“They [defendants], started it; they do not get to claim self-defense. And then, of course, provocation. You can’t force someone to defend themselves against you so you get to claim self-defense. This isn’t the Wild West. No” – Prosecutor
Ahmaud Arbery jurors retired Tuesday morning to consider verdict after prosecution claims that he was killed because a white son and his ex-cop father ‘got mad when a black man jogging in their neighborhood wouldn’t answer their questions’
Travis McMichael, 35, was the only defendant to take the stand, testifying that he fired his shotgun at close range at Arbery in self defense in what he said was the most traumatic event of his life.
Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, 65, and neighbor William ‘Roddie’ Bryan Jr., 52, have all been charged with one count malice murder, four counts felony murder, two counts aggravated assault, one count false imprisonment and one count criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment ‘
All defendants have pled not guilty to the charges
The defense, during closing arguments Monday argued that the defendants had a duty to catch Arbery and were attempting a citizen’s arrest
The prosecution, during closing arguments at the Glynn County Courthouse, argued the men attacked Arbery because he was a black man in their neighborhood
In her rebuttal Tuesday, Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski also argued the men had no right to stop the jogger
The jury retired to consider their verdicts at 11.27am Tuesday
The jury has been released to begin deliberations in the trial of Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., the three white men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black murdered while jogging through a white neighborhood in coastal Georgia, last year.
In closing, the prosecution led by Linda Dunikoski argued that Arbery was killed after gunman Travis McMichael and his former cop father Gregory McMichael got ‘mad’ because the black man wouldn’t stop and answer questions.
‘The state is not saying Greg and Travis McMichael ran out the house to go murder somebody right then and there,’ Prosecutor Dunikoski said during closing arguments to the jury.
‘They left the house to go investigate. Stop we want to talk to you. Where did you come from, what did you do, what’s going on? And then what happened? Mr. Arbery ignored them. He wouldn’t do what they were commanding him to do. He wasn’t obeying their orders. He ran away, and they chased him.’
McMichael, 35, his father, Gregory McMichael, 65, and neighbor William ‘Roddie’ Bryan Jr, 52, have all pled not guilty to one count of malice murder, four of felony murder, two of aggravated assault, one of false imprisonment and one of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. The men said they tried to make a citizen’s arrest, which was allowed under Georgia law at the time of Arbery’s shooting death on Feb. 23, 2020.
They chased Arbery through the mainly-white area of Satilla Shores, just outside the small coastal city of Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23 last year.
The pursuit ended with Travis firing three times from his pump action shotgun, leaving Arbery dead in the roadway.
Refuting the defense’s claim that the men were attempting a citizen’s arrest Dunikoski alleged the defendants wanting to question the black jogger demonstrates they had a lack of immediate knowledge that he committed any crimes.
The prosecutor spoke for two hours before Judge Timothy Walmsley instructed the 12 person panel of 11 white jurors and one black juror on the charges.
They retired to consider their verdicts at 11.27am.
Dunikoski began closing arguments Monday, in which she questioned the credibility of the defendants’ assertions that Arbery became a threat when they tried to stop him as he ran through the mostly white Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick.
‘They made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a black man running down the street,’ she said in earlier arguments.
They killed him ‘not because he’s a threat to them, but because he wouldn’t stop and talk to them.’
Attorney Laura Hogue, defense for the elder McMichael, said during her closing arguments Monday that the defendants had a duty to catch Arbery, whom she painted as a frightening burglar with ‘long dirty toenails,’ using a description from the autopsy report.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, sat in the courtroom Tuesday with her arms crossed, accompanied by family members, while the prosecution made it’s rebuttal before the jury began deliberations.
Last week she was optimistic stating: ‘I’m confident we will get a guilty verdict.’
Dunikoski in her summation highlighted inconsistencies in testimony and initial statements to police.
‘To Travis and Greg McMichael that was a big jump in the lake. Here they are, ex law enforcement, Coast Guard. He won’t talk to us, we have questions. Stop right there. And he ignores them. Basically telling them, I’m not doing it. And it starts escalating. They start getting mad.’
Dunikoski said the situation ‘escalated, escalated and escalated’.
She said: ‘Now they want to get him. Now they want to stop him. Because they are mad at him. He has totally ignored them and run away from them. And how dare he do that to these two people.
‘What right did they have to stop Ahmaud Arbery? What right did they have to go ahead and demand a fellow citizen stop and talk to them? And use pick up trucks to cut him off and force him to be contained? None whatsoever.
