At any point, there are probably thousands of criminal cases being tried in American courtrooms. However, rarely are there two such high-profile trials as the Kyle Rittenhouse trial and the Ahmaud Arbery case. Either case is enough to strongly divide our nation, but with both going on at the same time, it makes things…interesting.
People all over the place are making comparisons between the two incidents.
To be sure, there are valid comparisons. Both cases involved armed individuals who were carrying long guns in areas that were not their personal property. Both fired after someone tried to grab their weapon.
The similarities exist, to be sure.
But there are also profound differences that people need to understand, and much of that boils down to who was doing the chasing.
With Kyle Rittenhouse, he was in Kenosha in an effort to protect private businesses from being looted and/or burned. Plenty of people say he shouldn’t have been there, which is probably true in hindsight. However, we know he was motivated by noble intentions and his presence didn’t violate any laws.
There wasn’t anything amiss until he got separated from his group and he started being chased. When one of his pursuers grabbed his weapon, Rittenhouse fired. From the videos we’ve seen and the testimony we’ve heard, it’s clear to me that he acted in self-defense at that very moment. Same as when another protestor tried to cave his head in with a skateboard–a deadly weapon if used offensively.
Rittenhouse was being chased, and so when someone grabbed for his weapon, he had ample grounds to fear for his life.
With the Ahmaud Arbery case, things are different.
See, Arbery wasn’t chasing anyone. He was being chased.
Whether he had just gone for a run as some said or was fleeing after trespassing on private property as others allege, it doesn’t really matter. He was running away.
That’s why he was chased by two men with shotguns. Arbery was confronted by those two men and he grabbed one of the guns. The individual holding that gun opened fire, claiming he feared for his life.
In another similarity, Arbery’s pursuers believed they were doing a good thing. Their neighborhood had several burglaries in recent weeks and they believed they were chasing someone who might have been responsible.
However, one’s intentions don’t really matter, it’s actions that do.
Georgia law allows one to use lethal force against another in a number of instances. However, there’s no provision in that law that covers you if you pursue someone you think might have broken a law. Maybe.
You can follow, sure, and if someone turns and confronts you then that’s a whole other ballgame, but you can’t follow them and initiate the confrontation.
Frankly, had Arbery gotten hold of the shotgun and used it, he would have been the one acting in self-defense.
I’m not going to pretend there isn’t any overlap between the two cases because there is. However, the legality or illegality of what transpired lies not in the overlapping parts, but in the differences.
But Ahmaud Arbery and Kyle Rittenhouse–one a murder victim, one accused of murder–were both being chased, and that makes a whole lot of difference.