THE AHMAUD ARBERY MURDER CASE: Introduction to Your Commentator

May 12, 2020 KELLEY KIDD, writer and editor. This is the first posting on a subject about which the author expects to continue commenting until at least there is a plea or verdict that appears to resolve the case legally. Some of the facts of the case are unfolding rapidly for public view. New information is coming every day, sometimes multiple times in a single day. A week ago today no arrests had been made, the GBI had not yet begun the investigation that led to two arrests, formal charges had not been made, the coroner’s report had not been made public, the present prosecutor in the case had not made any appearance or even been appointed, the federal government had not been involved in any way, a possibly important video of the deceased’s whereabouts shortly before the shooting had not yet surfaced, the President had not expressed any opinion publicly, and this case was not yet in the daily attention of most of those presently following it.

So this first posting is not about the facts of the case. I refer you to your local and national news sources for that. I do promise to return to those facts as soon as they become clearly enough available to make intelligent commentary possible. I am confident that the rush of new information will at least pause soon. At that time I will give you a “what we know now” posting.

In the American criminal justice system the facts determine the applicable law, or at least they should. I had originally planned to use this initial posting to at least outline the Georgia criminal law and procedure involved here. I will do that very soon. However the factual situation is unfolding so rapidly that I will postpone that effort for at least a few days.

What I can and will do here is to very briefly try to sketch a picture of those elements in my background that bear directly on reporting and on my vision of this case. I do not believe any human being can be totally objective about any situation as emotionally explosive as this. But I believe each of us should try hard to be as unaffected as possible by the preconceptions and the emotional bent our previous experience has given us. The jury will be asked to do that if there is a trial. I hope each of us has been taught even as children that open minded attention and fair consideration are fundamental goals of decent human beings.

So here is your writer, who is aware that he has the very hardest time being fair minded when the subject he writes about is himself. I am a 78 years old white guy from Georgia. I have been a lawyer and a member of the Georgia Bar since 1970. I have been a public defender doing full time criminal defense work since the creation of the statewide public defense system in 1995. I was representing criminal defendants and alleged juvenile delinquents part time for many years before that. It seems to me that my record has been at least pretty good. Although I have lost more than a few bench trials, jury trials and motion hearings, I have also won quite a few. I have recently been honored by the Bar Association for my long service. I continue to do my best to give each of my clients diligent and zealous service. This work is my calling and my passion.

Last year I represented a man accused of Felony Murder and Aggravated Assault. Recently I have asked for the opportunity to represent another man accused of the same combination of offenses. These are the same offenses for which the McMichaels have been arrested in the Arbery case. Some of the same defenses that may appear in the Arbery case were involved in the case I handled last year. Even more recently I won a jury trial in which my client was accused of fleeing to avoid being detained by law enforcement officers. I have been credited at least once with being a key factor in the removal of an abusive officer from a police department. I believe all this experience both informs my view of the Arbery case as well as making it perhaps more difficult to avoid certain bias.

Outside my legal practice my life has of course been dramatically affected by other experiences dealing with race. I am an American who has never lived outside the Mason-Dixon line, a graduate of an all white male military high school, a graduate of Emory College in Atlanta when it was all white and Emory Law School in the first class that included a few token African American male students. In 1963 I attended Harvard College for the summer quarter, and was disappointed to see not one single African American in the faculty or student body.

On the other hand, earlier postings on this blog have related certain experiences in 1963 and 1968 which dramatically altered my views and emotions on the subject of race, as well a my willingness to act on those new revelations. I have studied the history of slavery and racism as a part of my study over the years of American history. Many of my closest associates since 1968 have been African Americans. Beginning in 1968 I actively worked for several years every conscious hour to learn and to pass on information about the problems caused by white racism and by contempt for the poor of all races. My boss in recent years has been a highly competent and dedicated African American lawyer and defender of the poor. Many of our able fellow workers also have been people of color.

One other note about me before I close this introduction. I believe that I may owe my life to a murderer in Baltimore, a man who had undoubtedly killed a number of other men while serving the interests of certain wise guys, whose identities I never knew. He loved me and helped me at a time when few others could or would have wanted to even try. Finally, when I was ten years old the funeral of a murderer in Milledgeville Georgia set my faith in the gospel truth that my God adores each and every one of us humans, even those who do the most evil deeds!

I will be carrying all of these attitudes and experiences into my postings on the Arbery case. My job as a public defender will continue to be my first concern. But my second will be to be making my best efforts to help you understand as much about this case as I can know and you can learn from me. If you have questions or comments about my writing or the case as you see it, please do not hesitate to express yourself in comments on the FB postings I will be making each day in which i also have a much more extensive comment in this Journal of Public Law.

At the end of each of these postings, I will make a declaration similar to this: absolutely every bit of this posting has been researched, written and edited by me. My employer on my day job was not consulted about whether this blog was a good idea. She has certainly not been asked to edit or to even comment on the contents of the blog in general or this posting in particular. I have not received any compensation for anything I write on this blog. And I do not anticipate ever accepting a dime for any of it. I like to write about subjects that interest me, and I enjoy the fantasy that others who read my writing may actually benefit from taking the time to read what I have written. Those are my sole motives for what you see here.

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