BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Jurors in the murder trial of the three Georgia men charged in Ahmaud Arbery’s killing listened to hours of closing arguments Monday as four attorneys presented various views of what happened on that day early last year.
The prosecution said Arbery was “under attack” by white men who saw a Black man running in their small coastal neighborhood and hopped in pickup trucks to pursue him.
Two of the defendants’ defense attorneys painted an image of residents in fear about the crime scene and claimed that the men wanted to arrest Arbery. The third attorney said that his client was only a witness and had not witnessed the murder.
The nearly all-white panel of 12 jurors and three alternates is scheduled to hear a rebuttal from the prosecution Tuesday morning before receiving charging instructions and beginning deliberations.
Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan are charged with murder and other crimes in the February 2020 shooting in Brunswick, about 80 miles south of Savannah. They were arrested two months after the shooting, when Bryan’s cellphone video of the incident was released.
These are the facts:
According to attorney, William “Roddie” Bryan was guided through ‘divine providence.
Kevin Gough (defense attorney) represented Bryan and said that Bryan was guided by divine providence to take video of Arbery in the streets on that day. Bryan claimed Bryan was a good-willed witness to the murder.
Gough said Bryan is a “regular guy” who did not “intentionally” aid in the crime. Gough stated that Bryan was originally unaware of the McMichaels’ armed status and had “only a cellphone.”
“Something is guiding Mr. Bryan down this street to document what’s going on,” Gough said. “He’s being guided, whether that’s by a god, if you believe in God, or some other entity. But do you really believe it’s just coincidence or chance?”
Brunswick: Black Lives Matter, Black Panthers protestors
Hundreds of Black Lives Matter activists and Black Panthers supporters protested at the Glynn County Courthouse on Monday, during closing arguments. Some had weapons.
Demonstrators displayed a large picture of Ahmaud Abery, and also brought along a coffin inscribed to the names of the slain Black men. Declare his name! Ahmaud Arbery!” The protestors chanted.
Gough motioned for a mistrial over the demonstration. The motion was denied by the judge.
Attorney: Travis McMichael had probable and reasonable grounds to suspect.
Travis McMichael’s defense lawyer stated that McMichael was driven by duty and responsibility to question Arbery over a crime he suspects and that Arbery killed him in self-defense.
Jason Sheffield of Attorney stated that Satilla Shores had been on edge following a string of crimes. This included the theft of equipment belonging to the house’s owner.
Sheffield said McMichael knew a man had been seen on surveillance video at the construction site and that he’d briefly encountered a man there two weeks before Arbery’s death. Sheffield claimed that Arbery broke into the house numerous times and was seen doing so on video. There is also no evidence that Ahmaud Arbery has ever exercised at Satilla Shores.
So when McMichael saw Arbery running, McMichael used his Coast Guard training to conclude there was “reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion” that Arbery committed burglary, Sheffield said.
Sheffield claimed that Arbery was not able to talk to McMichael about the situation or run through a yard to escape the attention of the street gang. After a five-minute chase, as Arbery ran toward him, McMichael shot Arbery, Sheffield said.
McMichael was “totally freaked out” after the shooting, Sheffield said. “If this was a case about wanting to murder a Black jogger, if this was really a case about that, Travis would not have reacted the way he reacted,” Sheffield said.
Laura Hogue (an attorney representing Gregory McMichael) echoed many points during her closing argument. Hogue said McMichael, a retired investigator, was “seeking to protect his community” and had “no doubt” that Arbery was the same man seen on surveillance video.
She stated that a good neighbourhood is always responsible for its own police work.”The police can’t be everywhere, and in a safe, secure neighborhood, police are helped by those neighbors.”
The Prosecutor questions, “Who brought the shotgun?
Linda Dunikoski, prosecutor for the prosecution, claimed that Arbery was guilty of a crime and that they made an rash decision based on it. However, she said there wasn’t any proof. Dunikoski claimed that Arbery refused to talk to the three men when they attempted to question him.
Dunikoski explained that Ahmaud was attacked by them in their yards because he was Black and running down the street. “This attack was on Ahmaud Albery.”
Dunikoski said Arbery was seen multiple times on surveillance video wandering around a house under construction in the neighborhood but said he never took or damaged anything.
Dunikoski stated that Arbery was present at the scene the day of his death, but the men didn’t have “immediate knowledge”. They determined Arbery had committed a crime as he was running. To “justify” their actions, she said that the men claimed to have made a citizen’s arrest.
Dunikoski stated that self-defense cannot be claimed by the men because the aggressors were first and unjustified.
“Who brought the gun to the party?” Dunikoski asked. “You can’t create the situation and then go, ‘Oh I was defending myself.'”
Which charges are there in Ahmaud Abery’s murder case?
Gregory McMichael (65) and Travis McMichael (35) are being charged together with felony and malice killing, two counts of assault and one each of false imprisonment or criminal attempt of false imprisonment. Bryan (52) is also facing these charges.
A life sentence could be handed down for both murder and attempted murder. Aggravated assault has a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. False imprisonment is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. If multiple convictions have been made, the worst charge can be used against them.