BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Juries in the trial of the three men accused of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery began deliberation shortly before noon on Tuesday.after the attorneys give their closing arguments.
How the panel is almost all white The decision on a possible final sentence hinges on how they view Travis McMichael, the man who shot Arbery dead and was the only defendant to testify.
“If the jury finds (Travis) McMichael justified in the use of deadly force, I don’t think they will convict his father, or for that matter the other defendant,” said Timothy Floyd, a teacher. law attorney at Mercer University. Macon, Georgia, told USA TODAY. Floyd followed up the trial.
Twelve juries will decide whether McMichael, his father, Gregory and William “Roddie” Bryan are guilty of murder and other crimes in the death of the 25-year-old Black man on February 23, 2020.
McMichaels’ attorneys say the father and son were trying to arrest Arbery for the police because they believed he was responsible for a neighbor’s burglary and that Travis shot him in self-defense during a gun fight. his shotgun. Bryan’s attorney argued that he was merely a witness to the murder who recorded the shooting on video.
Meanwhile, the prosecution argued that the men saw a Black man running in their neighborhood and pursued him with a weapon without “knowing immediately” that he had committed the crime – a request to arrest a citizen. If the arrest was not lawful, prosecutors said they could not claim the right to defend themselves.
Although Arbery’s death prompted national racial justice protestslast year, Race is not an important part of prosecution or defense arguments. But race was at the heart of the trial: The judge admitted “purposeful discrimination” in the jury selection process, and more than 100 black pastors gathered in court after Bryan’s attorney argued that the presence of civil rights figures in the courtroom was threaten the jury.
In her final plea on Tuesday morning, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told jurors that the defendants could not ask for a defense because they had already begun a confrontation.
“Who started this? It wasn’t Ahmaud Arbery,” she said.
Here are key moments from the trial:
Prosecution: ‘Completely fabricated’ defense asks for citizen’s arrest for trial
McMichaels and Bryan were charged with malicious murder and felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of false imprisonment and offense of false imprisonment. Both counts of murder can carry a life sentence and defendants will be convicted of the most serious offence.
For eight days, prosecutors screened surveillance video, broadcast 911 calls and called 23 witnesses, including neighbors and multiple law enforcement officers, to support their argument that the men had no evidence that Arbery has committed a crime and has no intention of arresting Arbery when they jump from the top of the truck to pursue him.
The argument that the McMichaels were trying to arrest Arbery citizens was “completely fabricated for trial,” as they never told police that was their intention, Dunikoski said.
“They cannot claim the right to self-defence under the law because they are the original, unwarranted aggressors,” she said Monday.
Ron Carlson, a law professor at the University of Georgia who watched the trial, said Dunikoski did an effective job of illustrating that point with the “damaging” statements the defendants made. for the police.
Several investigators testified that Gregory McMichael said he did not know if Arbery was armed, where he was running from or if he had taken anything from a store construction site. neighborhood or not. Witnesses, including that neighbor, told the court they had no idea Arbery had ever taken anything from the home under construction where he was seen on surveillance video.
Meanwhile, Kevin Gough, Bryan’s attorney, argued Monday that his client did not “trap” or wrongly imprison Arbery, there is no evidence that he attempted to assault Arbery with his truck, and Bryan may even have tried to abandon the chase at some point.
But investigators said Bryan told police that he intercept, corner and cut through Arbery in the pursuit, support the state’s fake prison sentence. Georgia Bureau of Investigation officers testified that a palm print from Arbery and white cotton threads matching Arbery’s T-shirt was found on Bryan’s truck, support Serious onslaught of the state with motor vehicle fees.
“Some of the condemnation by the defense team came from the defendants’ own mouths,” Carlson said.
‘I disagree. I just killed someone’:The jury in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery hears the first words after the shooting
Travis McMichael made the ‘very risky’ decision to testify about the right to self-defense
Defense attorneys spent two days questioning seven witnesses, including the defendant Travis McMichael who repeatedly emphasized that his “whole circumstances” and law enforcement training in the US Coast Guard made it possible for him to suspect Arbery of committing a crime, pursue him and shot him in self-defense.
“The entire defensive task falls on Travis’s shoulders,” says Carlson. “Whether the jury believes him or not will be the real key to deciding this case.”
Floyd told USA TODAY.
“Usually if the defendant testifies, it is because the defendant or his attorneys have decided that if the defendant does not testify, there is a good chance of conviction.
On the day of the shooting, McMichael said his father saw Arbery running and identified him as the “identical guy” Travis had seen “lurking” outside a neighbor’s house about two weeks earlier. McMichael said he grabbed his gun and went after Arbery so he could talk to him and tell police where he was.
Georgia at the time allowed private citizens to detain someone if they had committed a felony in their presence or if they had “immediate knowledge” of a crime. The governor signed off on the law after Arbery’s death.
After facing hours of questioning from his attorney, McMichael collapsed in the stands as he described the moment he shot Arbery. McMichael said Arbery hit him and he was afraid Arbery would shoot him or his father.
“It was clear that he was attacking me, that if he got the shotgun from me, it would be a life-or-death situation,” McMichael said. “So I shoot.”
Georgia law allows the use of deadly force if a person reasonably believes that they or someone else is about to be killed or seriously injured – unless the person using deadly force was the original aggressor.
“If you claim self-defense, you have to convince the jury that there is no alternative to deadly force,” Floyd said. “A lot of people think the jury isn’t going to actually buy that thing.”
Video is the ‘most important witness’
Bryan’s cell phone video was “the most important witness in the case,” Carlson said.
Video of Ahmaud Arbery:Legal experts analyze how key frameworks can be used in a murder trial
“The presence of the video will address a lot of the concerns and doubts that jurors have one way or another,” Carlson said, adding that he doesn’t expect lengthy deliberations.
In the short clip made by Bryan, a white pickup truck blocks the view of the beginning of the wits between Arbery and Travis McMichael. The men moved away from the screen and a shot rang out. Arbery and Travis McMichael are then seen with their hands on a weapon pointing upwards, towards Arbery.
The struggle went out of sight again and Gregory McMichael was seen in the back of the truck. A second shot plays, and the camera goes back to the fight where Arbery is throwing punches. A third shot rang out, and Arbery fell to the ground.
Racial dynamics going on inside and outside the Georgia courtroom
The race has been a focal point in the case from the start, with some public figures called the murder a “murder”. and Potential jurors were asked about Black Lives Matter and the Confederate flag.
Demographic composition of the jury caused a backlash and Judge Timothy Walmsley admitting “intentional discrimination” in a carefully slow selection of judges. The final panel consisted of 12 juries and three substitutes: 11 white women, three white men, and one black man.
Although prosecutors occasionally mentioned race, those jurors did not hear testimony that focused on race issues in the case. Prosecutors did not ask about Travis McMichael’s alleged use of racial slurs while standing over Arbery’s body, a claim denied by his attorneys.
Floyd said Dunikoski probably thought it was “a bit risky” to ask about Travis McMichael’s alleged use of racial slurs while standing next to Arbery’s body, a claim denied by his attorneys. take. Prosecutors do not need to prove the defendants were motivated by racial hatred because they do not face state hate crime charges.
“If you think there’s a good chance that the trial judge might declare a case false or the appellate court might say the opposite, or if you think you’ll be convicted, it’s probably safe than not asking about it,” he said.