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Why ‘hateful people are on notice’ with new Georgia law

Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 10:46 PM CDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Georgia went years without formal hate crime legislation, until the death of Ahmaud Arbery sparked a new push for it. And now we focus on what it means for his case and others moving forward.

Some people say it was a powerful step forward.

“We are well on our way now,” said Jarrod Williams, a defense attorney in Augusta. Williams says it’s amazing how something so tragic can be used to change history.

“Now hateful people are on notice,” he said.

And even though Ahmaud Arbery’s case provoked the cry for change, the new bill will only affect new cases moving forward.

“Article one in the Constitution, in the United States Constitution, says there can be no ex post facto law,” meaning criminal laws cannot be imposed from the past.

“Someone who has already committed a crime with a racial motivation can’t be prosecuted under this law, because at the time they committed their action, it was not illegal,” Williams explained.

Williams believes the peaceful demonstrations and events made a real contribution to the push – the push for the bill to travel through the Senate, and end up on Governor Brian Kemp’s desk.

Gov. Brian Kemp of Friday signed the legislation that will impose additional penalties for crimes motivated by things like a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender or disability.

“Now we have closed that loophole, and if you do something to hurt another person with racial motivation, that will be under this law,” Williams said.

Georgia history made, with just the stroke of a pen.

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