BRUNSWICK, Georgia – Jurors in the murder trial of the three Georgian men charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery listened to hours of argument on Monday as four lawyers presented various views on what happened that day at the start of Last year.
The prosecution said Arbery was “attacked” by white men who saw a black man run around their small coastal neighborhood and jumped into vans to chase him.
Defense attorneys for two of the men portrayed residents enraged by crime in the neighborhood and said the men were trying to detain Arbery for police. A lawyer for the third said his client was a witness who simply documented the murder.
The almost all-white panel of 12 jurors and three deputies are due to hear a rebuttal of the charge Tuesday morning before receiving charge instructions and begin 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 video of Bryan’s incident on his cell phone was released.
Here’s what you need to know:
William ‘Roddie’ Bryan was guided by ‘divine providence’, lawyer says
Defense attorney Kevin Gough, who represents Bryan, told jurors his client was guided by “divine providence” to capture a video of Arbery on the street that day, claiming Bryan acted in as a well-meaning witness to the murder.
Gough said Bryan is an “ordinary guy” who did not “intentionally” help with the crime. He was “armed only with a cell phone” and was initially unaware that the McMichaels were armed, Gough said.
“Something is guiding Mr. Bryan down this street to document what’s going on,” Gough said. “He’s guided, whether it’s by a god, whether you believe in God, or some other entity. But do you really believe that this is just a coincidence or a fluke?
Black Lives Matter and Black Panthers protest in Brunswick
Dozens of people with Black Lives Matter and the Black Panthers demonstrated outside the Glynn County Courthouse on Monday during oral argument. Some were seen carrying weapons.
Protesters held up a large image of Ahmaud Arbery and brought a black coffin with the names of the blacks killed. “Say his name! Ahmaud Arbery!” chanted the demonstrators.
Gough called for the trial to be quashed for the protest. The judge dismissed the request.
Lawyer: Travis McMichael had “reasonable and probable grounds for suspicion”
A defense attorney for Travis McMichael told jurors McMichael was motivated by “the duty and responsibility” to question Arbery about a crime he suspected and which he shot Arbery in self-defense.
Lawyer Jason Sheffield said the Satilla Shores neighborhood was on edge after a string of crimes, including theft of equipment from the owner of a house under construction.
Sheffield said McMichael knew a man was seen on surveillance footage at the construction site and briefly met a man there two weeks before Arbery’s death. Sheffield said Arbery entered the house several times, as seen in the video, and that there was “no evidence that Ahmaud Arbery ever jogged or exercised in Satilla Shores “.
So when McMichael saw Arbery running, McMichael used his Coast Guard training to conclude that there were “reasonable and probable grounds to suspect” that Arbery had committed a burglary, Sheffield said.
Arbery did not try to defuse the situation by talking to McMichael or running into a yard, away from the men chasing him down the street, Sheffield said. After a five-minute chase, as Arbery ran towards him, McMichael shot Arbery, Sheffield said.
McMichael was “totally panicked” after the shooting, Sheffield said. “If it was about wanting to murder a black jogger, if it was really about that, Travis wouldn’t have reacted the way he reacted,” Sheffield said.
Gregory McMichael’s lawyer Laura Hogue echoed many of the same points in her closing argument. Hogue said McMichael, a retired investigator, “was looking to protect his community” and had “no doubt” that Arbery was the same man seen on surveillance footage.
“A good neighborhood always controls itself,” she said. “The police cannot be everywhere, and in a safe and secure neighborhood the police are helped by these neighbors.”
The prosecutor asks, “Who brought the shotgun to the party?” ”
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski argued that the three defendants made rash decisions based on assumptions that Arbery had committed a crime, an assumption she argued they had no evidence for. Dunikoski claimed the men killed Arbery because he refused to stop and speak to them when they tried to question him.
“They made the decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their alleys because he was a black running down the street,” Dunikoski said. “It was an attack on Ahmaud Arbery.”
Dunikoski said Arbery was seen repeatedly on surveillance video wandering around a house under construction in the neighborhood, but said he never took or damaged anything.
While Arbery was inside the site on the day of his assassination, the three men had “no immediate knowledge” of this and determined that Arbery had committed a crime because he was running away. declared Dunikoski. She said the men later claimed they were carrying out a citizen arrest to “justify their actions.”
Dunikoski argued that men cannot claim self-defense “because they were the first wrongful aggressors, and they started this”.
“Who brought the shotgun to the party?” Dunikoski asked. “You can’t create the situation and then say, ‘Oh, I was fighting back.'”
What are the charges in the Ahmaud Arbery murder case?
Gregory McMichael, 65, and Travis McMichael, 35, and Bryan, 52, are charged with indictable murder and malicious murder, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of forcible confinement and criminal attempt to commit kidnapping.
Both murder charges could result in a life sentence. Aggravated assault carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. False imprisonment is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. If the defendants are found guilty of more than one charge, they will be sentenced to the most serious charge.