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Celebrate the rule of law

Andrew T. Walker | Two cases. Two verdicts. Justice done


Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski speaks with defense lawyers at the trial over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery Associated Press/Photo by Stephen B. Morton (Pool)

Celebrate the rule of law

Two weeks. Two major court cases. Justice done in each.

In the span of just a few remarkable days—between last Friday’s Kyle Rittenhouse verdict and Wednesday’s guilty verdict against the killers of Ahmaud Arbery—America has been shown examples of how our justice system is supposed to work. What have Americans seen? Facts, evidence, deliberation, juries, the absence of mob influence—and above all, the rule of law.

As Americans, we should be grateful for the rule of law as an integral building block of Western civilization. It contradicts both mobs and media narratives and insists that every individual is equal before the law and entitled to the same system of law as everyone else. No one—no politician, billionaire, or pauper—ought to have preference before the law. As Christians, we recognize the rule of law as an inheritance received from the Christian moral tradition (Genesis 9:5-6; Deuteronomy 19:15-21). Believing all individuals are equal before God, justice in turn requires giving each their due. Justice is never arbitrary or capricious. Justice, rather, hinges upon impartiality, which the Bible explicitly commands (Leviticus 19:15; Psalm 98:9; Romans 2:11).

These were two very controversial cases, and there were questions about whether justice could be achieved in either. In the Rittenhouse case, a reckless and irresponsible media confused more often than they clarified, leaving out vital facts and evidence. In the Arbery case, doubt arose whether a majority-white jury in the South could reach a verdict without race playing a factor. Both juries succeeded. Both trials showed the wisdom of the jury system.

Commenting on the Rittenhouse verdict, National Review writer and lawyer Andrew McCarthy wrote on Twitter last week that, “Next week, when the guys who killed Ahmaud Arbery get convicted, we’ll be back here saying justice was done. It’s called law and evidence. It’s not a morality play or a ‘narrative.’” McCarthy’s analysis was prescient. McCarthy’s quip reflects the mandate of impartiality: It ought not matter what one “wants” to happen—what matters is factual representation of what occurred in conjunction with unbiased legal interpretation. Such occurred in both cases. What more can we ask of our fellow citizens?

These criminal cases serve as a reminder that the true, impartial administration of justice does not fit into our pre-programmed and ideological boxes. The law does not answer the question many have pressed: Should young Kyle Rittenhouse have gone to Kenosha? That was not the question entrusted to the jury. Their responsibility was to decide if Rittenhouse had violated the law, and in the exact terms of the criminal indictment against him.

What about the law’s provision for self-defense? Well, the law is the law. If the law is in error, change it through lawful means, not mob action. But keep in mind that the self-defense argument is close to the heart of the American legal tradition.

If we care about justice, it means we refuse to apply unequal standards of analysis. Wrong is wrong. Right is right. This sense of justice cuts against the grain of unbridled passion and prejudice, and for that we should be thankful.

Both cases are also a rebuke to those who prejudge situations without being in possession of all the necessary and relevant facts. Our culture is too quick and hasty to want a situation to confirm our own biases. In a craven social media age like our own, too many of us—including Christians—fail to heed Scripture’s command to be “quick to listen” and “slow to speak” and “slow to anger” (James 1:19). We too easily accept and chase the media’s narrative, only to learn eventually that ideologues in our national media grossly erred in service to their ideological predilections. In the onslaught of hot takes and virtue signaling, we too easily want to let our righteousness shine before man. The exercising of restraint and the quest for truth are political virtues in short supply. Let it not be for the Christian.

Whenever an injustice occurs, human nature desires satisfaction. As Christians, we understand that true justice exists and is longed for by the “law written on their heart” (Romans 2:15). The universal longing for all to be set right reflects the standard of righteousness grounded in God’s holy nature. In the name of God, seek justice, and honor it.


Andrew T. Walker

Andrew T. Walker is the managing editor of WORLD Opinions and serves as associate professor of Christian ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. He resides with his family in Louisville, Ky.

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Salty1

There was nothing in the Arbery case to celebrate about the rule of law if we look at the facts of the case. The death of the young black man was tragic, but he did attack the man with a shotgun and attempt to take the gun away. Ignoring race, any man would be justifiable to shoot in that situation. The autopsy report said he was within inches of the barrel of the gun showing that he was shot due to Arbery’s attack of the man.

The pivotal point of the case was if the men were justified in making the citizens arrest. Arbery had been seen multiple times on video wandering around on the construction site visibly looking it over late at night and during the day. A couple weeks before, Travis McMichael had driven up to the house with his lights on since he saw Arbery again trespassing. The young man made a motion with his hand giving the appearance that he had a gun. A neighbor who was called by the owner of the property was asked to check things out when a sensor went off indicating someone was in the house. He saw McMichael pull up and quickly leave, which he later found out was due to the fact that he was afraid of the trespasser (Arbery) brandishing what he thought was a gun. Shortly after McMichael returned with his father who was a retired police officer, both with guns. The son, Travis, had been in the Coast Guard so he too was trained in confronting and arresting someone. They didn’t see anyone so they left.

The day of the killing, Arbery was again seen trespassing on the property and ran off when someone say him and was signaling the McMichaels. The chase began and shortly later Arbery was killed due to the shotgun.

The case was initially not prosecuted because it was believed that there were no grounds to prosecute, but once the video got out, the PC crowd demanded an investigation. Had Arbery been white, it would be unlikely that this would be prosecuted but in this politically and racially charged environment they went after the three men who were protecting their neighborhood, communicating with the police, and attempting to make a citizen’s arrest that went wrong when Arbery attacked the man with the shotgun attempting to take it away.

If we care about justice, we won’t automatically accept the leftist’s biased reporting. We will want to read about the evidence and not accept the false narrative that these guys were just going after a black jogger without any reason.

dspangler0129

Mr. Walker: I certainly celebrate what you are writing about here. However, note that in the Arbery case, the "unequal standards of analysis" you write about above, that should never occur, did happen. Not in the jury trial but in what went on before. The case was brought 74 days after Mr. Arbery was shot, only after a video was found. Otherwise, no charges would ever have been brought against the perpetrators. Many police and law enforcement people who had evaluated the case had done nothing to bring the men to justice for that entire time. It's easy for us to rejoice in this, but there's more to the story, at least in the Arbery case.

Bruce

I appreciate the tone and clarity of this article, Mr. Walker. The points are well made, and I sincerely appreciate that as people not directly involved in the events and the legal proceedings, we need to discipline ourselves to not render any judgment about such situations. I think the idea that we can trust our legal system is founded on the idea that many people in our legal system really do care about justice and principles like 'innocent until proven guilty'. In the case of Mr. Aubrey's murder, there were perverse hearts confounding justice in the initial investigation. Someone's heart was piqued at this and decided to leak the video that set of people working for real justice. Again, while our sinful selves still cause us trouble, a lot of people in law enforcement and the judicial system have a real desire to do good.

SHIRLEY WIERSMA

I'd be interested in knowing why at least three staff members at World have resigned because of Opinions. I wouldn't want everything to be opinions, but I do enjoy these.

KKOS9726

Mr. Walker,

Thanks for this piece and the new opinion section. Outstanding! Look forward to it.

World, thanks for the continual upgrades. Wng.org is becoming a "go to" newsite.