“Regardless of if this was invoked correctly or not in the first place (regarding Arbery’s death), there is no escaping the legislative intent of why this statute was created in the first place,” Woodall said. “And so to ignore that would be to, literally, be complicit in white supremacy.”
State Rep. Ed Setzler, an Acworth Republican, pushed back on Woodall's depiction of the law's origins.
“Sir, there were 18 things that you said that were reckless and indefensible,” Setzler said. “I encourage you to go to the root of these issues and not make wild claims as you have that, I believe, trivialize the real issues that are at play and would ask you to do better next time.”
The meeting Monday of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee comes after Arbery’s death has put focus on the citizen’s arrest law. Several Democratic lawmakers and civil rights activists have called for the state to repeal the statute, as well as making several other changes to Georgia’s criminal justice laws.
Committee Chairman Chuck Efstration, a Dacula Republican, has said he plans for the panel to examine whether and how the state should update its citizen's arrest law. The hearings also come weeks after Arbery's killing prompted Georgia to approve House Bill 426, hate-crimes legislation that Efstration introduced last year.
Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said unless it’s an instance such as a private security officer detaining a shoplifter or someone protecting him or herself in their home, he believes application of the law by the public “usually turn out badly.”
“This is a concept that comes down to us, literally, from medieval times,” Porter said. “It’s an outmoded concept except in those two areas that I wanted to exclude. … I’m not in favor of citizens arresting one another (but if you eliminate the law completely), there may be some collateral effects.”