Final steps in the trial of three white men charged in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery were scheduled Tuesday before the case of the 25-year-old Black man’s death goes to the jury.
Prosecutors planned to take much of Tuesday morning making their last case to jurors as hours of closing arguments by attorneys spilled into a second day. The prosecution gets the final word in the trial because it carries the burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley then must give instructions on how to apply the law before the disproportionately white jury can begin deliberations at the Glynn County courthouse in the port city of Brunswick.
Arbery’s killing became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice after a graphic video of his death leaked online two months later.
Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael grabbed guns and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after spotting him running through their subdivision on Feb. 23, 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase and recorded the video of Travis McMichael opening fire as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for McMichael’s shotgun.
No one was charged in the killing until Bryan’s video leaked and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local police. All three men are charged with murder and other offenses.
“They made the decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black man running down the street,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the jury in her initial closing arguments Monday.
Defense attorneys used their closing arguments Monday to argue that the McMichaels were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest when they set off after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.
Attorney Jason Sheffield said his client, Travis McMichael, fired his shotgun in self-defense after Arbery came charging at him throwing punches and trying to grab the weapon. He called Arbery’s death a tragedy, but one that was his own fault.
Attorneys for the other two defendants blamed Arbery as well. Laura Hogue, an attorney for Greg McMichael, said Arbery “chose to fight.” Kevin Gough, who represents Bryan, questioned why Arbery didn’t call for help if he was in danger.
“Maybe that’s because Mr. Arbery doesn’t want help,” Gough said.
Prosecutors said there was no evidence Arbery had committed crimes in the defendants’ neighborhood. He had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing at the time to study to become an electrician like his uncles.