Posted on October 17, 2021

Arbery Murder Trial Starts on Monday

Anastasia Katz, American Renaissance, October 17, 2021

The Ahmaud Arbery trial will begin on Monday. Three white men are charged with murdering the 25-year-old black man.

In early 2020, in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, property owner Larry English posted videos of various people trespassing inside his new home, which was under construction. Ahmaud Arbery was captured on the security footage four times. Although the footage did not show any of the trespassers stealing or damaging anything, Mr. English decided to report these incidents to the police. He also posted the videos to the Satilla Shores community Facebook page.

The McMichael family lived down the block from Mr. English’s property and they had seen Mr. English’s posts. Gregory McMichael, 64, was a retired sheriff’s investigator and his son Travis, age 34, was a mechanic who had served in the Coast Guard. On January 1, 2020, the younger McMichael notified the police that a handgun was stolen from the back of his pickup truck, which he had accidentally left unlocked. He mentioned this on the Satilla Shores Facebook page, which started buzzing with safety concerns. A post made on February 11 said, “Lock your cars and your houses. Prowlers in the neighborhood again. Police are patrolling.”

Ahmaud Arbery attended Brunswick High School and played on the football team. One of his teammates, Justin Coleman, became an NFL player, but Arbery was not good enough to go pro. On December 3, 2013, when Arbery was 19 and no longer a student at Brunswick, he went to the school during a girl’s basketball game. School Security Officer Jody Vicent was posted by the entrance to the gym and noticed that Arbery had what looked like a gun tucked into his waistband. Officer Vicent asked Arbery to turn to the right, so he could get a better look at the possible gun, and Arbery ran away. Officer Vicent chased him, but couldn’t keep up. He shouted to another officer, “Stop him! He has a gun!”

Ahmaud Arbery

Officer David Smith grabbed at Arbery, but Arbery dug his nails into Officer Smith’s arm and scratched him, breaking free. Another officer who chased Arbery tripped over a speed bump in the parking lot, and was later treated for cuts, abrasions, and fractures in his fingers.

Another officer was called to the scene and drove up to Arbery, pointing his gun out the car’s window and several times ordered Arbery to stop. The officer noticed Arbery feeling around his waistband, but he had dropped the gun. This officer and another officer managed to corner Arbery and arrest him. The school was locked down while police looked for the gun, which they found loaded, with eight rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber.

Arbery was charged with carrying a weapon within school safety zones, disruption of operation of a public school, and willful obstruction of law enforcement by use of threats or violence. He got probation. At age 23, he was arrested for shoplifting.

Arbery attended South Georgia Technical College, but dropped out after a year and a half, returning to Brunswick to live with his parents and work at McDonald’s. His mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, says that Arbery left school because the family was having money problems, and he told her he wanted to go back to school to become an electrician, like three of his uncles.

On February 23, 2020, a Satilla Shores resident’s security camera caught Ahmaud Arbery walking into Mr. English’s half-built house, and Mr. English’s security video shows him wandering around inside. Arbery then left the house and ran down the street. A man who was outside called 911 when he saw Arbery run away from the house.

Gregory McMichael was in front of his house, working on his boat, when Arbery ran past him. Mr. McMichael recognized Arbery from Mr. English’s security camera videos, so he ran in the house and told his son to get a gun and come with him. They got in their truck and pulled up beside Arbery, saying, “Stop, we want to talk to you!” Arbery kept running.

William “Roddie” Bryan, age 50, saw the commotion, and shouted to the McMichaels, asking if they needed help. He then got in his car and followed, and made a shaky video as he drove.

Travis McMichael drove ahead of Arbery, parked his pickup on the street, and got out with a shotgun. Gregory McMichael, who was standing in the back of the truck, called 911. As he spoke to the dispatcher, Arbery ran towards the truck, around it on the passenger side, and got into a scuffle with Travis McMichael. Bryan’s video recorded the struggle, but at times Travis McMichael and Arbery were obscured by the truck or out of the frame. The video shows Arbery grabbing the gun and punching Travis McMichael. Three shots were fired during the fight; Arbery collapsed after the third.

He was alive on the ground when the police arrived. Police body cam footage shows the officers trying to help him. One of them says, “There’s nothing I can do for this gentleman.”

Arbery was pronounced dead and the police covered his body. A coroner’s report later showed the cause of death to be “multiple gunshot wounds.” The police interviewed the three men who are now charged with murder. Roddie Bryan voluntarily turned over the video. Travis McMichael, still covered in Arbery’s blood, told an officer, “He come running at us. I told him, ‘Stop-stop-stop,’ until he hit me . . . . There was nothing else I could do.”

