime) and one count each of attempted kidnapping, while the McMichaels were also charged with separate counts of using firearms during a crime of violence.
The next day on May 11, the U.S. Department of Justice responded that the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia "have been supporting and will continue fully to support and participate in the state investigation. We are assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate." In April 2021, all three men were indicted for federal crimes – one count each of interference with rights (a hate crime), one count each of attempted kidnapping, and one count for each McMichael of using a firearm during a crime of violence.2
Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill issued an opinion prior to the arrest of the three defendants:
On April 1, Arbery's autopsy report was given to Barnhill. On April 2, Barnhill wrote a memorandum to Glynn County police, recommending that no arrests be made. Barnhill wrote that the McMichaels were within their rights to chase "a burglary suspect, with solid firsthand probable cause"; that "Arbery initiated the fight"; and that Travis McMichael "was allowed to use deadly force to protect himself" when "Arbery grabbed the shotgun".
Barnhill cited Georgia's citizen arrest law, dating to the Civil War era, as justifying the killing of Arbery (the Georgia law says that either a crime must be committed within the citizen's "immediate knowledge", or there must be "reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion" for a felony crime). Barnhill alleged that videos of Arbery entering the home under construction on the day of the shooting showed Arbery "burglarizing a home immediately preceding the chase and confrontation.
It is my understanding that defendants will seek to invoke state (Georgia) laws as a defense:
The legal defense being argued by the defendants accused of murdering Arbery is that they were only attempting to perform a lawful citizen's arrest
IANAL: I would think Federal precedent does not enable (i.e. forbids) citizens (including retired law enforcement) to perform arrests or other law enforcment activities through the use of deadly force (i.e. giving chase with firearms, resulting in a fatality and then claim self-defense).
Does a claim of exercising state law, permitting citizens arrest, have any weight? Do defendants have standing to invoke self-defense given the context or did they give this up at some point in time? If so, any clarification is appreciated.