‘Breakdown’ S08 Ep. 3: How Georgia lets citizens arrest fellow citizens

The controversial history of the state’s citizen’s arrest law, and how it could be invoked in the Ahmaud Arbery case

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

The latest episode of the AJC’s “Breakdown” podcast explains how the Ahmaud Arbery murder case, believed to be mired in a judicial shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, suddenly cleared an important hurdle.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s podcast, now in its eighth season, is focusing on the Feb. 23 fatal shooting of the 25-year-old Black man as he jogged through the Satilla Shores neighborhood just outside of coastal Brunswick.

This season’s third episode explains how the district attorney’s office found a way to convene a grand jury during an ongoing statewide judicial emergency.

After hearing testimony in the case for 90 minutes, the grand jury returned a murder indictment against 34-year-old Travis McMichael, who fired the fatal shots; his father, 64-year-old Greg McMichael, a former investigator for the local DA’s office; and William “Roddie” Bryan, the 50-year-old man who had joined in the chase and took the video of the shooting with his cellphone.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: The Ahmaud Arbery case

» LISTEN: Previous seasons of the AJC’s ‘Breakdown’ podcast

During a press conference, District Attorney Joyette Holmes said prosecutors called Arbery’s relatives as soon as the indictment was returned.

“Of course, just with everything that’s going on around the country, with the judicial emergency that’s in place, they had no idea when some of the next steps would happen,” Holes said. “So, to get that phone call that we were able to call in a grand jury and to do it safely and that they returned a true bill, they were extremely happy about that.”

The episode also explores the controversial history of Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law, which the three men are certain to invoke as a main part of their defense. Also, a judge hears an unsuccessful plea from Bryan’s lawyer to release his client on bond pending trial.


» Records show a neighborhood on edge before Arbery's final run

» The Ahmaud Arbery shooting: What we know so far

» GBI: Arbery’s killer uttered racial epithet after firing fatal shots