Lawyers take final case before jury in Ahmet Arbery’s death trial
Brunswick, J.A.; On Monday, lawyers offered their final words to the jury in the murder of Ahmed Arbery, with prosecutors saying three white men only chased him “because he was a black man running in the street” and the defense has repeatedly blamed Arbery. the death.
In closing arguments, a defense attorney for the man who fired the fatal shots said the 25-year-old was killed because he violently resisted a legal effort to detain him for answering questions about neighborhood burglaries.
“It is very tragic that this has happened,” said attorney Jason Sheffield. “This is where the law intertwines with heartache and tragedy. You are allowed to stand up for yourself.”
The arguments to a disproportionately white jury were revealed 10 days after testimony ended last week, shortly after the man who shot Arbery testified that he pulled the trigger in self-defense.
Arbery’s murder became part of a larger national account of racial injustice after a video of his death was leaked online two months later. Although prosecutors did not argue that racism was the motive for the murder, federal authorities charged the three men with hate crimes, claiming that they stalked and killed Arbery because he was black.
Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael grabbed guns and chased Arbery in a pickup truck after seeing him run into their neighborhood on February 23, 2020. William “Rudy” Bryan joined the chase and recorded the opening video of Travis McMichael shooting while Arbery threw punches and grabbed his rifle.
No one was charged with murder until Bryan’s video leaked and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from the local police. The three men face murder and other charges.
Prosecutor Linda Donikowski told the jury that the defendants had no evidence that Arbery had committed crimes in their neighborhood, but instead acted on assumptions based on neighborhood gossip and speculative posts on social media.
“They made the decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveway because he was a black man running in the street,” Dnekowski said. She added, “They shot and killed him. Not because he was a danger to them. But because he wouldn’t stop and talk to them.”
Defense attorneys say the men suspected Arbery of burglarizing a home under construction and intended to hold it until police arrived. Arbery’s security cameras have taped into the house five times, but none of the videos show him stealing or damaging anything.
Donikowski said the McMichaels and Brian family chased Arbery for five minutes, using their trucks to isolate him, get him off the road and otherwise prevent him from escaping. She repeated Greg Michael’s words to local police after the shooting of Arbery “trapped like a rat.”
Brian Travis scored McMichael standing with a rifle in hand outside the driver’s side door of his parked truck as Arbery approached on foot, then ran around the passenger side. They met in front of the truck, which blocked the camera’s view, when Travis McMichael fired the first of three blasts with guns. The video shows Arbery punching him and holding the pistol while two more bullets are fired, then Arbery turning around to try to run again before he falls flat on his face in the street.
“He chose to fight,” said Laura Hogg, Greg McMichael’s attorney. She said Arbery decided “with no reason to run up to a man with a gun, leaving him no other alternative but to put him in a position to kill him.”
Referring to a smiling photo of Arbery that the jury had shown at trial, Hogg told the jury, “A beautiful, broad-smiling teen could get lost in a crooked baseball cap…and years later he could end up crawling into a house that doesn’t belong to him, and run away instead.” from facing the consequences.”
Brian’s attorney, Kevin Gough, suggested that Arbery should have sought help if he was unjustly prosecuted.
Why doesn’t he call out, ‘Hey, someone’s calling 911!’ ‘There are crazy people after me,’ said Gough. ‘Maybe it’s because Mr. Arbery doesn’t want to help.’
Gough said Bryan didn’t know the McMichael family had guns until moments before the shooting. He suggested that Brian direct a higher force to join the chase so he could record the shooting on his phone.
“You can call it karma. You can call it fate. I will call it Providence,” Goff said. “Someone directs Mr. Brian, whether it is a conscious thought process or not. Something is guiding Mr. Brian on this street to document what’s going on.”
Sheffield, representing Travis McMichael, said his client never wanted to shoot Arbery, but had to make a fateful decision when Arbery attacked him in front of the truck.
He said Satilla Shores residents are already concerned amid reports of robberies and suspicious people in the neighbourhood. He said Arbery’s frequent visits to the unfinished home made it reasonable to suspect that he stole items from a boat the homeowner kept in a garage without doors shortly before the cameras were installed.
Sheffield then said that Travis McMichael had his “terrifying experience,” when he encountered Arbery in the yard at night 12 days before the shooting. He eagerly told the 911 dispatcher that Arbery reached into his pocket as if he had a gun when confronted.
Donikowski noted that Arbery never threatened the McMichaels during the chase, nor did he carry any weapons.
“You can’t bring a gun into a fist fight. That’s unfair, right?” said the prosecutor.
She said it was Travis McMichael who attacked Arbery – first with his truck, then with his gun pointed at him as Arbery ran towards him.
“They can’t claim self-defense under the law because they were the primary unwarranted aggressors, and they started it,” Denikowski said.
Arbery had attended a technical college and was preparing to study to become an electrician like his uncles when he was murdered.
This story corrects what the attorney general said to say that Arbery was killed “walking down the street,” not “their street.”
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