‘Malice may be formed in moments. And instantly a fatal, may be inflicted.
‘Malice, you can consider it as reckless disregard for human life. You bring your 12 gauge pump shotgun with you ready to fire. You point it at a man you know is unarmed.
‘Do you think they couldn’t tell he (Arbery) didn’t have a gun? And then you go ahead and intercept him and pull the trigger. Reckless disregard for human life.
‘And they are in it together. Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael are acting together in concert, in the truck, their actions are all together. They are parties to the crime. Even though Greg McMichael is in the back of that pick-up truck on the 911 call when Travis pulls this trigger, he is still responsible.
Closing arguments in Ahmaud Arbery murder trial
Dunikoski also knocked aside the self-defense argument in her closing She argued that the defendants cannot use the claim of self-defense and asked the jury to find the men “guilty for all of the charges in the indictment.”
The lead prosecutor said of the defendants: “They started it; they do not get to claim self-defense. And then, of course, provocation. You can’t force someone to defend themselves against you so you get to claim self-defense.
“This isn’t the Wild West.
“So there’s three instances where the defendants don’t get to claim self-defense,” Dunikoski told the jury.
‘Because without Greg McMichael this would never have happened.’ Dunikoski was referring to the fact that the older McMichael had spotted Arbery running past their house in Satilla Shores and initiated the chase.
On the felony murder charges, she said: ‘Again, there is no intent to go ahead and kill the person. But because you committed that felony, someone dies. All played a necessary and substantial part in causing the death of Ahmaud Arbery.
‘We have aggravated assault with a shotgun. Pretty simple. The aggravated assault was continuous, Started with pulling that shotgun up. Ahmaud Arbery was 30 to 40 yards away. Not an imminent threat at all.
‘And what did it do? It ended with the pulling of the trigger, shotgun blast here, pellets right here. Did that felony contribute? Of course it did, it’s the cause of his (Arbery’s) death.’
On the aggravated assault with pick up trucks allegation Dunikoski told the jury: ‘You do not have to hit the person with the pick-up truck. What did Mr. Bryan do?
‘He actually ran him (Arbery) into a ditch.
‘This contributed to his death.
‘This played a substantial part because it put Mr. Arbery in reasonable fear of Mr. Bryan in that truck.’
The prosecutor argued that all three defendants were responsible for Arbery’s killing.
‘Under the law in Georgia, it is if they are all holding the gun together,’ she told jurors.
‘They are all guilty of malice murder.’
She said the catalogue of ‘driveway decisions’ culminated in the end of Arbery’s life.
Greg McMichael had no proof the young black man had committed any crime that day after he was spotted running from the partly-built home of neighbor Larry English, said the prosecutor.
The McMichaels’ defense teams have claimed the father and son were trying to make a lawful citizen’s arrest under a Georgia law now repealed since the Arbery killing.
‘Greg McMichael assumed the worst,’ said Dunikoski. ‘And so I thought, you know, he’s running from somebody. He’s just done something. Because you know, this guy’s been in and out of that damn house over and over and over again, got him on videos and everything.
‘That is not sufficient for a citizen’s arrest. That is not probable cause. This is I don’t know what this guy’s doing but he’s running down the street real fast. That’s what this is. He’s running down the street, let’s chase after him.’
The prosecutor said the McMichaels had ‘no intention’ of calling 911.
The prosecution gets the last word in the case because it carries the burden of proving the accusations beyond reasonable doubt. Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley will then given the jury instructions on how to apply the law following the rebuttal.
The younger McMichael was the only defendant to take the stand, testifying that he fired his shotgun at close range at Arbery in self defense in what he said was the most traumatic event of his life.
He said Arbery had grabbed his gun after the five-minute chase through the defendants’ neighborhood.
McMichael testified that he and his father thought Arbery were responsible for recent thefts in the neighborhood.
No evidence has emerged that Arbery took anything on his frequent runs through Satilla Shores.
Bryan’s cellphone video of the killing sparked outrage when it emerged more than two months later and the public learned that the men involved had not been arrested.
The defendants face life in jail if convicted of malice and felony murder. It is up to the judge to decide if they have possibility of parole. The jury must decide the verdicts unanimously.
No one was charged until 74 days after the killing. That was following the revelation of Bryan’s video and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation taking over the case from Glynn County Police.
They also face federal hate crime charges and a trial at the same Brunswick court hours next February.
All are charged with one count of interference with civil rights and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels are also charged with using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.
All the men deny the charges against them.