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Arbery Hate-Crime Convictions May Inspire More Prosecutions

The convictions of three men on federal hate-crime charges in the death of Ahmaud Arbery should serve as "inspiration" to law enforcement officials who all too rarely charge and prosecute such bias crimes, Capital B reports. “The Ahmaud Arbery case should serve as an example to prosecutors that you can win and you should try,” said Jeannine Bell, an author and professor of law at Indiana University Bloomington who termed the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes a "legal failure" to date.


Of the 1,864 suspects referred for federal prosecution with hate crime as the leading charge between 2005 and 2019, only 284 made it all the way to conviction, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. During that 15-year period, only two defendants in Georgia were convicted of federal hate crime charges. Besiki Kutateladze, a criminology professor at Florida International University, said the low number of federal hate crime convictions is not surprising because “it’s extremely rare for many of these crimes to get reported [to the police] in the first place.” A federal jury on Feb. 22 found that Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, along with their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, chased and killed Arbery in a residential street because he was Black. It wasn’t until Bryan’s cellphone video was made public more than two months later that he and the McMichaels were indicted in state court for murder. And it wasn’t until April 28, 2021 — 14 months after the crime — that a grand jury indicted the trio on federal hate crime charges. During the weeklong hate crime trial, prosecutors showed the jurors several text messages and social media posts in which Travis McMichael and Bryan used racist slurs and made derogatory comments about Black people.

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