Arbery Family Attorney Says On GPB's 'Political Rewind' Grand Jury Should Move Forward
As the Ahmaud Arbery case continues to gain international attention, one person who's calling for justice is L. Chris Stewart.
The Atlanta-based attorney partnered with S. Lee Merritt and Benjamin Crump to represent the Arbery family.
A post shared by L.Chris Stewart Esq (@chrisstewart_esq_) onMay 7, 2020 at 7:00am PDT
Two men, Travis and Gregory McMichael, have been arrested and charged for the shooting death of Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, while he jogged through a neighborhood near Brunswick on Feb. 23.
Stewart was a guest on GPB’s Political Rewind Wednesday. He joined host Bill Nigut along with three other panelists: GPB reporter Emily Jones, Professor Amy Steigerwalt and Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter Greg Bluestein.
Stewart began the conversation by saying he is satisfied with Attorney General Chris Carr’s decision to appoint Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes to the case.
“I mean, there was just too much apparent corruption going on with how the case had been handled with the prior DAs, with the case being moved around,” Stewart said. “You've seen the investigations that have opened. So, it's just best to have an unbiased eye on the case that has nothing to do with the connections down there.”
Holmes is the fourth prosecutor to oversee the case.
Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson was the first to work on the case but recused herself because Gregory McMichael had previously worked in her office as an investigator. Prior to Johnson’s recusal, George Barnhill recused himself after Arbery's mother raised objections. Atlantic Judicial Circuit DA Tom Durden was handling the case prior to Holmes' appointment.
The Arbery shooting puts heavy scrutiny on Georgia’s “citizen’s arrest laws.” The McMichaels told police they were attempting to make a citizen’s law arrest after they were shown in a leaked video pursuing and killing Arbery.
However, Stewart says that wasn’t the case:
It [citizen’s arrest law] does not allow you to do what happened in this situation. You are not allowed to not have witnessed the crime. Grab weapons … see someone you think could be involved in a crime. Chase them down and end up shooting them three times. What it would allow you to do currently in Georgia is let's say you're in the grocery store. An armed robber walks in and points the gun at the cashier and you're right there. And they rob the place and turn around and you tackle them and hold them on the ground until the police come saying that you're under arrest, citizen's arrest. That would be allowed. I mean, you're right there. It happened. You have clear immediate knowledge of the crime. It's a clear felony. And you tackle them and hold them down. You don't use excessive force. But it is insanity for people to start chasing individuals they think may have been involved in a crime with weapons. What if it's the wrong person? What if it's someone that looks like who you thought did it and you end up killing them? I mean, it's going to turn it to the wild, wild west if this is allowed.
Georgia officials said more arrests are possible in the case, and Stewart also addressed this concern that includes William "Roddy" Bryan, the man who filmed the video of the shooting. Bryan denies being involved in the shooting, but Stewart said he thinks otherwise.
“I mean, the person that filmed was involved in this," Stewart said. "I mean, it is insane. You know, he needs to be arrested if you just read the police report. Mr. McMichael says he tried to block him in. I mean, he was part of the chase in the pursuit of hunting Ahmaud. That is an accessory to a crime, if you just believe what Mr. McMichael Michael said. And, you know, he even used the nickname Roddy, which is his name. If they don't know each other, how do you know his nickname?”
The AJC reported the suspects also had an earlier confrontation nearly two weeks before the Arbery shooting, according a neighbor.
Bluestein asked Stewart about the incident, and Stewart wouldn’t comment since it’s not verified by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
A grand jury for the case wouldn’t meet until after June 12, following the expiration of Georgia’s state of emergency for coronavirus. Stewart said he wants the special prosecutor to consider moving forward with a grand jury.
“You know, the faster justice comes, you know, the better," Stewart said. "So, if they can make it happen, that would be great.”
The Justice Department said Monday that federal prosecutors are weighing possible hate crime charges in the Arbery slaying.
The Arbery case isn’t Stewart’s first high-profile civil rights case. He’s also represented Walter Scott and Alton Sterling.