The McMichaels were both taken to the police department, but were not arrested. Gregory McMichael and the acting D.A. had had a professional relationship from when Mr. McMichael was a Glynn County investigator, so the D.A. recused herself.

Her replacement, George Barnhill, concluded that there was insufficient probable cause to issue arrest warrants. In his report explaining this decision, Mr. Barnhill said that the video shows Arbery “abruptly turns 90 degrees to the left and attacks Travis McMichael.”

He added, “Given the fact Arbery initiated the fight, at the point Arbery grabbed the shotgun, under Georgia law, McMichael was allowed to use deadly force to protect himself. Just as importantly, while we know McMichael had his finger on the trigger, we do not know who caused the firings. Arbery would only had to pull the shotgun approximately 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch to fire the weapon himself and in the height of an altercation this is entirely possible.”

Mr. Barnhill later also recused himself, because his son worked for the same agency from which Gregory McMichael had retired. He was replaced by Tom Durbin.

On May 5, 2020, Mr. Bryan’s video of the shooting began circulating on social media. Ben Crump, a lawyer known for his work on the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and George Floyd cases, called Arbery’s death a “modern day lynching” on Twitter. His services were soon retained by the Arbery family. He hammered home the concept of “lynching” in a USA Today op-ed and in an interview with NPR. Georgia governor Brian Kemp announced that evening that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) would investigate, and President Biden said Arbery was “killed in cold blood.”

The story exploded. Accusations of racism and lynching were all over news. ABC wrote about an ambush. The hashtags #HeWasJustJogging and #IRunWithAhmaud trended. There were protests in Brunswick, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida.

Celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Oliva Wilde, and Justin Timberlake expressed outrage, and NBA star Lebron James tweeted, “We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes!”

Kim Kardashian asked her fans to sign a petition that claimed Arbery was “chased and gunned down while exercising.” It soon had 750,000 signatures.

The GBI arrested Gregory and Travis McMichael on May 7, charging both father and son with murder and aggravated assault. On May 11, the GBI replaced the Glynn County district attorney with Joyette Holmes, a black D.A. from Cobb County. She was the fourth D.A. to work on the case. On May 21, Roddie Bryan was taken into custody and charged with murder.

Jackie Johnson, the original D.A., who recused herself, was indicted by a grand jury and a judge signed a warrant for her arrest. She turned herself in to the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office on September 8, but was released on her own recognizance. The indictment accuses Miss. Johnson of violating her oath as district attorney “by showing favor and affection to Greg McMichael during the investigation.” Although Gregory McMichael called her for advice following Arbery’s death, there is no evidence she even returned his call. If convicted of this felony charge, she could receive a sentence of up to five years.

This case against the McMichaels and Mr. Bryan has not been tried yet, but it has already resulted in legislation in Georgia. The state adopted a hate-crime law and repealed a 158-year-old law that permitted citizen’s arrest. In preliminary hearings for the murder trial, the prosecution asked that the defense be prohibited from mentioning that the citizen’s arrest law ever existed, or that it was repealed because of this case.

Mr. Bryan was denied bond last July. During the bond hearing, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones said Mr. Bryan was “dangerous and unapologetic.” Prosecutors said he had sent text messages that included the N-word. He has been in jail since his arrest. Unable to work, he has lost his job, house, and car.

The McMichaels were also denied bond. At a preliminary probable cause hearing last June, GBI special agent Richard Dial testified that Mr. Bryan had reported overhearing Travis McMichael call Arbery a “fucking ni**er” as Arbery lay dying. Special Agent Dial said that he had also seen examples of Travis McMichael using “the N-word” on social media.

During a bond hearing last November, Arbery’s mother once again urged the judge to deny bail. The prosecution referred to a text message Travis McMichael sent to his best friend, Zachary Langford, referring to shooting “a crackhead coon with gold teeth.” Mr. Langford told the court that the exchange had been about a raccoon. He also told the court that Travis McMichael “felt remorse” after the shooting. Mr. Langford’s wife said that Travis “Prayed for Ahmaud’s mother and his family daily.” Travis’s mother said that he lives at her home with his four-year-old son, did not have a passport, and was not a flight risk. The judge denied bail.

The father, Gregory McMichael, had been in court many times as an investigator and is reportedly doing well. His son Travis, on the other hand, is said to be struggling to get through each day. He has lost 40 to 50 pounds locked up in seclusion after the judge denied bond.

One thousand Glynn County residents got jury duty summonses for this case. The defense thinks jury selection will be hard in this high-profile case, and is worried that the jurors will not feel safe. He also wonders whether they can be honest, but is not asking for the jury to be sequestered.

Jury selection begins on Monday.