Every trial lawyer knows that a photo is worth a thousand words and a video of a key event is a royal flush. A bona fide winner. Cases in point: George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery.
Interesting that these celebrated videos originated from very different sources.
Seventeen year-old Darnella Frazier won the Pulitzer Prize for incredible journalistic presence of mind and bravery “to get the story.” Without her video as an independent observer, Derek Chauvin would not be dining on baloney sandwiches in segregated protective custody at Oak Park Heights, a maximum-security prison, for killing Floyd. He is one year into his twenty-two year sentence and is scheduled for release at age 66. There are a lot of baloney sandwiches in his future. Congratulations to the family that raised Ms. Frazier. You have done well. Everyone is proud of your daughter for delivering justice.
But what of William “Roddie” Bryan, who captured and released the murder of Arbery on the video that led to his conviction?
What was he thinking? Was he driven by the tortures of the mind as a participant in this gruesome murder, wracked with guilt over running down Arbery and killing him? Is that why he gave up the video? Or is he as dumb as a bag of hammers? Why did he keep it in the first place? Did he hold some perverse belief that the video would exonerate him and the McMichaels? Did he show the video to so many people that eventually it was going to come out?
The Arbery murder video – which the jury watched repeatedly during deliberations — was first posted by Brunswick, Georgia (pop. 16,000) radio station WGIG. It was given to the station by attorney Alan Tucker, according to the station manager. Tucker had been consulted by the McMichaels and in all probability had been given the video by them. It went viral. The running down of Arbery was so sadistic and savage that it forced prosecutors to act.
How Tucker got the video has not been confirmed, although he said, according to the New York Times, that he leaked the video because “he had wanted to dispel rumors that he said had fueled tension in the community. “It wasn’t two men with a Confederate flag in the back of a truck going down the road and shooting a jogger in the back,” Mr. Tucker said.
Really? Looked pretty close to that if you ask me. And Tucker’s use of the term “jogger” is a significant choice for this criminal defense lawyer who graduated from Oral Roberts and received his law degree from the University of Georgia.
It boggles the mind that Tucker leaked the video. It could not have been delivered in confidence to Tucker, or maybe it was. If so, that makes Tucker’s delivery of the video to the radio station an astounding breach of an attorney-client privilege of confidentiality. I wonder if Tucker negotiated the right to reveal the Bryan video in his discussions with the McMichaels. We will probably hear more about this. Stay tuned.
The video definitely got the truth out and kick-started the prosecution that resulted in three murder convictions. That was after local authorities futzed for months to avoid going after three white murderers in Glynn County. They no doubt were worried about the political repercussions in a seriously right-wing county in this backwater corner of southeastern Georgia.
Calling Glynn County the deep South is an understatement. Rafael Warnock won the Georgia seat in the U.S. Senate, but in this county Republican Kelly Loeffler clobbered him in a landslide: 23,448 to 13,981.
And consider also Lauren McDonald. He was a candidate for the Public Service Commission in Glynn County who lost his first election bid until he returned and was victorious running as Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, a strong supporter of Donald Trump.
What else do you need to know about the lay of the land in Glynn County? I have represented clients in 24 states, including Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and Virginia, and always work with and through a local attorney. If I was forced to try a lawsuit in Glenn County I would find a Georgia attorney named Billie Bob, Bobby Joe or Bubba to be my co-counsel.
The convictions of the McMichaels and Bryan are not as much a triumph of justice as a triumph of video that presented the inescapable truth that, even in the deepest and darkest red-neck South, a jury of 11 whites and 1 Black unanimously agreed that a royal flush takes all.
Richard Alexander is a nationally recognized personal injury lawyer based in San Jose. He is the managing partner of the Alexander Law Group, LLP.