Prosecutors focus on Arbery killers' inability to help as he lay dying

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Prosecutors in the hate crimes trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s prosecutors focused Tuesday on how the government believes the ...


BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Prosecutors in the hate crimes trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s prosecutors focused Tuesday on how the government believes the defendants’ racism manifested itself on the day Mr. Arbery was murdered — including the fact that they didn’t try to help him as he lay dying in the street.

During the second day of the federal trial, attorneys for the US Department of Justice showed body camera footage of one of the first police officers to arrive at the scene. On the witness stand, Richard Dial of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, noted that Mr. Arbery’s head and right leg could be seen moving on video as he lay in the street after being shot by Travis McMichael, 36 years.

The three white men who pursued Mr. Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, were nearby at the time the body camera footage was recorded, and they appear in the videos, cooperating with officers and describing what that happened. But Mr. Dial noted that none of them had administered any aid to Mr. Arbery. Mr McMichael’s father, Gregory McMichael, 66, told officers at the scene he moved Mr Arbery’s arm after he was shot in an attempt to determine if he was armed. He was not.

Around the same time, Gregory McMichael called Mr Arbery an “asshole” in a conversation with police.

Some of those details came to light at a recent state trial, in which the men were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. But the details took on a different significance in the federal lawsuit, which is about whether the McMichaels and their neighbor, William Bryan, 52, deprived Mr. Arbery of his right to use the public highway because he was black.

The men could face additional life sentences for the federal charges they face, including attempted kidnapping and weapons charges for the McMichaels.

In her opening statements Monday, Bobbi Bernstein, a Justice Department attorney, told jurors about the ugly and overt expressions of racism the men had used at other times in their lives. She said evidence would show two of the men, Mr Bryan and young Mr McMichael, used racial slurs and compared black people to animals.

On Tuesday, prosecutors put Mr. Dial, the state’s lead investigator in the murder case, on the stand as they led the jury through the events of Feb. 23, 2020. That afternoon Mr. Arbery had been jogging in Satilla Shores, the southern Georgia neighborhood where the three men lived, Mr. Dial said. The defendants, who believed Mr Arbery was a possible crime suspect, used a pair of trucks to chase him for more than five minutes, until the young Mr McMichael shot him three times at close range with a 12 gauge shotgun.

Mr Dial noted on Tuesday that no emergency calls to the police had been made by the men during the chase until moments before Mr Arbery was shot, when Gregory McMichael used his phone son to call 911. Prosecutors, who argue the men assumed Mr. Arbery might have been a criminal because he was black, also released a recording of Mr. McMichael telling police that Mr. Arbery was “breaking into a house” in the neighborhood on numerous occasions.

CCTV footage shows Mr Arbery visiting a house under construction on several occasions in the weeks leading up to his death, including one visit in the moments before he was chased. But in none of the surveillance footage is he seen taking or damaging property from the house, which had no doors or walls at the time. Ms. Bernstein repeatedly asked Mr. Dial if Mr. Arbery had taken anything from the house during one of his visits. Mr. Dial said no. She also noted that Mr Arbery had no wallet, backpack or anything else with him when he was killed.

Mr. Dial said the visits did not constitute a crime under Georgian law. During cross-examination, AJ Balbo, an attorney for Gregory McMichael, asked the officer if he would find it suspicious that someone repeatedly entered a construction site at night. Mr. Dial said that in his experience, curious people visit construction sites all the time.

Lawyers for the defendants also pointed out that their clients had cooperated with investigators, offering to make statements and comply with search requests.

The prosecution also called neighbors of the defendants to the stand, including Daniel Allcott, who said he was at home when he and his wife heard three loud bangs – the shotgun blasts that killed Mr. Arbery. From their garage window, they could see Mr. Arbery’s body just outside his house.

Mr. Allcott described what he saw in the hours that followed: a police officer kneeling over Mr. Arbery’s body, Travis McMichael sitting on the raised flowerbed in Mr. Allcott’s yard, Gregory McMichael speaking to the phone.

He recalled a day when Mr Arbery’s parents came to the house with a wreath and a cross in their hands, hoping to create a memorial for their son. He allowed them to do it, he said, holding back tears.

“What do you say to a family that has lost its son? ” he said.

The jurors were attentive throughout Mr. Allcott’s testimony. Many took notes and some became emotional, particularly when Mr Allcott described Mr Arbery’s parents visiting the murder site. A black woman on the jury wiped tears from her eyes, first with her hands and then with a tissue.

Mr Allcott said he and his family have since moved from their home in Satilla Shores. It never felt like home after Mr Arbery was killed there, he said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Prosecutors focus on Arbery killers' inability to help as he lay dying
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