Photo: Sean Rayford / Getty Images
On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was fatally shot while jogging through Brunswick, Georgia, after three white men – Gregory McMichael, 65; his son, Travis McMichael, 35 years old; and William “Roddie” Bryan, 52 – chased him down a suburban street in a pickup. According to the police report, both McMichaels confronted Arbery with firearms before Travis McMichael fired fatal shots.
The men later testified that they suspected Arbery of stealing from a neighbor’s house under construction, although there was no evidence that Arbery had stolen anything from the house. However, the men were not arrested until more than two months after the shooting when a video of Bryan recording the encounter went viral, sparking nationwide outrage. “My son was detained by a mob of racist lynchers,” said Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., speak at that time.
McMichaels was finally arrested on May 7, 2020; Bryan was arrested a few weeks later. Three men were charged nine numbers including one count of malicious murder and four counts of felony murder. They pleaded not guilty, arguing that they were conducting the arrest of a citizen under a repealed Georgia law. On Wednesday, a jury found the three men guilty of murder. Here are the things to know.
For the most part, the prosecution’s strategy has been to refute the defendants’ two main claims – that they acted under the law to arrest citizens and that they acted in self-defence.
In her opening statement, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said Arbery was “assaulted” by the three defendants, New York Times report. The defendants testified that they suspected Arbery of stealing from a building under construction that he stopped while on the run, but surveillance video shows Arbery did not take anything from the construction site. Dunikoski points out that both McMichaels admitted to police that they did not know if Arbery broke into the home when they began pursuing him, prompting their claim to have acted under the law of arresting citizens. is not clear. Dunikoski also recounted how the defendants chased Arbery down the street for five minutes, playing a video Bryan shot of Bryan and McMichaels’ truck stopping Arbery. Based on police interviewer, Gregory McMichael, wielding a gun, ordered Arbery to stop and threatened to “blow your damn head off.” Addressing Travis McMichael’s claims of self-defense, Dunikoski argued that he told police he “didn’t remember” whether Arbery ever snatched his handgun. “I’d say he did,” McMichael said.
After eight days of taking statements, the prosecution called 23 witnesses to take a stand. Among them are Officer William Duggan, one of the two police officers arrived at the scene. Duggan recalls arriving at the scene and finding Arbery on the ground covered in blood. Duggan claimed that there was nothing he could do to address the severity of Arbery’s injuries. Duggan saw Travis McMichael sitting nearby. When asked if he was okay, Travis allegedly replied, “No… I just killed someone.” Larry English, who owns the house under construction, testified that nothing was taken from his property and that he had never authorized or requested the McMichaels check it out.
But one glaring and odd omission in the prosecution’s argument was any substantial discussion of race. It was a fact that seemed hard to ignore in a case where three white men chased and killed an unarmed Black man, especially when Bryan told investigators he heard Travis McMichael used a racial slur after Arbery was shot and one of the defendants. the truck appears to have a Confederate flag embroider on the makeup plate.
The three defendants also have to face federal hate crime charges including interfering with Arbery’s right to use public streets because of his race; it will be put to trial in February. Black pastors and civil rights leaders—including Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Martin Luther King III—were so prominently present at the trial that the defense argued a mistake, an appeal that the judge rejected.
The defense was based on Georgia’s former citizen arrest laws and self-defense laws. Georgia’s since it was abolished Civil War-era citizen arrest laws gave private citizens the ability to arrest someone if they had reasonable knowledge or suspected the person of a crime. The part of the law allowing private citizens to have the ability to make arrests has been abolished next National outrage surrounding Arbery’s murder. “Ahmaud is the victim of a vigilance style of violence that has no place in Georgia,” said Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. at a press conference after repeal, called the law “old-fashioned” and “ripe for abuse.”
However, the law was in effect at the time of Arbery’s murder and has become the backbone of the defense’s case with defense attorneys arguing that Travis McMichael has fulfilled his duty. “Duties and responsibilities” for his community by pursuing Arbery. According to the defense’s version of events, the McMichaels intended to arrest and hold Arbery until the police arrived on the scene, but Arbery fought them off, so they shot him. In his opening statement, defense attorney Robert Rubin claimed Travis had seen Arbery outside English’s home two weeks earlier and feared that Arbery (albeit unarmed) was reaching for a gun in the conversation. their encounter.
