Murder or self-defence? Jury begins hearing case in killing of Ahmaud Arbery

Murder or self-defence? Jury begins hearing case in killing of Ahmaud Arbery


Brunswick: A Georgia prosecutor told a jury that the three white men on trial for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery wrongly assumed the worst about the black man when they chased and shot him as he jogged through their neighbourhood in February 2020.

“A very wise person once said, ‘Don’t assume the worst of another person’s intentions’,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said on Friday (local time) in her opening statement, in which she described the defendants threatening Arbery with deadly violence.

Ahmaud Arbery is shown on mobile phone footage running on a street in a neighbourhood outside Brunswick in Georgia in February last year.Credit:Twitter via AP

Gregory McMichael, 65, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment, and face life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge.

Prosecutors say when the defendants saw a black man on a Sunday afternoon jog through a mostly white neighbourhood, they mistook him for someone fleeing from a crime.

The men’s defence lawyers say they were justified in trying to detain Arbery under a citizen’s arrest law that was codified during the Civil War. That law was later repealed amid outrage over the killing, which spurred nationwide protests after mobile phone video emerged more than two months later.

Gregory McMichael, centre, is standing trial over the death of Arbery.Credit:AP

“All three of these defendants did everything they did based on assumptions,” Dunikoski said as she showed videos of Arbery’s final minutes.

“They made decisions in their driveways based on those assumptions that took a young man’s life, and that is why we are here.”

She told the mostly white jury in Glynn County Superior Court they would see Arbery’s Nike running shoes, their tread almost entirely worn away because he was such an avid runner.

A few minutes before he was killed, he was running “really fast” past the McMichaels’ house, where the elder McMichael was out in his driveway fixing cushions for his boat, Dunikoski said.

McMichael ran inside his house to get his handgun while hailing his son, who grabbed his 12-gauge shotgun. The two got in a pickup truck and began chasing Arbery, trying to ask him what he was running from.

Travis McMichael later told police he “assumed something was up”, the jury was told.Credit:AP

“I assumed something was up,” Travis McMichael later told police when explaining why he chased Arbery, Dunikoski told the jury.

Bryan soon saw the chase from his own driveway and got in his own pickup truck to join in. Dunikoski repeatedly called the truck a “five-thousand-pound lethal weapon” used to assault Arbery.

Bryan tried to hit Arbery four times with his truck as he attempted to force Arbery off the road into a ditch, Dunikoski said. After a few minutes Arbery was cornered.

“Ladies and gentleman, at this point in time, Mr Arbery is under attack by all three of these men,” she said.

William “Roddie” Bryan tried to hit Arbery four times in his truck, the jury was told.Credit:Reuters

She said the defendants had deadly intent, pointing to something the elder McMichael told police he shouted at Arbery: “Stop or I’ll blow your fucking head off!” He also told police they had trapped Arbery “like a rat”.

Arbery’s father left the courtroom before Bryan’s mobile phone video of the shooting was played, which shows the younger McMichael pointing his shotgun at Arbery, who runs towards it before the fatal shots are fired. Arbery’s mother sobbed into a man’s shoulder in the courtroom gallery.

The defendants’ lawyers say the younger McMichael opened fire in self-defence.


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