Ahmaud Arbery Murder Trial Begins | Crooked Media
October 18, 2021
What A Day
Ahmaud Arbery Murder Trial Begins

In This Episode

  • The leadership of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees announced a tentative agreement for a new contract between the TV and film crew members it represents, and Hollywood producers. In the short term, this deal prevents a strike that would have begun today.
  • In February 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man, was on a run in Brunswick, GA, when three white men chased him down in pickup trucks and fired a shotgun at him three times, killing him. The trial for the men accused of killing Arbery begins today, almost 19 months after he was killed.
  • And in headlines: seventeen Christian Aid missionaries were taken hostage in Haiti, an FDA panel unanimously recommends J&J Covid booster shots, and Sen. Joe Manchin opposes Biden’s clean energy program.


Show Notes

  • IATSE: “Landmark tentative agreement reached for IATSE West Coast Film and Television Workers before Strike Deadline” – https://bit.ly/3pfTDfc
  • Variety: “IATSE Deal Could Be Rejected by Members: ‘Our Leadership Let Us Down’” – https://bit.ly/3ALxNCl
  • Deadline: (2018) “Popular Vote Shows New IATSE Contract Is Not So Popular” – https://bit.ly/3aSDUu1






Gideon Resnick: It’s Monday, October 18th. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day where we’re announcing our recent acquisition by the media company from Succession.


Gideon Resnick: It means we have to do a rap song for Jon Lovett’s birthday. We hope he enjoys it. That’s all we’re going to say. On today’s show, the trial begins for the alleged murderers of Ahmaud Arbery, plus an FDA panel recommends that a J&J COVID booster shot should be an order for those who got the first.


Josie Duffy Rice: But before all of that, there are some big labor news. On Saturday night, the leadership of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE, announced a tentative agreement for a new contract between the TV and film crew members it represents and Hollywood producers. In the short term, this deal prevents a strike that would have begun today, but things got a little bit more complicated from there. So Gideon tell us first what were the details of this tentative agreement?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this all felt like it was happening kind of quickly over the weekend. So in a statement that IATSE issued Saturday night, union leaders said that they had secured some of the following as part of a tentative three-year agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. So that is a quote unquote, “living wage” for the lowest paid earners, retroactive wage increases of 3% annually, increased meal period penalties—that’s basically if the studio or the set goes through a planned lunch and you know, they have to pay some money for that if they’re making people stay—daily rest periods of 10 hours, weekend rest periods of 54 hours and quite a bit more. We’re going to link to the full statement so you can see it, but this certainly was presented at first as a celebratory moment, with IATSE’s international president even saying in the statement, quote unquote, “This is a Hollywood ending.”


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh man! Gotta love a corny statement by the IATSE president. So as of record time Sunday night, the strike has been averted for now. But what you’ve been hearing over the weekend is about how sort of imminent all of this was, right?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, there were a lot of plans and people being ready for something to happen here. Alaina McManus, an IATSE member that we’ve had on the show before, was emailing me over the weekend about actually being in the UK for work at the moment, and how odd it was to be there for literally what could have been just a minute before maybe having to get sent home. Another member told me that he packed up his desk Friday, not really knowing when he would be back in the office. Also, there were these sign-ups for four-hour picket shifts and other opportunities for coordinating communication between members, line maintenance, etc. and so forth. So, yeah, there was a lot of preparation for what was supposed to come today.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it feels like it was really very last minute. And while it sounds good that the strike was averted, it kind of comes with this caveat, right? It’s just averted for now. No contract has been ratified and you’ve been hearing some pretty mixed reactions to what’s even in this tentative agreement. So can you tell us more about that?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that is the key here and maybe even an understatement in terms of mixed reactions. So as early as last night, I was hearing that some members were having meetings with their locals to kind of go through what this agreement is actually proposing. And a lot of members have been pretty vocally upset. And just to reiterate here that some people are wanting to take a bit more time with this because at the moment, as you said, there is no written contract. That part is going to come farther down the road. But one of the many things that’s been brought up so far is this promise of a 10-hour turnaround time, which some members said was either insufficient or already part of their contract at the moment. For what it’s worth, that’s basically giving you just 10 hours to go home, sleep, shower, etc., which by process of how long a day is, also means you could realistically have a 14-hour workday. And so I’ve heard from at least one member personally that she is fully prepared to vote no if the ultimate deal is not fair enough. That seems to be a relatively common sentiment. There’s a good Variety article that we can link to that has more comments from members on all of this. So it really is possible that there could be a strike later if union members don’t ratify this proposed agreement, or if producers don’t agree to some more concessions.


Josie Duffy Rice: Got it! Now the ratification vote is likely to not happen for at least a few more weeks, and it’s difficult to say what will actually happen there. Just like you said, I mean, you know, some people are not even at a point where they’re saying that they’re willing to vote for it. So can you walk through the process so we know how it all goes down?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this is actually something that people were pointing out quite a bit over the weekend. It’s a little bit odd, but IATSE ratification has functioned like an Electoral College system with a winner takes all approach.


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh, great. Well, the Electoral College works great, so can’t go wrong there.