The defense attempted to successfully remove prospective black jurors, arguing that they had partial against the defendants. Despite the prosecution’s objections, the jury consisted of 11 white jurors and one black jury. Although Judge Timothy Walmsley admitted there was “intentional discrimination on the panel,” he said he couldn’t do anything to recall the fired jurors. Based on NPR, all-white juries are more likely to convict Blacks.
Of the three defendants in the case, only Travis McMichael took a stand. He declare leading up to the murder, a series of property criminals took over his community and his pistol was stolen.
Travis told the court he had no intention of killing Arbery and that he was shocked and traumatized by the incident. He testified that he had pointed a gun at Arbery to “de-escalate” the situation, a tactic he said he learned while serving in the Coast Guard. He said the decision to shoot Arbery was “a life-and-death decision” because he was afraid of Arbery would shoot him or his father despite the fact that Arbery was unarmed. Travis McMichael said: “He was above me. “He’s still on that shotgun, and he’s not in remission.” He claimed Arbery took his gun; scene of the incident never showed Arbery in possession of his gun, although there was an obvious struggle. In the stands, McMichael wiped his unconvincing tears with a tissue and announced he was thinking about his son just before pulling the trigger.
In a cross-examination, the prosecution revealed cases from social media of Travis McMichael which he called a crime suspect. “Bugs.Since McMichael claimed Arbery threatened him, Dunikoski asked the defendant if Arbery had reached into his pocket, shouted, threatened him, or brandished a weapon, specifically a gun or knife. McMichael said no. Asked further, he confirmed that Arbery had just run away from his pursuers.
In the arguments that ended Monday, Dunikoski speak the three defendants “made assumptions about what was going on” on the day of Arbery’s death. In a few moments of the trial that explicitly addressed the issue of race, Dunikoski added that the defendants decided to attack Arbery “because he was a Black man running in the street.”
In his closing remarks, Jason Sheffield, attorney for Travis McMichael, maintain that his client is acting out of “duty and responsibility” and that he is following the rules of Georgia’s citizen arrest law as it exists. He also expressed regret on behalf of his client: “Travis could have seen Ahmaud running down the street,” Sheffield said. “He could have done things differently from what really happened… and he wishes he would. But that does not mean that his actions that day were not related to the law.”
The outcome of the trial is especially important after the trial Kyle Rittenhouse ended up in not guilty verdicts last week. Rittenhouse, a white man, shot dead two men and wounded a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a Black Lives Matter protest, and his acquittal set off a nasty precedent because the Violent far-right vigilism.
On Wednesday, the jury found three men murder. Travis, who fired the fatal shots, was found guilty of all counts, including malicious murder and felony murder. Neither Gregory nor Bryan were found guilty of malicious murder, but were convicted of other charges, including felony murder. They now face life in prison.
After the ruling, defense attorneys told reporters they would appeal the judgment
Arbery’s parents, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery, spoke to reporters outside the courthouse after the ruling. After thanking everyone who supported his family throughout the trial, Marcus Arbery said they “won over that lynch crowd,” calling the verdict “historic” and proof that Black Lives Matter. “In fact, all life matters,” he added. “We don’t want to see nobody going through this. I wouldn’t want to see no father see his child cut off and shot down like that. ” He ended with a celebratory and hopeful message, declaring, “Love all people. All human beings should be treated equally.”
Cooper-Jones, who said she “never thought this day would come,” also thanked supporters, especially noting those who have prayed for her and her family. “I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you. Thank you to each and every one of you who fought with us. It was a long fight. It was a tough fight. But God is good,” she said. She ended her comment by saying Arbery can now “rest in peace.”
While, President Biden also released a statement about the sentence. “While guilty verdicts reflect our justice system is doing its job, that alone is not enough,” he said. “Instead, we must empower ourselves to build a future of unity and common strength, where no one is afraid of violence because of the color of their skin.”
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