NBCU Academy Presents “Behind the Story”
NBC News correspondent Ron Allen takes us inside the Georgia courtroom for the closely watched trial where three white defendants were convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man. Watch the video above or read excerpts of the transcript below. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
I like doing stories about social justice, about people who are not heard from and are marginalized. The case of the men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery was a very important trial. To some extent it was a measure of where the country is in terms of this racial reckoning we’ve been going through. How many videotapes have we seen in recent years of young Black men being shot and killed in the streets by vigilantes and law enforcement?
There were a lot of racial overtones hanging over this trial. The community around Brunswick, Georgia is very Black, but there was only one African American on the jury. Eleven jurors were white. Many people wondered, “OK, what’s that going to mean? Would this Black family get justice?”
Ahmaud Arbery’s mother stood out for me because of her grace, dignity and determination. She sat through the courtroom when they were showing horrible, graphic autopsy photos. The videotape of her son’s killing was played in the courtroom probably every day. She and other relatives sat there watching her son, every day, go through his fatal ordeal.
Covering the trial meant many long days. We started early, filing at 7 a.m. I tried to take in a lot of information, process it, interpret it and report on it live throughout the day. When you’re covering a high-profile trial, there’s obviously a lot more pressure, a lot more intensity, a lot more information coming at you.
You don’t need to be a lawyer, but you need to understand the law and the legal process as best you can. Some of it’s just basic: Take good notes, listen to the testimony, know as much as possible about what’s going on so that you can make wise decisions about what to put in or leave out of your story.
I don’t think any of us are completely objective. We bring our life experiences, who we are, to everything that we do. And yes, I bring my biases. I am who I am, I have lived the life I have. But what I try to do is to present all the facts as fair and balanced as possible.
The God’s honest truth is I was a little surprised that the defendants were found guilty on so many counts. Perhaps that’s some of my own biases, that I wondered whether this jury would actually convict them. And they did.
Ahmaud Arbery was not some mythical figure running down the road in the videotape. He was a young man with hopes and dreams. He was part of a family, he was an individual who was loved and cared for. His family found justice. Certainly, they hope that other families who lost loved ones will find justice, too.