(BRUNSWICK, Ga.) — A Georgia jury was set to begin deliberating Tuesday the fates of three white men charged with trapping Ahmaud Arbery with their pickup trucks and fatally shooting.
“Your oath requires that you will decide this case based on the evidence,” Judge Timothy Walmsley told the jury before sending the panel off to begin their deliberations.
The jury got the case after Linda Dunikoski, the Cobb County, Georgia, assistant district attorney appointed as a special prosecutor in the Glynn County case, took two hours to rebut the closing arguments made on Monday by attorneys for the three defendants.
The jury, comprised of 11 white people and one Black person, heard wildly different summations on Monday of the same evidence in the racially-charged case. Dunikoski alleged the defendants pursued and murdered Arbery because of wrong assumptions they made that the Black man running through their neighborhood had committed a burglary, while defense attorneys countered that Arbery was shot in self-defense when he resisted a citizen’s arrest.
Travis McMichael, the 35-year-old U.S. Coast Guard veteran; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65, a retired Glynn County police officer, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, 53, each face maximum sentences of life in prison if convicted on all the charges.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty to a nine-count state indictment that includes malice murder, multiple charges of felony murder, false imprisonment, aggravated assault with a 12-gauge shotgun and aggravated assault with their pickup trucks.
The McMichaels and Bryan were also indicted on federal hate crime charges in April and have all pleaded not guilty.
Here’s how the news developed. All times Eastern:
Nov 23, 11:34 am
Judge gives jury final instructions
Judge Timothy Walmsley read the jury final instructions and explained the law and each charge to the jury before sending the panel off to deliberate their verdicts.
Walmsley told the jury that they must reach a unanimous verdict beyond a reasonable doubt, explaining that does not mean “beyond all doubt” or to a “mathematical certainty.”
He reminded the jury that the defendants have all pleaded not guilty to the charges and that the burden of proof is solely on the prosecution.
Walmsley said that lesser charges could only be considered against William “Roddie” Bryan. He said the lesser charges against Bryan are simple assault, reckless conduct and reckless driving.
“Each of you must decide this case for yourself,” Walmsley said.
Nov 23, 10:56 am
Prosecutor pokes holes in Travis McMichael’s testimony
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski suggested to the jury that Travis and Greg McMichael became angry at Ahmaud Arbery after he ignored their calls to stop when they pulled up alongside him during the pursuit.
Dunikoski attacked the testimony of Travis McMichael, pointing out inconsistencies and claims she alleged were concocted for the trial.
Dunikoski said neither Travis McMichael nor his father told police on the day of the shooting that they were trying to place Arbery under criminal arrest because they believed he had committed a burglary at a home under construction in their neighborhood.
The prosecutor cited Travis McMichael’s testimony that he thought his father had called 911 before they set out to chase Arbery.
“Does anybody believe that?” asked Dunikoski, suggesting that a dispatcher would have kept Greg McMichael on the line to get more information.
She scoffed at Travis McMichael’s claim on the witness stand that he didn’t know what his father yelled at Arbery as they chased him, including the alleged statement threatening to shoot Arbery.
She said Travis McMichael’s testimony was full of “maybes” and assumptions, including that Arbery may have committed a crime, that maybe he was caught.
“These are all maybes. He doesn’t know anything,” Dunikoski said.
Dunikoski also poked holes in Travis McMichael’s claim that he spoke to Arbery calmly during the pursuit, trying to get him to stop and answer questions about what he was doing in their neighborhood.
“Do you believe for a minute he was talking softly to Ahmaud Arbery?” Dunikoski asked the jury.
She played a 911 call Travis McMichael made after Arbery was cornered, and breathlessly reported his emergency that “A Black male was running down the street.” In the background of the call, Greg McMichael was heard yelling at Arbery, “Stop. Goddammit. Stop.”
The prosecutor wrapped up her rebuttal argument by telling the jury the defendants are all “parties to the crime” and asked the panel to convict them on all charges.
Nov 23, 10:03 am
Defense attorneys call for a mistrial
As prosecutor Linda Dunikoski continued her rebuttal argument, defense attorneys for Greg and Travis McMichael objected several times, accusing Dunikoski of misstating the law that pertains to citizen’s arrest.
After one of the defense attorneys called for a mistrial in front of the jury, Judge Walmsley sent the panel out of the courtroom.
Walmsley appeared frustrated at all the interruptions to Dunikoski’s rebuttal, saying, “I like to get the closing arguments done.”
Walmsley denied the motion for a mistrial, telling the attorneys, “I indicated the law is going to be provided to the panel. I’ve indicated the court’s position with respect to the law.”
Nov 23, 9:42 am
‘This isn’t the Wild West’: Prosecutor
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski went through the felony counts against the defendants, telling the jury that the evidence shows they are guilty of each charge, including malice murder.
“This isn’t the Wild West,” Dunikoski said, referring to the actions the McMichaels and Bryan allegedly took.
“But for the criminal intent at false imprisonment, but for the false imprisonment, but for the assault with the motor vehicles, but for the aggravated assault with the shotgun, he (Arbery) wouldn’t be dead. That’s how you think about it,” Dunikoski said. “You can’t take out any of these crimes. You take out any one of these crimes that they committed and he’s still alive.”
Dunikoski added, “All of the underlying felonies played a substantial and necessary part in causing the death of Ahmaud Arbery.”
Nov 23, 9:18 am
‘Ignorance of the law is no excuse’: Prosecutor
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski began her rebuttal argument by telling the jury she wants to make sure “we are on the same page as far as the facts and the law goes.”
She said the law requires “a fair-minded and impartial juror to honestly seek the truth.”
“In other words, do you think they committed the crimes? That’s all you need. Oh, if you go, ‘Yeah, I think they committed the crimes, you’re good. That’s all you need.”
Dunikoski’s statement prompted objections from the defense attorneys that she was misstating the law. Judge Timothy Walmsley told the jury he will instruct them on the law once Dunikoski is finished.
The prosecutor then told the jury that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
“If you’re going to take the law into your own hands, you better know what the law is,” Dunikoski said, referring to the laws of self-defense and citizen’s arrests that the defendants are claiming.
“The state is not saying that Greg and Travis McMichael ran out of their house to go murder him,” Dunikoski said. “It started out as one thing and it escalated and it escalated until it became murder.”
Nov 22, 8:30 pm
Jury sent home for the night
After Kevin Gough, the attorney for William “Roddie” Bryan, wrapped up his closing argument, Dunikoski informed the judge that she’d need another two hours to present her rebuttal argument.
Judge Walmsley polled the jury and they said they didn’t want to stay longer.
Dunikoski will present her rebuttal argument on Tuesday morning before the jury is given final instructions on the law and sent to begin deliberations.
Court will resume at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, about a half-hour earlier than usual.
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