Ahmaud Arbery’s Murder Case
Ahmaud Arbery’s murder, the selected case, is a recent crime event that has drawn significant national attention across the United States. His fatal shooting last year has sparked heated debates on gun rights and the limits of self-defense. Besides, the delayed arrest of the culprits has triggered nationwide discourses and criticisms over racial profiling in the country (Ellis, 2020; Wootson & Brice-Saddler, 2020). With the trial over Arbery’s death commencing more than one year after his murder, the media coverage of this case has been instrumental in broadcasting live trial updates to the public, illuminating what transpired in this case.
Ahmaud Arbery’s Murder Case
The Crime in Its Historical Setting
This section highlights the incidence, evidence, arrest, and events influencing the court involved, law enforcement agencies, and the media.
Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Africa American man, was killed on February 23, 2020, in Satilla Shores, a neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, while out jogging (Fausset, 2021). The main murder culprits were two white men who chased Arbery acting as vigilantes (Vila et al., 2021). They suspected that Arbery had perpetrated theft or burglary in Satilla Shores, thereby assuming that he was responsible for burglaries witnessed and reported earlier (Wootson & Brice-Saddler, 2020). Evidence later showed that these two white men were Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael (Mckay, 2021).
Two pieces of evidence are critical to the historical setting of Arbery’s murder. The first is a half-minute long videotape on William “Roddie” Bryan’s cell phone. Bryan, the third murder perpetrator, used his cellphone to record Gregory and Travis, armed and in one vehicle, chasing and shooting at the unarmed Arbery. Bryan made this video recording while also pursuing Arbery in his own truck. In this video, Travis was seen opening the driver’s side door, exiting the vehicle, wielding the shotgun, engaging in a conformation with Arbery, and eventually shooting him (Fausset, 2021). This evidence has been crucial in the culprits’ trial because it shows Arbery was unarmed, besides revealing that Gregory and Travis indeed ambushed him (Ellis, 2020; Kasakove & Heyward, 2021). The second evidence is police interview transcripts, showing that Gregory confessed to initiating the pursuit after seeing Arbery run past his home and suspecting he was a burglar (Sayers & Pamela, 2021).
Three major events have influenced the court, the murder case’s media coverage, and law enforcement actions. The first is the circulation of the viral video detailing how Gregory, Travis, and Bryan pursued and shot Arbery. The second encompasses the public outcry, widespread national protests, community outrage, and demonstrations after Bryan’s video was leaked and publicized (Kasakove & Heyward, 2021; Laughland, 2021). The last event was the alarm raised by legal experts, activists, and politicians across the country over the delayed culprits’ arrest.
Following the public outcry, justice activism, and video evidence review, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested Travis, Bryan, and Gregory for the murder (Kasakove & Heyward, 2021). Currently, the Bureau is investigating some local prosecutors (include Tom Durden) and law enforcement agencies for failing to make the initial arrest obtaining the video evidence (Ellis, 2020; Wootson & Brice-Saddler, 2020).
Crime Event’s Theoretical Analysis
The assemblage theory helps conceptualize and analyze Arbery’s murder case.
The Theory’s Premise
Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze originally developed the assemblage theory in the 1980s, positing that social constructions are assemblages of complex configurations of discrete, contingent, heterogeneous, partial, and unstable social elements that sequentially play roles in other, more extended configurations (Rey, 2012). Based on this proposition, a stable ontology for the social world is nonexistent. Since its development, the assemblage theory has been adopted in various social structures, fields, and formations such as race and racialization, explaining them as machinic and enunciative assemblages. While machinic assemblages relate the appropriations, utilizations, and transpositions of social elements, enunciative assemblages deal with the laws and transformations associated with social elements (Yu, 2013).
Within the racialization context, Alexander Weheliye adopted the assemblage theory to develop his concept of racializing assemblages. He held that race encompasses sociopolitical processes that anchor political hierarchies in human flesh to discipline humanity into complete humans, nonhumans, and not-quite-humans (Conley 2017; White, 2018). Accordingly, race is a social construction where an assemblage of stereotypical hardships, indignities against African Americans, their racial profiling, and other racism elements culminate in racialization (Vila & Avery-Natale, 2020; Vila et al., 2021). Scilicet, racialization occurs via a complex race-centered process that immanently emerge as a social assemblage’s outcome. In this assemblage, affects and emotions circulate to alter the assemblage’s elements, causing race materialization. These affects and emotions also dictate the enactment, materialization and performance of specific identitarian articulations that deny racialized groups certain privileges and capacities (Vila & Avery-Natale, 2020).
