The Glynn County jury will hear closing arguments on Monday and begin deliberations about the guilt or innocence of the three white defendants on trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man jogging in their neighborhood.
Here’s a recap of what happened in week two of the trial — with an indication about the strength of the prosecution’s case.
The defenses rested this week, with the weight of their cases centered on the testimony of Travis McMichael, the man who shot Arbery.
Travis, at times on the verge of tears, told the court that he thought Arbery was a burglar and said Arbery tried to take his weapon. “I shot him. He had my gun,” he said. “It was a life-or-death situation.”
Taking the stand is a risky strategy, according to many defense lawyers. But until he spoke in his own words, the most widely known details about Travis McMichael were one-sided and arguably pejorative, with many depicting him as a racist. A Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent who secured Bryan’s arrest warrant previously testified in pre-court motions that Travis had uttered the N word over Arbery’s body after shooting him. Travis’s vanity plate on his truck that he drove while chasing Arbery featured Georgia’s old state flag with a Confederate flag emblem on it. None of this evidence was entered into court.
The district attorney’s office that is prosecuting the case spent most of a full day this week cross-examining Travis McMichael over apparent inconsistencies in the accounts he gave to police of how he chased and shot Arbery, and what he said on the stand this week.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski pointed out several moments when McMichael could have stopped pursuing Arbery. When asked whether Arbery posed a threat to the McMichaels, Travis agreed on the stand that he was not.
He said Arbery did not threaten him or brandish a weapon.
“All he’s done is run away from you,” Dunikoski said. “And you pulled out a shotgun and pointed it at him.”
Wanda Cooper Jones, Arbery’s mother, confirmed to The Current that William “Roddie” Bryan’s lawyer had requested a plea deal after the defense rested on Thursday. The prosecution rejected any plea offer, a decision Jones said that she was pleased with. “I think the prosecution has done a great job. They have a strong case,” Jones said. The district attorney’s office that is prosecuting the case declined to comment about being approached about a plea deal. Kevin Gough, the Glynn County lawyer representing Bryant also declined to comment and told a TV crew that it was “Bull@#%.”
Jurors also heard from six Satilla Shores residents who testified about crime in the neighborhood and Facebook pages they used to share information about it. The testimony was intended to support the defense’s argument that the neighborhood was “on edge” before Arbery’s shooting and the McMichaels’ conduct was in self-defense.
The prosecution has countered in several instances, citing police records, that only three burglaries were reported in Satilla Shores in the calendar year 2019. That was the time frame that the defense has said was part of the buildup of tension in the neighborhood and the timeframe in which Arbery was documented running through the neighborhood and showing up on surveillance cameras there.
More than 100 Black pastors and local Glynn County faith leaders raised their voices in prayer on Thursday for the pursuit of justice and support for the Arbery family.
The prayer rally came in response to defense counselor Kevin Gough’s failed requests to bar Black pastors and civil rights leaders from sitting with the Arbery family in their allotted space in the courtroom.
People from around Georgia and the nation gathered in a mood akin to a church social on the warm sunny day, during which Brunswick locals fed the visitors barbecue, fried fish and shrimp. National leaders such as Martin Luther King III, Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton were in attendance – as well as St. Louis Cardinal baseball star Adam Wainwright, who graduated from Glynn Academy.
Among the prayers for the Arbery family, the court staff and the city of Brunswick was an observation by Atlanta-based Baptist pastor Jamal Bryant. “The civil rights movement is starting again today” in Brunswick, he said.
Court will convene at 9 a.m. Monday morning to go over any last motions and start closing statements to the jury. The case is expected to go to jury for consideration by midweek.
Follow the trial
In our promise to provide in-depth reporting and context, The Current is regularly updating a special coverage page where you can catch up on or follow the trial through live feeds, video outtakes, and photos, national and international press reports. You can also review there the timeline of events from Arbery’s death until the trial began.