Lawyer Representing Ahmaud Arbery's Family Discusses Case
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Earlier this week, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, were arrested and charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man who was jogging near his home. The McMichaels, who are white, claimed they followed Arbery because they thought he was a burglar. The shooting happened in February. But earlier this week, cellphone video of the confrontation was leaked to the public, causing a national outcry. The arrests followed shortly thereafter. Attorney Benjamin Crump has represented the families of many high-profile shootings of unarmed black people, including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice. He's now one of the attorneys representing members of Ahmaud Arbery's family, and he is with us now. Mr. Crump, thank you so much for joining us.
BENJAMIN CRUMP: Thank you so much, Michel, for having me and covering this important story.
MARTIN: And I just wanted to ask you to set the table for us for people who might not be familiar with this. What is your role in this case? People might wonder why family members of the victim need a lawyer. It is - I think the way people - most people understand the criminal justice system in America that the law enforcement is supposed to speak for the victim as it were. So what's your role in this case? Why does his family need a lawyer?
CRUMP: Certainly. The reason, Michel, his family needs lawyers is a reason that is underscored by this very case - the fact that Ahmaud Arbery was executed in broad daylight and that prosecutors had video of the lynching but yet the prosecutors failed to act on this probable cause that they could see with their own eyes. And so black people and brown people and people who are marginalized and disenfranchised have to turn to advocates. His mother and father were begging and pleading for somebody to be held accountable for the murder of their child. But yet the prosecutor told them no charges are to be filed. And so the family needed advocates. They needed people who understood the law 'cause as you know, we are officers of the court. And they needed somebody to say this isn't right.
MARTIN: I want to unpack a couple of the things that you just pointed out here. The shooting happened February 23 of this year, but the two men were just arrested Thursday. And there have been a number of twists and turns here, as you just pointed out. I mean, two different local prosecutors recused themselves. So the first thing I wanted to ask you is do you believe that the video becoming public is what led to the arrest, or is it the fact that two different prosecutors had to recuse themselves because they had ties to the two men in this case, the two men who committed the shooting?
CRUMP: Michel, I want to make it clear for the record. The reason they arrested Travis and Greg McMichael for executing Ahmaud Arbery was not because the law enforcement officials saw the video; it was because we the people saw the video, and we were outraged when we saw that modern-day lynching and because we could not unsee what we have saw on that video. And, remember, Michel, the police had this video Day 1. They knew this video existed. And so they were not going to arrest them based on what they saw on the video. They arrested them when the public said we will not stand for this.
MARTIN: Can you confirm that in fact - it has been reported, but can you confirm that, in fact, Ahmaud Arbery's mother was told that he was committing a burglary by police when he was killed?
MARTIN: Is that accurate?
MARTIN: OK. Yesterday, you had an op-ed in USA Today. And you wrote that when police arrived at the scene of Arbery's murder, "they took the word of the suspected killers who said they believed Arbery was a criminal, and they feared for their lives. That was the extent of the investigation," end quote. And as I mentioned, two different local prosecutors have recused themselves from this case before it went to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. But before recusing himself, one of the district attorneys wrote a letter to the police department, asserting Georgia's "stand your ground" law as a reason not to charge the two men. Now, of course, you're familiar with this law as the defense of George Zimmerman's prosecution in the Florida shooting of Trayvon Martin. That's another case, of course, with which you were closely involved. Does Georgia's version apply here?
CRUMP: Absolutely not. And we think that it was inappropriate for that prosecutor who said that he had a conflict of interest, then to give an opinion that could influence the investigation or obstruct justice in some type of way. And so we just are very distrustful of the southeastern Georgia legal community in this case because they all know the killer. They all have relationships with people who know the killers. And, therefore, that's not equal justice or fair administration of justice for Ahmaud Arbery and his family.
MARTIN: Before we let you go, may I ask how Mr. Arbery's family is dealing with this?
CRUMP: It's very difficult. Friday would have been Ahmaud Arbery's 26th birthday. And we got news of their arrest on that Thursday evening, the day before his birthday. And as his father said, it's a good birthday gift, but our family would rather have our son back.
MARTIN: That is attorney Benjamin Crump. He is among those representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery. Benjamin Crump, thank you so much for speaking to us once again.
CRUMP: Thank you so much, Michel.
MARTIN: We should mention that Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson refutes reports that she ordered officers not to arrest the McMichaels. She told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, quote, "no assistant district attorney in the office directed any Glynn County police officer not to make an arrest," unquote. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.