A Georgia jury gets it right (and America dodges a bullet)

Yesterday, I asked a simple question.  “How racist is America?”  I suggested that a jury in Brunswick, Georgia was poised to tell us.

Their answer was unequivocal.  By convicting all three defendants of felony murder, and the actual shooter of felony murder and “malice murder”, the jury of eleven white residents and one Black resident, provided us with our answer.

How racist is America?  Not as racist as the defense team in this trial were hoping. 

When Laura Hogue painted Armoud Arbery as a low-life drifter with long, dirty toenails, she was hoping the jury was hoping the jury would be swayed by these racist tropes.

When Kevin Gough told the judge that there were too many Black preachers in the courtroom, he was hoping to hook white resentment. 

Hogue and Gough proved one thing.  This jury wasn’t as racist as they were hoping.

We cannot conclude from this verdict that the jurors were committed antiracists with a profound grasp of systemic racism and a solid grasp of racial history.  They didn’t have to be.  They just needed to tell the difference between self-defense and premeditated murder. 

It helped that Timothy Walmsley, the presiding judge, didn’t send jurors a series of not-so-subtle pro-defense signals (a reality that tainted the Kyle Rittenhouse trial from beginning to end).

It also helped that Linda Dunikoski, the lead prosecutor, cut through the distortions and distractions, calmly drawing jurors back to the undisputed facts of the case.

This verdict doesn’t heal our divided nation, but an acquittal, coming on the heels of the Rittenhouse verdict, would have transformed a tinder-dry nation into a conflagration of epic proportions. It’s bad out there. It could have been so much worse. America just dodged a bullet.

I read today that only 11% of Black America has confidence in our system of criminal justice, while only 13% believe that Black and white defendants receive equal treatment by police and the criminal justice system. 

The same Pew study showed that 87% of Black Americans are concerned about high rates of gun violence, compared to just 47% of whites.  The difference, I strongly suspect, is that a nation awash in firearms heightens feelings of security for most white people, while Black people, who are more vulnerable to gun violence (from civilians and police officers) approach the issue with eyes wide open.

So, we still face a steep mountain; but today’s verdict gave us the strength for climbing.


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