Gideon Resnick: A model we all know and love. So basically each local gets a certain number of votes, as it were, based on its size. Those votes go to either yes or no, depending on how the majority of each local votes, and it just needs a simple majority for that to happen. So that means the ratification vote would apparently not have to pass in every single local. I guess it’s comforting to know that the Electoral College is crazy in all formats. There is a lot more that we can get into on how this works, but we’ll link to 0 2018 Deadline story that explains the process during the last contract talks, where this actually was quite relevant to the final result. We’re going to check back in on all of this very soon, and if you are an IATSE member, I do still want to hear from you as we continue to follow the story. You can DM me on Twitter or Instagram and find my email in the bio there as well.


Josie Duffy Rice: Now we’re going to turn to another story. The trial for the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery begins today, almost 19 months after he was killed.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and it has been so much time. So can you remind us about all of the events of the day that Arbery was killed?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, you know, you may remember the story or maybe you’ve seen the just horrifying video. So i February of 2020, Arbery, an unarmed Black man, was on a run in Brunswick, Georgia, when three white men chased him down in pickup trucks and fired a shotgun at him three times, killing him. Those three men are father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor, William Bryan. They claimed that they thought Arbery was responsible for a string of recent break-ins, though he had not been identified as a suspect, nor as far as we know had he been seen at any of those sites. According to the three men, they were suspicious of him after seeing him enter a construction site where a new home was being built. That they claim was enough for them to chase him down and kill him.


Gideon Resnick: Jesus.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s not exactly logic, but that’s what racism gets you. As of now, there’s no public evidence that Arbery broke in any home or stole anything. But even if he had, that’s not a death sentence. And the McMichaels and William Bryan, of course, aren’t law enforcement.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and those three men are on trial for state charges, including murder, false imprisonment and aggravated assault, with jury selection that begins today. They also face federal charges in a trial that’s scheduled for February of 2022. But Josie the other part of what’s notable about this case, among many other things, is what didn’t happen immediately after Arbery’s death.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, absolutely. So for months, nothing happened to these three men. They killed him. They killed him in broad daylight and they went home and nothing happened. The case was controversial not just because Arbery was killed for no reason, but because the man who did it were very close to not even facing arrest for the crime. Some important facts to keep in mind: George McMichael was a former investigator in the office of the local D.A. Jackie Johnson and a former cop. On February 23rd, the same day Arbery was killed, District Attorney Johnson reportedly told the police not to arrest the three men, saying the men were not flight risks. Of course, for other people accused of murder that is not at all a grounds for not actually arresting a suspect, but for Johnson, who was friends with McMichael, she apparently made an exception. She later recused herself from the case, which she then went to George Barnhill, another local prosecutor in the next county over. Barnhill also recused himself eventually, after Arbery’s mother pointed out that he very clearly had a conflict of interest, given that Barnhill’s son had also worked for Jackie Johnson. But before he recused himself, he also argued that the men should not be arrested.


Gideon Resnick: Geez, and—


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.


Gideon Resnick: So then when we think about this, what should we expect in the trial going forward?


Josie Duffy Rice: So attorneys for the defendants will say that this is motivated by concern about crime rather than racism. They’re going to have to suppress some real evidence to convince the jury of that, right, including the vanity plate of that white pickup truck, which had a Confederate flag on it.


Gideon Resnick: Of course.


Josie Duffy Rice: Meanwhile, Jackie Johnson now faces charges of her own, including violating her oath and obstructing a police officer, and she is no longer the D.A. She was beat last year in an election right after this case. But there’s an important thing to keep in mind here, Gideon, while we are outraged when prosecutors like Johnson or Barnhill fail to prosecute those who do wrong, it’s really important to remember that they also simultaneously over prosecute people, right? And many of the people they over prosecute look like Amad Arbery.


Gideon Resnick: Right.


Josie Duffy Rice: In fact, I wrote an article a few years ago, far before Arbery’s death, for The New York Times about Mr. Barnhill after he prosecuted a woman for voter fraud because she helped show a first-time voter how the voting machines worked.


Gideon Resnick: Dear lord.


Josie Duffy Rice: She just described how they worked to her, and she was prosecuted for voter fraud. That woman, Olivia Pearson, faced 15 years in prison. They took her to trial twice. So prosecutors have been wielding their discretion in ways that harm Black people and evade justice for centuries. And sometimes that looks like not prosecuting white men for killing a Black man for no reason in the middle of the street. But more often it looks like locking up people of color for minor infractions day in and day out. Together, these two are particularly deadly. So we’ll continue to bring you news of the trial as it continues, but that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: Seventeen Christian Aid missionaries, including five children, were taken hostage in Haiti on Saturday. After visiting an orphanage near the capital Port au Prince, the group of 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian citizen were abducted. During the kidnaping, one missionary posted a call for help in a WhatsApp group, saying quote, “Please pray for us, we’re being held hostage. They kidnaped our driver.” Haitian police are blaming a local gang, which is also accused of taking five priests and two nuns earlier this year. Haiti is facing increased political upheaval and violence is surging across the capital. It is estimated that gangs now control roughly half of Port au Prince, and kidnappings there are alarmingly common. Last Monday, gangs shot at a school bus, injuring at least five people, including students, while another public bus was hijacked by a gang as well. Haitian officials are currently in touch with the US State Department about the abducted missionaries.


