Lauren Moye, FISM News
The trial for the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery began yesterday. Arbery was on a routine jog last year when three white men chased him down in vehicles. In the fight that followed Arbery was shot in the chest and killed. Viral video footage of the incident sparked outrage two months later, prompting protests and legal changes.
In the prosecution’s opening statement, Linda Dunikoski said, “In this case, all three of these defendants did everything they did based on assumptions. Not on facts, not on evidence — on assumptions.”
“This case is about duty and responsibility,” said Robert Rubin, a defense attorney representing Travis McMichael, in his opening statement. “It’s about Travis McMichael’s duty and responsibility to himself, to his family, and to his neighborhood.”
In addition to the opening statements, the jury also heard the cross-examination of the first witness. Police Officer William Duggan testified to what he saw as the responding officer on the scene of the death. Recordings from his body camera and dashcam were played, which showed the shotgun blast to Arbery’s motionless chest. Duggan determined there was “nothing he could do.”
Ahmaud Arbery went for a jog that he never returned from on Feb. 23 of last year in Satilla Shores, a predominantly white neighborhood outside Brunswick, GA. The neighborhood was experiencing unrest with rumors of property crimes. Meanwhile, multiple surveillance videos showed Arbery going into a partially constructed home.
For this reason, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, decided to chase Arbery down in their truck with the intent to conduct a citizen’s arrest. Another neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, Jr., joined the chase in a separate vehicle.
The prosecutor referred to Bryan’s truck as a “5,000-pound lethal weapon” and noted that this vehicle swerved toward Arbery four times in an effort to corner the man. Arbery’s handprint and fiber from his t-shirt were found on the vehicle.
Eventually the vehicle pursuit ended with the cornering of Arbery. During the following scuffle, Travis fired his shotgun. Bryan captured this fatal wound in a cellphone video. This footage would go viral two months later. Until then, no arrests had been made in the case.
The defendants face charges of murder, aggravated assault, and an attempt to illegally detain and confine.
FISM previously reported: “The McMicheals’ lawyer in the preliminary hearing had said the two men had committed no crimes and were pursuing someone they thought had committed a crime in an attempt to perform a citizen’s arrest, while Bryan’s lawyer claims his client was merely “a witness to the tragic shooting death” and had fully cooperated with investigators.”
Georgia has since repealed its citizen’s arrest law.
The McMichaels and Bryan pled not guilty to all charges on July 17, 2020. The defendants’ motions for bond were denied.
Jury selection for the case began in October of this year with 1,000 potential jurors summoned. The selected jury of 11 white people and only 1 black person prompted additional concerns that racism will prevent justice from prevailing.
“I do feel like we’re getting closer to justice for Ahmaud day by day,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told ABC’s “Nightline” yesterday.