Once viewed as key part of civic engagement, citizen’s arrests in America are now archaic, potentially violent, and targeted against minorities. Yet the laws allowing them remain on the books.
In February, father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael killed Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged near his home in Satilla Shores, Georgia. State prosecutor George Barnhill justified the act by citing Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law, asserting that the killers were trying to lawfully detain Arbery, because they said they were suspicious that he’d attempted to burglarize a home. According to the Georgia law, a “private person” is permitted to arrest a fellow citizen if they’ve committed a felony and are trying to escape, even if the arrestor only has “probable grounds of suspicion.”
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