The 3 men who chased Ahmaud Arbery down the street and executed him have finally been indicted on federal murder charges and attempted kidnapping. They were also charged with a hate crime.
The father-son duo and friend were previously charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony back in May, by the state of Georgia and are still awaiting trial for those charges. Now they will also have to face the federal charges.
The defendants can be charged in both federal and state court without invoking the constitutional right against double jeopardy which prevents a defendant from being charged with the same offense twice, because that rule only extends to charges within the same sovereign. Here, because the heinous act committed by the defendants was a violation of both federal and state law, both sovereignties have the right to bring charges against them, try them for the applicable offenses, and sentence them under their court of law.
Oftentimes when the federal government picks up a case, the state case is subsequently halted or even dropped, but it is not required, and defendants can be found guilty on both levels and possibly have their sentences run together.
This is a small step in the right direction for seeking justice for Mr. Arbery, who lost his life while jogging around his neighborhood in February 2020. Defendants walked the streets of Georgia free for over 2 months after killing him, even though they were not acting in self-defense or lawfully performing a citizen’s arrest. Arbery did not have any weapons and did not pose a threat. He was hunted and killed by the defendants on account of his race. No trial date has been set for the federal trial yet either, but the defendants remain incarcerated as they await trial.