Nearly all-white jury begins deliberations in Ahmaud Arbery case

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A nearly all-white jury began deliberating on Tuesday the case of three white men charged with hunting and killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man whose death last year was captured on video And there was opposition to racial justice across the country.

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Gregory McMichael, 65, their son, Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor, William “Roddy” Bryan Jr., 52, are charged with felony and malice in the shooting death, which they say occurred in self-defense because they There were attempts to arrest the citizen

Chief prosecutor Linda Dunnikowski summed up the state’s case on Tuesday, saying, “You can’t make a self-defense claim if you’re an unreasonable assailant.” “Who started it? It wasn’t Ahmed Arbery.”

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The murder has already prompted Georgia to repeal its antiquated civil arrest law and pass a new hate crime law.

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No one disputes that three men followed Arbery in their pickup trucks as he ran through his subdivision outside this blue-collar Georgia port city. Nor do they disagree that Travis McMichael ultimately shot Arbery.

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The case centers on questions about why the three men pursued Arbery, whether he had a legal right to a civilian arrest, and whether Travis McMichael acted in self-defense in the shooting when Arbery suddenly escaped in the final moments of his life. had gone. towards him and wrestled with his gun.

Under Georgia’s civil arrest law—an 1863-era statute that was repealed six months earlier but still applies at trial as it was in effect at the time of the shooting—detaining someone for an ordinary person was legal. Heinous crime

The timing of such an arrest is the issue, whether it must be made immediately after the suspected crime or whether some time may have elapsed.

Dunnikowski has previously argued, telling jurors that the defendants’ actions on February 23, 2020 were not a lawful citizen’s arrest, as they were “not present when a crime was committed” and that they did not have “immediate knowledge” that Arbery had committed. did. crime on that day.

The McMichaels and Brian acted on assumptions and rumors and there was no justification for hunting down Arbery and trapping him between two pickup trucks, she said.

Defense attorneys, who said Travis McMichael had seen Arbery at a house under construction in his neighborhood 12 days before the murder, argued that Danikoski had misrepresented the law to the jury.

The relevant statute states: “A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge. If the offense is a felony and the offender is on the run or is attempting to escape.” a private person may arrest him on reasonable and probable ground of suspicion.”

Judge Timothy Walmsley said the text would be included in the directions of the jury, which consists of a black juror and 11 whites.

On Monday, Danikowski brought up the issue of Arbery’s skin color: The men attacked Arbery, she argued, “because he was a black man running down the street.”

Defense lawyers pushed back the prosecution’s statement, arguing that Arbery was not an innocent man who was merely strolling down the street.

Jason Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael, said the defendants had a reasonable suspicion that Arbery had burgled in their neighborhood and, therefore, had a “citizen’s right to make an arrest.”

He said his client believed Arbery was a “recurring intruder” who had committed theft and may have been armed.

Sheffield said residents of Satilla Shores were terrified and frightened after a string of trespassing incidents and theft, and a security camera captured images of Arbery inside a house under construction several times, including on the day of the shooting.

On Tuesday, Danikoski argued that the defendants had no knowledge of Arbery’s intent and that there was no evidence that he had plagiarized. The distinction is important because theft is a felony, but criminal trespass is a misdemeanor, which is not a ground for a citizen’s arrest.

She reminded the jury that a neighbor, Matt Albenz, called a non-emergency phone number — not 911 — on February 23 to report Arbery’s presence in the home. Unlike the defendants, Albenz did not think that Arbery’s presence was of immediate concern.

Arguing that the murder was an act of self-defense, Sheffield reported that Travis McMichael fired his gun only when Arbery came around his truck, lunging at him and reaching for the weapon.

McMichael was “scared,” his lawyer argued.

Dunnikowski asked the jurors: “Do you really believe he had no choice but to use his shotgun? No other choice?”

Bryan’s attorney worked to distance his client from the McMichaels, pointing out that he did not know they were armed until moments before Arbery was shot and that he cooperated fully with the police, even That too for giving them an important video of the shoot. Took my cellphone.

Danikowski retorted that Bryan helped the McMichaels by following him with his pickup truck, driving him into a ditch, and then driving him to the McMichaels.

“It doesn’t matter who actually pulled the trigger,” she said. “Under the law, they are all also guilty of culpable homicide.”

In the video taken by Brian, Arbery can be seen running along a winding road shaded by live oak trees toward a parked pickup truck. Gregory McMichael stands with a handgun in the bed of the truck, and Travis McMichael stands near the open driver-side door holding a shotgun.

As Arbery moves past the truck on the passenger side, the camera is briefly moved away so that Arbery is turned to the left and briefly disappears from the rear of the truck. A gunshot ensues, and Arbery can be seen quarreling with Travis McMichael over the gun from the driver’s side. A second shot rings, and Arbery wrestles with McMichael. A third shot is fired at point-blank range and Arbery falls to the ground.

The McMichaels were not arrested after the shooting, even though law enforcement officers found Gregory McDonald, a former police officer and investigator for the local district attorney’s office, with blood on his hands.

In May 2020 – after mounting national criticism of the handling of the case by local prosecutors and more than 10 weeks after the shooting – the Georgia Bureau of Investigation charged the father and son with felony assault and aggravated assault.

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