Josie Duffy Rice: Terrifying. Johnson & Johnson is one step closer to joining the booster club. Last Friday, an FDA advisory panel unanimously recommended that the agency authorize a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. The committee said that all adults who received a single dose shot should get a second dose at least two months after their first. The J&J vaccine has previously been shown to be less effective at preventing hospitalization with one dose than Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are with two doses. J&J’s data shows that a second shot does foster immunity, though, leading some experts on the FDA’s panel to suggest that maybe the vaccine should have been offered at a two-dose regimen from the start. Imagine that. Experts still stressed that those who received the one shot of Johnson & Johnson are well protected, but they should get another shot for maximum safety. The FDA is expected to follow the advice of its committee, and if the CDC gives the Johnson & Johnson booster a green light too, then 15 million people to be eligible within days.


Gideon Resnick: That’s right. J&J Hive, we are finally eating. It is time.


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s almost your time.


Gideon Resnick: Almost our time. Our weekends began with fantasies of vengeful tree roots tripping Joe Manchin after reports came out last Friday that the West Virginia, quote unquote “moderate” Democrat senator opposes Biden’s clean electricity program. This means that the program, which is at the center of the president’s climate agenda and our future on this planet, will likely need to be cut from the Democrat’s multi-trillion dollar domestic policy bill. The proposed a $150 billion clean energy program would have incentivized utilities to generate wind, solar and nuclear energy rather than burn fossil fuels, with the goal of deriving 80% of the nation’s energy from clean sources by 2030. Manchin says the program would harm West Virginia since the state produces a lot of coal and gas. Now, West Virginia is also more vulnerable to flooding than almost all other states, according to a climate nonprofit called First Street Foundation. But surely Manchin has a plan for that, like everyone buys swimming lessons that are somehow means tested. It’s worth noting that Manchin has a financial stake in the future of dirty energy, having founded a coal brokerage in the ’80s that paid him nearly half a million dollars last year. That is just over the amount of the human mind can possibly forget. With the Clean Electricity Program DOA, some House and Democratic senators are considering a carbon tax, which would charge polluting industries per ton of carbon dioxide they emit. But that plan has drawbacks, and it’s not known whether Manchin would even support it.


Josie Duffy Rice: You know, everybody gives Joe Manchin a hard time Gideon, but when our grandchildren are, you know, struggling to find water after every place that they’ve ever known has burned or flooded, I bet they’ll just be really thankful that, you know, Joe Manchin didn’t let the outsiders from Washington make decisions about his state.


Gideon Resnick: I think that’s exactly right. I applaud him for thinking about our future generations in this way.


Josie Duffy Rice: I applaud him for being the most short-term thinker on Earth and unfortunately, also in Congress. The sports teams named after whichever animals were left after all the good ones are taken, America’s Minor League Baseball teams have a big win in their future because ESPN is reporting that their parent league will require teams to provide their players with housing starting in 2022. This comes after these players have spoken out about bad working conditions and low pay and the challenges they faced in finding secure housing. According to the director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, most players earn less than $15,000 per season, a salary that can require them to share small apartments or sleep in cars and stadiums. Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros provided housing to players on their Minor League affiliates in the 2021 season, both at home and on the road, and several teams have been discussing following their lead. According to ESPN, Major League Baseball team owners agreed to provide housing at a meeting this September. The total cost for team to house all its Minor League players for one season is reportedly less than $1 million, a deficit they can surely make up by selling approximately one stadium beer.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, exactly. They will make it up quickly, and they should have never—why did they do this in the first place? It’s insane.


Josie Duffy Rice: You know, it makes no sense. I’m just very happy for my favorite Minor League baseball team, the Toledo Mud Hens.


Gideon Resnick: That’s right.


Josie Duffy Rice: Gotta love the Mud Hens.


Gideon Resnick: Mud hens hive in effect.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.


Gideon Resnick: And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go, you can now catch weekly live shows of Lovett Or Leave It at Cinelounge outdoors in Hollywood this week. Lovett will be joined on stage by our own Tre’vell Anderson—wow—as well as Maria Bamford, Alexis Wilson, Moshe Kasher and Ricky Velez. New Lovett Or Leave It live shows have been added in December. For tickets, head to Crooked.com/subscribe events. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, save up for a stadium beer, and tell your friends to listen.


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you are into reading, and not just the names of Minor League Baseball teams, including the Mud Hens, the Blue Wahoos and the Trash Pandas like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And watch your step, Joe Manchin.


Gideon Resnick: Oh man.


Josie Duffy Rice: What a . . . guy.


Gideon Resnick: I have nothing else, nothing else for him at this point.


Josie Duffy Rice: I hope he steps on Legos every day for the rest of his life. That’s my hope.


Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm. That I will RT. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Jazzi Marine is our associate producer. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and myself. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.