The verdict in the trial of three white men accused of murder and other crimes in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, is now in the hands of 12 jurors after prosecutors made final closing arguments Tuesday morning.
The three men each face charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony in the killing of Arbery, 25, last year in Georgia. They could spend life in prison if they are convicted of more serious charges.
Travis McMichael; his father, Gregory McMichael; and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan chased Arbery in pickup trucks after they spotted him in their neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia, on Feb. 23, 2020.
Travis McMichael shot Arbery, 25, with a shotgun at close range. Bryan recorded the fatal encounter using his cellphone.
Their fate will be decided by a nearly all-white jury that includes one Black juror. The jury deliberated for six hours Tuesday, but did not reach a decision. They will resume deliberations Wednesday at 8: 30 a.m. local time.
Protesters gather Monday outside the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., where Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan are on trial. Stephen B. Morton / AP
Defense lawyers have said the men suspected Arbery, who had been spotted several times on security camera video at a home under construction in the neighborhood, was a burglar. Lawyers claimed that the men were trying conduct a citizen’s warrant, which was legal in the State at the time.
“A safe neighborhood is always policing its own,” Laura Hogue, an attorney representing Gregory McMichael told jurors Monday during closing statements. Each defendant has his defense team.
But, prosecutors claim that the men did not have “immediate knowledge of Arbery’s crime, which is a requirement for a citizen to be arrested. Linda Dunikoski, the lead prosecutor, said that the men “attacked” Arbery because he “was a Black male running down the street” and not because he was a danger.
Superior court Judge Timothy Walmsley instructed Tuesday’s jury that a warrantless private citizen arrest must be made immediately after the crime is committed or during escape for felonies.
” If the observer fails immediately to make the arrest, or while the felonies are being committed, his right to do so will be withdrawn,” he stated.
Friday’s judge ruled that Georgia’s now-repealed citizen’s arrest law (the one in this case) requires that the arrest occur immediately after any felony crime has been committed. Not days or months later.
Travis McMichael said during the trial that he was afraid for his life and shot Arbery in self-defense.
Jason Sheffield represented Travis McMichael and said that McMichael had the right to make a citizen’s arrest. He believed Arbery was guilty of burglary.
” You have the right to possess a firearm if you make an arrest,” Sheffield stated. Sheffield stated that you have the right to arrest a person, to detain them, and to keep them there for police. And there is risk with that and there are tragic consequences that can come from that.”
Kevin Gough, the attorney for Bryan, sought to separate his client from the McMichaels and diminish his role in the father and son’s encounter with Arbery.
“Mr. Gough stated that Bryan’s presence did not contribute to Mr. Arbery’s death in any significant or direct way. “Because the McMichaels were certainly capable of catching up with him and shooting if that was their intention.”
Walmsley instructed jurors that they may consider simple assault, reckless conduct and reckless driving as lesser charges to aggravated assault for Bryan.
The prosecution argued that the men made a quick judgment about Arbery when they saw him in their area. The McMichaels went to confront Bryan with guns, while Bryan used his truck as a weapon.
The state also stated that the men were the aggressors and did not act in self-defense.
” They committed four felonies including the aggravated attack with a shotgun. They initiated it, but they don’t get to claim self-defense,” Dunikoski stated Tuesday morning in closing arguments.
She stated that the men did not have the right to make Arbery a citizen’s arrest because they had not witnessed him commit any crime or had immediate knowledge that he was about to commit one.
She said if the jurors found the men did not have the right to make a citizen’s arrest of Arbery, “that means they’re guilty on all charges.”
“They’re all equally responsible for the ultimate death of the victim,” she said.
Dunikoski said the case was not about whether the three defendants were “good people or bad people.”
“It’s about holding people accountable and responsible for their actions. She stated that when they do something like that, they must be held responsible and accountable.
An attorney representing the Arbery family stated that they believed the jury would return a guilty verdict.
“We’re confident that this jury will seriously consider all the evidence and come back with a verdict that is reflective of what actually happened, which is the brutal and unjustified murder of Ahmaud Arbery,” attorney Lee Merritt said.
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