The Rundown: Jury deliberates in trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers

Travis McMichael
Defendant Travis McMichael looks on during his trial and of William "Roddie" Bryan and Gregory McMichael, charged with the February 2020 death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. Octavio Jones/Pool Photo via AP
Travis McMichael
Defendant Travis McMichael looks on during his trial and of William "Roddie" Bryan and Gregory McMichael, charged with the February 2020 death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. Octavio Jones/Pool Photo via AP

The Rundown: Jury deliberates in trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers

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Good afternoon! It’s Tuesday, and just a heads up: The newsletter will be taking a brief break on Thanksgiving and Friday, but I’ll be back on Monday with a surprise for you. Here’s what you need to know today.

(By the way, if you’d like this emailed to your inbox, you can sign up here.)

1. Jury begins deliberating in the case of three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery

Prosecutors today rested their case against three white men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, in Glynn County, Ga., in February 2020.

Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told a nearly all-white jury that the three men had no right to claim self-defense because they started a confrontation with Arbery while he was running in their neighborhood. She also said there is no evidence that Arbery committed a crime before he was killed.

Dunikoski said this case is “about responsibility. It’s about holding people accountable and responsible for their actions. Nobody gets a free pass.”

The defense for the three men — father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan — say they were trying to make a lawful citizen’s arrest. They also argue Travis McMichael opened fire because Arbery was attacking him. [NPR]

As the jury now deliberates, Black Americans across the nation see the case as the latest test of the justice system’s fairness, reports The Washington Post.

“It just shows that Caucasians, or white folks … it just shows they have disrespect for Blacks, and it goes all the way back to slavery times,” said Keith Johnson, who lives not far from the Glynn County Courthouse. “You are sitting right here in an old slave port, and they thought they could just run that man down, just because he was jogging. How much more guilty can you be? … And all that the Black people are asking for is justice.” [WaPo]

2. Prominent white supremacists found liable in deadly Unite the Right rally

A federal jury today found that white nationalists Richard Spencer and organizers of the 2017 Unite the Right rally are liable for injuries to counter protesters.

Spencer, a featured speaker at the event, is known for coining the term “alt-right.” Other defendants included Jason Kessler, the lead organizer of the rally, and Christopher Cantwell, who is known as the “crying Nazi” after a video was posted of his arrest in a separate case.

According to The Washington Post, the jury “awarded $500,000 in punitive damages against all 12 individual defendants, and $1 million against five white nationalist organizations on that conspiracy count. Other damages followed on further counts.”

The jury did not reach a verdict on two federal conspiracy charges. [WaPo]

3. Racist language from the past can be found in Chicago-area property records

Racially restrictive deeds and covenants, which were designed to keep Black people and ethnic and religious groups out of certain neighborhoods, are no longer legal in the U.S., but their lingering presence in property records still causes pain and anger, reports WBEZ’s Natalie Moore.

Dave Wigodner, a retired architect, said he was “floored and offended” when he found a restrictive deed attached to his home in north suburban Highland Park.

“Knowing that the restriction was here bothered me. But I wasn’t sure how to deal with or grapple with it. It just felt wrong and hit me at an emotional level in that way. Clearly, over the years, not enough that I became an activist sooner,” Wigodner said.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill this summer that will allow homeowners to remove racist language from property deeds. The law takes effect in January. [WBEZ]

Jesse Dukes, a senior podcast producer at WBEZ, writes about how racial covenants are connected to his story of homeownership even though one is not directly attached to his home. [WBEZ]

4. The Wisconsin Christmas parade crash reignites a debate over cash bail

The suspect in the Christmas parade crash in Waukesha, Wis., was out on a $1,000 cash bail in another case in which he is accused of running over a woman. Now, some families of the victims and opponents of criminal justice reform are questioning whether the crash would have happened had the bail been higher.

“I think my wife’s life and our children’s future are worth a lot more than $1,000,” John Kulich, whose wife was among those killed during the parade on Sunday, told The Washington Post. [WaPo]

Legal experts say the purpose of cash bail is to get defendants to show up to court. Advocates for criminal justice reform say bail disproportionately affects the poor, and growing areas of the U.S., including Illinois, are moving away from using bail.

But some Republicans in Wisconsin want to now empower judges to consider whether a defendant poses a danger when setting bail. [AP]

The crash killed five people, including members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies. Here is what we know of the victims. [NPR]

5. A four-day workweek in the United States of America?

A wave of companies are experimenting with more flexible workweeks as employees face burnout during the pandemic and more leverage with their bosses, The New York Times reports.

Does that mean the U.S. is finally close to seeing a four-day workweek? I mean, if you’re asking me, you don’t have to twist my arm here. I like my job but I also love three-day weekends.

Anyway, the Times reports that companies that have shortened their work week have shockingly seen benefits. A children’s online retailer called Primary began taking Fridays off more than a year ago, and a company official says “people feel recharged on Monday.” [NYT]

Here’s what else is happening

  • President Joe Biden will dip into its oil reserves to try and combat rising gas prices. [NPR]
  • Families of more than a dozen victims of the 2018 Parkland school shooting have reached a nearly $130 million settlement with the Justice Department. [NPR]
  • A federal jury found CVS, Walgreens and Walmart contributed to the opioid crisis in two counties in Ohio. [New York Times]
  • Illinois did not see a huge wave of evictions after a pandemic-era moratorium ended last month. [WTTW]

Oh, and one more thing …

The legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki is coming out of retirement for one last film, according to this lengthy but fascinating profile from The New York Times.

For people who are not familiar, Miyazaki is known for his breathtaking animated films, including Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle. I didn’t know this until I read the article, but Spirited Away is the only animated film outside of the West to win an Academy Award.

Details on Miyazaki’s new film are sparse, but it will be based on a 1937 novel about a teenage boy in Tokyo whose father has recently died. [NYT]

Tell me something good …

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and I’d like to know what you’re thankful for this year.

Kevin writes:

“I’m thankful my cousin took a DNA test. It connected me with my son who was put up for adoption in 1982. He lives 30 minutes away. My wife and I had dinner with him, his wife and his two daughters.”

And Phyllis Levun-Agostino writes:

“I’m thankful for the people who have navigated the pandemic with extra goodness and generosity.”

Feel free to reach out and your responses might appear here.

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