The US state of Georgia has abolished American Civil War-era legislation that allowed citizen’s arrests of suspected criminals.
The move was prompted by the fatal shooting of jogger Ahmaud Arbery, 25, by a white man who suspected him of being a burglar, in February 2020.
Mr Arbery, a black man, was pursued by Greg McMichael and his son Travis McMichael, who shot him dead.
A video of the encounter drew national attention and triggered protests.A neighbour, William Bryan, joined the chase and filmed the encounter.A prosecutor initially assigned to the case had used the citizen’s arrest law to argue that the shooting was justified.
The outcry over the case pushed lawmakers to repeal the 1863 law, which gave citizens in Georgia the right to arrest someone they believe committed a crime.
Campaigners said the law was used to round up escaped slaves and justify the lynching of African Americans.
All 50 states in the US have had laws governing citizen’s arrests.
But on Monday Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Republican governor, signed the bill that made the state the first in the country to repeal its citizen’s arrest statute.
“Today we are replacing this Civil War-era law, ripe for abuse, with language that balances the sacred right of self-defence of person and property with our shared responsibility to root out injustice and set our state on a better path forward,”
Mr Kemp said.
Speaking alongside Governor Kemp, Mr Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said she hoped the bill would save lives.
“I think that the signing of this bill will make people think before they take action into their own hands,” she said. “Unfortunately I had to lose my son in this manner but with this bill being in place, I think it will protect young men if they’re jogging down the street.”
Gregory McMichael, 65, his 35-year-old son Travis, and neighbour William Bryan, who filmed the shooting, are awaiting trial in Georgia on state charges, including murder.
All three have pleaded not guilty.
They face trial in October this year. The men are also being charged with federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping.