Opening statements in the murder trial of three white men charged with killing black man Ahmaud Arbery (middle) began Friday (Pictures: Reuters/Getty Images/AP)
In opening statements in the murder trial of Ahmaud Arbery, defense attorneys said the shooting was justified as self-defense, arguing that Greg McMichael was terrified he was about to witness his son possibly get shot and killed.
Three white men are charged in the killing of Arbery, a 25-year-old black man they allegedly chased down and fatally shot in their Georgia neighborhood last year.
Prosecutors in the case argued that the men – Greg, his adult son Travis McMichael as well as their neighbor William ‘Roddie’ Bryan – made hasty ‘driveway decisions’ that led to the fatal shooting of Arbery.
‘All three of these defendants did everything they did based on assumptions – not on facts, not on evidence,’ prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the jury Friday morning.
Travis McMichael (left) is accused of fatally shooting Ahmaud Arbery, in what his attorneys claim was self-defense (Picture: Getty Images)
‘They made decisions in their driveway based on those assumptions that took a young man’s life.’
Graphic video footage of the shooting captured by Bryan was released two months later, and subsequently led to the arrest of all three men.
The three men are all standing trial together, charged with murder and other felony counts.
Defense attorneys argued that father and son Greg and Travis McMichael were trying to make a citizen’s arrest and that Travis shot Arbery in self-defense.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski repeatedly referred to the decisions made by the three men as ‘driveway decisions’ (Picture: AP)
Greg’s attorney, Frank Hogue, spoke to jurors on Friday afternoon, noting that Greg had seen Arbery ‘hauling ass’ from the direction of a neighbor’s house, where there had been burglaries over the course of several months.
Hogue said his client was sure Arbery was ‘the guy he had seen inside the house multiple times’ and that he wanted to detain him for police questioning.
But when it came down to confronting Arbery, and Travis got out of the car, fear came over Greg, his attorney said.
‘He’s now in abject fear that he is about to witness his own son possibly get shot and killed in front of his own eyes,’ Hogue said, arguing the shooting was justified as self-defense.
Travis’ attorneys argued the case is ‘about duty and responsibility’.
Attorneys for William ‘Roddie’ Bryan have said he was only a witness to the crime (Picture: Getty Images)
‘It’s about Travis McMichael’s duty and responsibility to himself, his family and neighborhood,’ attorney Bob Rubin told jurors before going into Travis’ Coast Guard background and law enforcement training, which he said played a role in his response.
‘He has no choice. If this guy gets his gun, he’s dead or his dad’s dead,’ his attorney said. ‘The only right verdict is not guilty on each and every count.’
An attorney for Bryan has previously said his client was only a witness to the crime. His opening statements are still to come.
When the video footage was leaked, Greg, a retired investigator for the local district attorney, told police they were trying to stop Arbery because they suspected he was a burglar. Security cameras had recorded him entering a nearby house under construction, though he never stole anything.
Prosecutors say Arbery, a dedicated runner, was merely out jogging, unarmed and had committed no crimes in the neighborhood. When the video footage became public in May 2020, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local police.
The McMichaels were arrested the next day, and Bryan was charged two weeks later.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley swore in the predominantly white jury Friday morning, explaining some key legal terms in the case.
Earlier in the week, the judge acknowledged the ‘intentional discrimination’ in the jury selection, which resulted in only one person of color being seated, but said he was unable to intervene.
Jury selection in the highly contentious case took two-and-a-half weeks.
Nearly 200 people were summoned and thoroughly questioned about their existing knowledge of the case. The jury selection also resulted in controversy when on Wednesday, the final section consisted of 11 white jurors and only one black juror.
Prosecutors then argued the defense attorneys cut eight potential jurors because they were black.
But defense attorneys insisted the panelists who were cut were scrapped for other reasons, namely for expressing strong opinions about the case when questioned individually. They provided ‘race-neutral’ reasons for dismissing those potential jurors.
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