Theory Application in Arbery’s Case
Arbery is only one among many cases of Whites murdering Blacks in America under unclear circumstances. The assemblage theory and its linkage with the concept of identitarian articulations provides useful tools to better comprehend the occurrence of this crime event. Particularly, Travis, Bryan, and Gregory operated in a Neighborhood Watch assemblage that only anticipated that a Black individual in that vicinity only qualified to be felonious (Vila et al., 2021). When Arbery entered this assemblage during jogging, his overly racialized role as criminal constituted the identitarian articulation of his victimization. Since this identitarian articulation emerges as arrangements of bodies, identifications, objects, affects, and emotions that collectively actualize race on bodies (Vila et al., 2021), his identification by the culprits as a black body only articulated him as a racialized object. Accordingly, the perpetrators’ emotions of hate against the minority materialized their notion that he was a burglar, and tragically, death via murder became this assemblage’s capacity.
Media Involvement and Coverage of the Case
Numerous media outlets across the U.S. and other parts of the world have expansively covered this case since its occurrence. Examples include the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post, and the USA Today, which have covered the case’s stages from investigation to disposition.
Role of Media Coverage in Case Disposition
The accounts and reports given by different authors and editors affiliated with these media outlets show considerable consensuses about how this crime started, transpired, and advanced to the final verdict. Their coverage also demonstrate unanimities in their reporting of the case facts, investigations, ongoing trial the jury’s deliberations and reasoning, validations for the verdict and determinations, and other criminal case prosecution phases. For instance, most of the media channels covering this case agree that during investigations that led to the arrest of Gregory, Travis, and Bryan, the video recording by the latter played a key role in the arrest, trial, and convictions (Fausset, 2021; Kasakove & Heyward, 2021; Mckay, 2021; Kennedy & Diaz, 2021). Indeed, the video evidence was central to the arraignment, indictment, and preliminary hearing, together with the trial and sentencing of the three, who were found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, with life imprisonment possibilities after federal trial in February 2022. The media exposure of this evidence was crucial in affirming to the public that the victim did not pose any imminent threat to the three because he was unarmed.
Relevance of Media Coverage of Arbery’s Murder
The case’s coverage by diverse media outlets has been relevant in four aspects. Firstly, the media have shed more light on rising racial profiling incidents. While evidence existed for months to warrant the filing of charges against Bryan and the McMichaels, the media unmask the district attorney offices’ deliberately failure to make arrests. This sparked and fuelled public uproar countrywide for what has been publicized as racial profiling and racial injustice against Arbery’s family while the killers remained free since the early 2020 (Ellis, 2020; Kennedy & Diaz, 2021). Secondly, the media bring to light judicial bias and intentional discrimination in the justice process of handling murder cases involving minority groups. As reported by some media outlets (Kennedy & Diaz, 2021; Laughland, 2021; Yang, 2021), there were already substantial concerns at the trial’s onset because defense attorneys eliminated nearly all Black jurors, leaving an almost all-white jury of eleven white judges and only one Black judge.
Thirdly, the media draw a clear picture of traumatic and costly outcomes of assumptions-based decision making in citizens’ arrests. The defense attorneys have sustained that the culprits were attempting to enact a lawful citizen’s arrest (Fausset, 2021; Sayers & Pamela, 2021; Wootson & Brice-Saddler, 2020). However, the evidence presented and reported in the media clearly shows that the perpetrators based their decisions and actions principally on assumptions that Arbery was a burglar. Such assumptions cost a life due to mistaken identity of a regular jogger. Lastly, the media have highlighted what has been termed the public lynching of the accused (Kennedy & Diaz, 2021; Laughland, 2021). Defense attorneys have held that the case has been marred by mistrial, arguing that media coverage and the presence of outside activists are influencing court proceedings, amounting to contemporary public lynching (Yang, 2021).
Perspective on the Media’s Effect on the Case Outcomes
The media coverage of murder cases and trials is essential in exposing instances of judicial unfairness. In Arbery’s case, the media have been pivotal to this end, exposing the intentional discrimination in the trial where almost all Black jurors were eliminated from the trial panel (Fausset, 2021; Sayers & Pamela, 2021). Also, the media coverage was indispensable in guaranteeing adequate validation of evidence. Through the media circulation of video evidence that fuelled public unrest, Georgia Bureau of Investigation engaged in deeper investigations and established the factualness of the evidence, leading to the arrests and possibly impartial murder case administration. Lastly, the media coverage helps reflect on laxity and failures in the fight against the racism pandemic, seeing that allegations of intentional bias and racism have continued to surround this court case.
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