In the trial of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the video will have a big role

ATLANTA – The three white men from Georgia accused of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery have already been severely tried by the highest of pla...


ATLANTA – The three white men from Georgia accused of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery have already been severely tried by the highest of places. Donald Trump called the murder of Mr. Arbery, an unarmed black man, “disturbing.” Barack Obama described it as an example of persistent racial injustice. Brian Kemp, the Republican governor of Georgia, called it “absolutely horrible.”

In the coming days, a dozen jurors from the small coastal town of Brunswick, Georgia, will be called upon to judge the actions of the three suspects, Gregory McMichael, 67, her 35-year-old son, Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William Bryan, 52. Their pursuit of Mr Arbery, 25, through their suburb of Brunswick after suspecting him of a series of break-ins ended in a brief scuffle in which Travis McMichael fired his shotgun at Mr. Arbery at close range range.

The publication of a graphic video of the February 2020 shooting, recorded by Mr Bryan, sparked a nationwide protest and prompted the state legislature to make significant changes to Georgian criminal law, including l adoption of the state’s first hate crimes law. On Monday, attention will turn again to Brunswick, where jury selection is expected to begin in the murder trial of the three men – the first chapter in a court drama likely to be charged with raw emotion and allegations of racism.

With a disturbing video playing a lead role, the trial will bear similarities to that of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murder in April after a bystander video showed him kneeling for about nine minutes on the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed black man.

But with its laden self-defense themes – and questions about when neighborhood vigilance turns into vigilantism – the lawsuit is also likely to echo the 2013 case of George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted in the murder of Trayvon. Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

“There are a lot of similarities,” said Mark O’Mara, who represented Mr. Zimmerman in this lawsuit, which, like the Floyd case, has been closely watched as a barometer of race and justice issues in the world. 21st Century America. “You have someone who was watching their neighborhood, if you want to use that generic expression, and saw someone who they didn’t think belonged there, and made the decision to do something about it. “

Lee Merritt, lead attorney in a civil lawsuit brought by the Arbery family, lambasted what must have been the defense arguments during the trial, particularly the suggestion that Travis McMichael acted in self-defense. “This is just a fundamental principle of law,” said Merritt. “The aggressor is the person or persons who initiate the meeting. Here, these men pursued Ahmaud on the basis of a hunch, and when he fled, they set him up.

Mr. Arbery, a regular jogger, was caught on security camera in the Satilla Shores neighborhood, a few miles from his own home, on a Sunday afternoon. Video shows him entering a house under construction on McMichael Street. The half-built house was one that Mr. Arbery had entered on other occasions, based on other camera footage, although there is no evidence that he ever did anything other than look around the property.

According to a police report, Gregory McMichael, a former local prosecutor’s office investigator, saw Mr. Arbery in the house and thought he looked like a man suspected of multiple break-ins in the area. He called Travis, his son, a Navy veteran and boat tour operator. The eldest, Mr. McMichael, grabbed a handgun; his son, a shotgun. The two men jumped into a truck and set off in pursuit and were eventually joined by Mr. Bryan, who was driving his own truck. Mr. Arbery, a former high school football player, tried to run away from them.

Eventually, the pursuers cut off Mr. Arbery’s escape routes. Mr. Bryan’s video shows Gregory McMichael standing in a truck on the phone with 911, and Travis in the street next to the truck, holding his shotgun. Mr. Arbery walks around the truck, then runs straight towards Travis McMichael. The first of three shotgun shots can be heard shortly after the two men clash.

The three prosecutors were then freed for weeks, while one of the prosecutors in charge of the case initially determined that they had not broken any laws. They were eventually arrested as national attention and outrage grew. The McMichaels and Mr. Bryans pleaded not guilty. They were denied bail and have been waiting for their day in court for over a year in a Glynn County jail.

The three men were also charged under federal hate crimes and kidnapping laws.

Jason V. Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael, said he would argue at the public trial that Mr. Arbery attempted to take Mr. McMichael’s shotgun away from him and in doing so placed Mr. McMichael “in the fear of being shot “.

A second, and perhaps more remarkable, pillar of the defense strategy will be its use of the arrest status of citizens of Georgia’s civil war era, which has come under scrutiny at the following the murder of Mr. Arbery and was considerably weakened earlier this year by Republicans. state legislature controlled.

Defense attorneys, said Ronald L. Carlson, professor emeritus at the University of Georgia Law School, “will try to convince the jury that these people honestly believed there was a burglary suspect running in the building. district”. Under the old Citizen Arrest Act, Mr. Carlson noted, a private person is authorized to arrest someone if a crime is committed in their presence “or with their immediate knowledge.” The person seeking to make the arrest must also have “reasonable and probable grounds to suspect”.

The lawsuits are being handled by the Cobb County, Ga., District attorney’s office, where a spokesperson declined to comment last week. In court documents, prosecutors said the three men attempted to “illegally” detain Mr. Arbery, who “was unable to escape the foreign men” and “was forced to face the man who pointed out. a shotgun on his chest. “

Mr Merritt said prosecutors were also likely to argue that the three men were motivated by racism. In a June 2020 hearing, a Georgia state criminal investigator said Mr Bryan said he heard Travis McMichael use a racist epithet shortly after shooting his shotgun. The investigator said Mr McMichael used racist language in numerous social media messages and text messages.

Mr Sheffield refuted the idea that the incident concerned race. “There is no doubt that racism is still alive and well not only in Georgia, but across the country. So when this case arose, it immediately sounded like that same old story of southern racism, ”he said in a recent interview. But he said the jury would come to see that the defendants were motivated by “a common concern in their neighborhood about the ongoing crime, and that they were simply trying to help law enforcement put an end to it. “.

Defense attorneys recently asked Superior Court Judge Timothy R. Walmsley to exclude from the trial photos of a vanity license plate on Travis McMichael’s van of the former State Flag of Georgia, which features the symbol of the Confederate Battle Flag.

The judge did not rule on this motion, but made two other decisions that do not help the defendants. One prevents discussion of Mr. Arbery’s serious mental health issues. Another prevents the defense from raising Mr. Arbery’s criminal record, including guilty pleas for shoplifting and taking a gun on a high school campus.

From the start of the case, it was suspected that elements of the local justice system had favored the three prosecutors. In September, Jackie Johnson, the area’s former chief prosecutor who briefly dealt with the case, was charged with violating her oath and obstructing a police officer. Among other things, the indictment stated that she had shown “favor and affection” to Gregory McMichael, who had previously worked in his office.

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Newsrust - US Top News: In the trial of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the video will have a big role
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