A jury of Georgia residents is deciding whether to convict three men in the 2020 death of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old man who was pursued through a neighborhood and confronted on suspicion of being a robbery suspect but whose family says he was jogging.
Closing arguments concluded on Tuesday, with prosecutor Linda Dunikoski arguing that Arbery was unjustifiably pursued, blocking any claims to self-defense. “Who started this? It wasn’t Ahmaud Arbery,” she said.
The suspects, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan, have pleaded not guilty to charges of felony murder, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment. The McMichaels, the defense attorneys say, were seeking to perform a citizen’s arrest; Bryan, his attorney says, was merely armed with a cell phone.
“Roddie Bryan was not aware of any intention, and could not be a party to the crime of malice murder, because he can’t intentionally help commit a crime he doesn’t know is underway,” said defense attorney Kevin Gough.
The trial gained national attention last year after the cell phone video Bryan recorded was leaked to a local media outlet, by an attorney who informally consulted with him, purportedly to set the record straight.
The video shows Arbery running down the street, in the direction of a white pickup truck. Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael, who are father and son, can be seen waiting at the truck, armed. When Arbery approaches the truck, he goes around the passenger side, and a struggle begins between Arbery and Travis McMichael, who is holding a shotgun. Arbery is shot in the physical confrontation between them and is killed.
“All three of these defendants made assumptions about what was going on that day,” said lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski. “And they made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways, because he was a Black man running down the street.”
Notably, the law in Georgia at the time required someone to be in “immediate knowledge” of a crime to perform a citizen’s arrest. The law was repealed in light of the Ahmaud Arbery shooting.
“You are allowed to defend yourself. You are allowed to use force that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if you believe it’s necessary,” Jason Sheffield, a defense attorney for Travis McMichael, told the jury during closing arguments. “At that moment Travis believed it was necessary. This is a law that is for a person in Travis’s situation.”
Wanda Cooper, Arbery’s mother, has said that she believes her son was jogging when he was pursued and killed. On Tuesday, she lauded the lead prosecutor for doing a thorough job, reports CNN.
“She presented the evidence again very well. I do think that we will come back with a guilty verdict, and I want to leave with this: God has brought us this far, and he’s not going to fail us now. We will get justice for Ahmaud,” she said
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