Defense lawyers file their cases in Ahmed Arbery’s trial
Brunswick, J.A.; Defense lawyers rested their case in Ahmaud Arbery’s trial Thursday after calling only seven witnesses, including the shooter, who testified that Arbery did not threaten him in any way before pointing his gun at the 25-year-old black man.
Supreme Court Justice Timothy Walmsley set closing arguments at trial on Monday, setting out the possibility of sentencing before Thanksgiving for the three white men accused of murder in Arbery’s death.
Travis McMichael, under prosecution questioning on the second day of his testimony, said that Arbery never showed or spoke to a gun before McMichael raised his gun. But, McMichael said, he was “under the impression” that Arbery could pose a threat because he was running straight toward him and saw Arbery trying to board a neighbor’s truck who had joined in pursuit of Arbery down the coast. Georgia neighborhood.
“All he did was run away from you,” said prosecutor Linda Donekowski. “I pulled out a gun and pointed it at him.”
Mobile video from February 23, 2020, the shooting – replayed in court on Thursday – shows Arbery running around the back of a McMichael pickup truck after McMichael first points the gun while standing next to the open driver’s side door. Arbery then runs around the passenger side as McMichael moves forward and the two come face to face. Next, the truck blocks any view of them until the first shot has been fired.
McMichael’s testimony on Wednesday marked the first time any of the three defendants had spoken publicly about the murder. The other two defendants did not testify. McMichael said Arbery forced him to make a split-second “life-or-death” decision by attacking him and grabbing his rifle.
Donikowski indicated Thursday that this is not what McMichael told police in an interview about two hours after the shooting.
“So you didn’t shoot him because he grabbed the barrel of your gun,” Dnekowski said. “I shot him because he got close to that corner and I was there and I pulled the trigger right away.”
“No, I was shocked,” McMichael replied. “We were face to face, getting beaten up and that’s when I got shot.”
McMichael said he approached Arbery because neighbors had indicated that something had happened down the road and he wanted to ask Arbery about it. Arbery was working in the Brunswick neighborhood at the time. He said Arbery stopped, then took off for a run when McMichael told him the police were on the way.
When asked how many times he’s stopped by behind strangers in the neighborhood to ask them what they’re doing there, McMichael said never.
“You know that no one has to talk to anyone they don’t want to talk to, right?” said Denikowski.
The attorney general also pressed McMichael about why he did not include some details of his Wednesday testimony in his written statement to police, namely the part about telling Arbery police he was on his way.
McMichael said he was “under pressure, nervous, afraid” at the time of his interview with the police and “may have been on and off.”
“What were you nervous about?” asked Dunikoski.
McMichael replied, “I just killed a man. Bloodied myself. It was the most traumatic event of my life.”
“You were nervous because you thought you were going to jail, right?” asked Dunikoski.
No. “I gave them a statement,” said McMichael.
McMichael and his father, Greg McMichael, armed themselves and chased Arbery in a pickup truck after he drove past their home from the house under construction. William “Rudy” Brian, a neighbor, joined the chase in his own van and recorded a video on his mobile phone. Arbery’s murder deepened the national protest against racial injustice after the video was leaked online.
Defense attorneys argued that their clients were lawfully trying to stop burglaries in their area and that McMichael fired in self-defense. Prosecutors say there is no justification for what the men did and no evidence that Arbery committed any crimes.
Six neighbors testified Thursday about sharing reports of property crime and suspicious people on their division’s Facebook page. Brooke Perez said a neighbor’s 2019 post about a car break-in prompted her to inspect her husband’s truck and find some of his missing tools.
“I’m home alone with the kids,” Perez said. “So it felt like a violation.”
Outside the Glynn County Courthouse, hundreds of pastors gathered, while a defense attorney renewed his attempt to keep black ministers out of the courtroom. Reverend Jesse Jackson once again joined the Arbery family in the courtroom, as he did on some other days this week. Walmsley declined to discuss the case again, stating that he had already rejected the same proposal from Bryan’s attorney Kevin Gough twice.
Gough first asked a judge last week to remove Reverend Al Sharpton from court, saying the civil rights activist was trying to disproportionately influence the white jury. He also complained that activists outside the court were trying to influence the jury with placards and banners, and he also objected to the march of priests.
“We had a huge lunchtime protest that was so loud, with loudspeakers literally 20 feet from the front door of the courtroom, that you could hear what was being said on those courtroom doors,” Gough told the judge.
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