(Trends Wide) — After more than two weeks of court proceedings and the testimony of 23 witnesses, the jurors in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial will begin their second day of deliberations this Wednesday morning.
The jury reviewed the case for more than six hours on Tuesday after the prosecution presented a rebuttal to the defense’s final arguments. Court resumed at 8:30 am ET.
Three men – Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. – are on trial on charges related to the Arbery shooting in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23. 2020.
Each of the defendants faces nine separate charges, including wrongful death, aggravated battery, unlawful detention and criminal attempt to commit a felony. If the jury finds that Bryan is not guilty of a second count of aggravated assault, they can consider three misdemeanor counts of simple assault, reckless conduct, or reckless driving.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges. The McMichaels claim they were carrying out a citizen’s arrest after suspecting that Arbery had robbed a nearby home under construction, and that Travis McMichael acted in self-defense by shooting Arbery. Bryan maintains that he is innocent of any crime.
If jury deliberations continue after Wednesday, the court will adjourn for the Thanksgiving holiday and deliberations may resume on Friday and Saturday if necessary.
Authorities are bracing for all possible outcomes after a verdict in terms of public reaction, which has centered on a trial that constantly revolved around issues of self-defense and race.
“We plan for the worst to happen, but we hope for the best. We are trying to devise contingencies for many different scenarios that could develop as a result of the verdict,” said Glynn County Police Department Capt.Jeremiah Bergquist, who also leads the unit. of the local task force that oversees public safety during the trial.
Prosecution: the suspects had no evidence against Ahmaud Arbery
Attorneys for each of the three defendants offered different arguments Monday as to why their clients were not guilty.
Alongside Travis McMichael’s central self-defense argument, Gregory McMichael’s attorney, Laura Hogue, repeatedly claimed that Arbery was a regular intruder in the area, and said jurors should consider that Gregory McMichael had a reasonable suspicion that Arbery was committing some crime.
Kevin Gough, Bryan’s attorney, said his client was more of a witness than anything else and that his video showing the shooting allowed the case to move forward.
Tuesday brought a rebuttal from lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, who emphasized to the jury that the men acted only on suspicion and had no evidence that Arbery had committed a crime. Travis McMichael also had inconsistencies in court testimony compared to statements made to police immediately after the shooting, he added.
Dunikoski, the prosecutor, said the three men were guilty of the charges they face because they could have reduced the situation by calling the police or not going after Arbery. Instead, he argued, the men committed an aggravated assault with their trucks by pursuing and attempting to falsely imprison Arbery, leading to the time when Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery.
“If you get that out, would he be alive?” He asked the jury in the Arbery case. “It is very simple. The answer is that you cannot eliminate any of these crimes. If you eliminate any of these crimes that they committed and he is still alive. All of the underlying serious crimes played a substantial and necessary role in causing the death of Ahmaud Arbery.” .
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said Tuesday after court proceedings that Dunikoski “did a fantastic job” in her final rebuttal.
“She presented the evidence again very well. I think we will come back with a guilty verdict, and I want to go with this: God has brought us here, and he is not going to fail us now. We will get justice for Ahmaud,” he told reporters .
Marcus Arbery Sr., Arbery’s father, said what he saw in the courtroom was “devastating” but also expressed confidence in obtaining a guilty verdict.
After the jury began deliberating, Travis McMichael’s attorney, Jason Sheffield said, “I am very confident in the case we have brought. I am very confident in the evidence of Travis’s innocence,” adding, “We will accept the verdict whatever it is. “
The composition of the jury was controversial
Nine white women, two white men and one black man make up the trial jury and two white women and one white man are jury substitutes, according to a Trends Wide analysis of jury data.
Having only one black jury has been a key complaint from prosecutors and Arbery’s family, as Glynn County’s population is approximately 69% white and 26% black, according to 2019 data from the US Census Bureau. .. Arbery was black and the defendants are white.
The 12-member trial jury and three alternates were selected after a lengthy jury selection process that lasted two and a half weeks and included the recall of 1,000 prospective jurors from the South Georgia coastal community. Of those summoned, less than half showed up.
The state challenged the composition of the jury at the conclusion of the jury selection process. Dunikoski claimed that defense attorneys disproportionately ruled out qualified black jurors and based some of their choices on race.
Judge Timothy Walmsley said, “This court has determined that there appears to be intentional discrimination,” but ruled that the case could go ahead with selected jurors because the defense was able to provide valid reasons, beyond race, why the other black jurors were removed from office. “
Defense attorneys also objected to fewer older white men without college degrees in the pool of jurors, saying the demographic was underrepresented.
– Trends Wide’s Eliott C. McLaughlin, Angela Barajas, Adrienne Vogt and Jade Gordon contributed to this report.