May 13, 2020

Van Hollen, Booker, Pressley Call for Federal Civil Rights Investigation into Ahmaud Arbery Murder

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), along with more than 80 of their colleagues in the House and Senate, in calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to launch a criminal civil rights investigation into the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and an independent investigation into local authorities’ handling of the case. The lawmakers urged DOJ to investigate these matters swiftly and thoroughly so that Arbery’s family can know the truth about what happened to their son.  

Last week, more than 2 months after his tragic death, Mr. Arbery’s killers were arrested after video of the murder was released and went viral online. Since then, serious concerns have been raised about the prosecutorial misconduct that allowed the killers to walk free.

“Make no mistake, there cannot be true justice in this case, for in a just America, Mr. Arbery would still be alive,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, his family and this nation demand accountability for Mr. Arbery’s death. We are encouraged by the initial steps taken by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in this case and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s recent call for a federal investigation. The recent announcement by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia that they would begin assessing evidence of this crime is an encouraging step forward in a case where substantial actions have been delayed. 

“Because Georgia does not have a law prohibiting or acknowledging bias-based crimes, the DOJ Civil Rights Division is uniquely suited to investigate whether the murder was a hate crime, or another violation of federal civil rights law,” the lawmakers continued. “DOJ must uphold its duty to conduct oversight of misconduct by law enforcement and local authorities and ensure that every community, particularly those communities where incidents like these occur with impunity, are protected from blatant dismissal and violations of their civil rights. We can and must hold accountable those involved in any wrongdoing.” 

The full text of the letter is available here.

The letter was signed by Senators Schumer (D-NY), Markey (D-MA), Sanders (I-VT), Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Warren (D-MA), Blumenthal (D-CT), Whitehouse (D-RI), Durbin (D-IL), Murray (D-WA), Hirono (D-HI), Bennet (D-CO), Leahy (D-VT), Duckworth (D-IL), Klobuchar (D-MN), Harris (D-CA), Coons (D-DE), Carper (D-DE), and Merkley (D-OR).