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Virginia NAACP, legal expert weigh in on Arbery trial guilty verdicts

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 11:30 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - After more than a year of public scrutiny, Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael, and William Bryan were each found guilty and face up to life in prison for the killing of Ahmad Arbery back in 2020.

Virginia NAACP Executive Director Da’Quan Love says the guilty verdicts represent the legal system holding all three defendants accountable for the 23-year-old’s death.

“At the end of the day, we were not sure how the verdict would go,” said Love. “This verdict was a collective result of organizing by Georgia individuals in making sure that the criminal justice system finally held Ahmad Arbery’s killers accountable.”

Love believes this case is just the latest example of how the country must reexamine the role race can play in everything from public encounters to the legal system.

“What folks have to be mindful of is how those racist ideologies, the white supremacist’s ideologies, play out in the way people perceive others and the way the ultimate act,” said Love. “The Virginia NAACP is going to continue its efforts to ensure that judicial accountability becomes the norm rather than the exception.”

But NBC12 Legal expert Steve Benjamin says there’s another equally critical lesson to pull from this trial.

“Before somebody tries executing a so-called citizen’s arrest, you gotta think to yourself: Is it necessary?” said Benjamin.

Benjamin says citizen’s arrests in Virginia are legal according to the state’s common law, but it comes with many risks.

“You could face substantial criminal and civil penalties if you’re wrong in making this citizen’s arrests. You could be charged with abduction; you could be charged with many degrees of assault,” said Benjamin. “There is just no need for citizens to try and act as police officers; they don’t have the training, and they face some serious consequences if they’re wrong or something goes awry.”

As with the three defendants in the Arbery trial, Benjamin says wrongful citizen’s arrests could also lead to a life sentence in the state of Virginia.

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