Editorial On Arbery, Rittenhouse Trials Is Media Malpractice

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The editorial page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is a reliable source for anti-2A opinions, but the paper has kicked its anti-gun advocacy into overdrive since the verdict was announced in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. The editors have used the trial to demand raising the age to own a gun, but not before declaring that the teenager “literally got away with murder.”

Now the paper is trying to draw a comparison and some conclusions between the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse and the three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, and in doing so the editors have strayed far beyond mere opinion and have entered the realm of confusing fantasy with facts.

The multiple guilty verdicts last Wednesday against three white Georgia men who cornered and murdered a Black jogger marked a refreshing turn of justice. A jury drew a much-needed line between stand-your-ground laws and gun-carrying vigilantes who have been emboldened to go on human hunting sprees. The nearly all-white jury decided that spurious assertions of self-defense and false allegations of hostile intent by the victim, Ahmaud Arbery, were no excuse for the reckless actions of defendants Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor, William Bryan.

That’s how the system is supposed to work every time. Unfortunately, the results too often lead to disappointment for Americans who want to see punishment for vigilantes who go out with guns looking for trouble and wind up killing people without justification. Long before the Nov. 20 not-guilty verdict for teenage vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse in Wisconsin, there was George Zimmerman in 2012. He stalked Black teenager Trayvon Martin on a Florida street, confronted the unarmed boy without justification, then killed him. Zimmerman and Rittenhouse inserted themselves into dangerous confrontations without cause, then convinced jurors that self-defense was their only way to get out alive.

Apparently the system only “works” when a jury returns a verdict that the editors agree with. If twelve jurors find that you were acting in self-defense, the paper will label you a “vigilante” and brush away any inconvenient facts by falsely claiming that you were the initial instigators of violence. They’ll leave out the fact that you were assaulted, because it doesn’t fit their narrative.

Now look, we’ve seen this kind of anti-gun idiocy before. But see if you pick up on another basic error of fact that demonstrates the editors of the Post-Dispatch don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

Race issues played a role in all three cases. But in Georgia, prosecutor Jackie Johnson smartly sidestepped potential racial motivations to focus on the way gun owners misinterpret stand-your-ground laws as a license to kill.

Arbery was an athlete and avid jogger.

He was out for a run at midday on Feb. 23, 2020, when he paused to explore a construction site in a white residential neighborhood. Then he resumed his run. The McMichaels and Bryan decided to chase Arbery down with their vehicles and corral him.

As Travis McMichael later testified, Arbery had made no hostile gestures and carried no weapon, nor had he taken anything from the construction site.

The three assailants simply assumed he was up to no good, and Arbery paid for that assumption with his life.

At trial, Jackson [sic] avoided mentioning Arbery’s race or the overtly racist statements the defendants had made after the murder. Jurors didn’t hear about the Confederate flag that adorned Travis McMichael’s license plate. It was a smart decision by Johnson because, regardless of whether racism played a role in the defendants’ actions, they were not facing hate crime charges in the state case. So why introduce that distraction?

Johnson kept the case simple: Possession of a gun doesn’t give people the right to force others into submission.

Did they even watch the trial? Read any of their paper’s own coverage? Because Jackie Johnson didn’t prosecute this case. In fact, Jackie Johnson, who until recently was the District Attorney in Brunswick County, Georgia is now facing charges of obstructing a law enforcement officer and violating her oath of office after she was indicted by a grand jury in September.

Johnson allegedly sat on the Arbery investigation and never pursued charges against the three men ultimately convicted of Arbery’s murder. And yet the St. Louis Post-Dispatch repeatedly refers to Johnson as the prosecutor in this case. Not once, not twice, but three separate times (though the editors also incorrectly refer to her as “Jackson” at least once.

Even more embarrassing for the paper is that this editorial has been online since Monday and has yet to be corrected (at least as of Wednesday morning). Here’s a screen shot just in case the part-time unpaid intern they must be using as a fact-checker finally gets around to updating the paper’s erroneous information.

For what it’s worth, the lawyers representing Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan never raised a stand-your-ground defense during the trial. Instead, they based their defense on Georgia’s since-repealed citizens arrest law. Not only can the St. Louis Post-Dispatch not even get the name of the prosecutor correct (it was actually Linda Dunikowski, a prosecutor from Cobb County, who pursued the case against the three men), but it managed to misrepresent basic details about the Arbery trial as well as the Rittenhouse and Zimmerman cases.

The sad thing is that no one at the Post-Dispatch is going to get called on the carpet for this. The editors will continue to spew the same anti-gun nonsense that’s been a hallmark of the paper for years. The one consolation for those of us who care about the facts and our individual rights is that it sure seems that not many people are reading the Post-Dispatch editorial page these days… including the folks who are supposed to find and fix basic factual errors.