Ahmaud Arbery death trial live updates: Closing arguments begin

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(BRUNSWICK, Ga.) — A jury is expected to begin deliberating the fates of three white Georgia men charged in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery after first hearing final arguments on Monday that the 25-year-old Black man was either “hunted down” and murdered or was killed in self-defense when he resisted a citizens’ arrest.

The radically different theories based on the same evidence are expected to be laid out in closing arguments set to commence Monday morning in Glynn County Superior Court in Brunswick, Georgia. The closing arguments are expected to take all day as the prosecutor and attorneys for the three defendants are each expected to speak to the jury.

The jury is expected to begin deliberations on Tuesday morning.

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 22, 5:15 pm
Jury sent home for the night

After Gough 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.

Nov 22, 4:30 pm
Bryan was led by ‘divine providence’ to record shooting, attorney says

Gough took the jury almost frame-by-frame through Bryan’s cellphone video of the shooting. Stopping and starting the footage, he pointed out that Bryan at one point was only driving 2 mph during the chase of Arbery, that his leg was shaking and his breathing was labored due to fear.

He said at another point in the video that Bryan is heard saying “I’m gonna keep going.” Gough suggested that Bryan was giving up the pursuit and heading home after Arbery had run past his truck followed by the McMichaels.

Gough showed the jury a part of the video in which Bryan appears to be driving in the opposite direction of Arbery before turning around and taking a shorter route toward his home only to find himself in a position to document the shooting.

“I’m going to suggest to you that perhaps, and I know I’ll get grief for this, I would say to you that you can call it karma, you can call it fate, I would call it divine providence, somebody is guiding Mr. Bryan,” Gough said. “Whether it’s a conscious thought process or not, something is guiding Mr. Bryan down this street to document what’s going on.”

Nov 22, 3:48 pm
‘Without Roddie Bryan, there is no case,’ attorney says

William “Roddie” Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, began his summation by telling the jury that his client never knew the McMichaels brought guns to chase Arbery or that he was aware that Travis McMichaels was going to shoot Arbery.

“The inconvenient truth is that Roddie Bryan did not know and could not know that these men were armed until moments before Mr. Arbery’s tragic death,” Gough said. “He did not know that Arbery would be shot and by that time, sadly, there was nothing Roddie Bryan could do to prevent this tragedy.”

Gough said that from the get-go, Byan cooperated with the police, providing several statements, his home security video and the now-famous cellphone video he took that captured part of the fatal shooting.

“Ladies and gentlemen, without Roddie Bryan, there is no case,” Gough said.

Gough said Bryan had no lawyer present when police first interviewed him.

“These actions, ladies and gentlemen, only demonstrate good faith, his conduct (is) negative of any inference of criminal intent.

Nov 22, 3:15 pm
Bryan’s attorney raises concerns over ‘Black Panthers’ outside courthouse

Before giving his closing argument, William “Roddie” Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, made a motion for a mistrial based on activities he said were happening outside the courtroom.

“Protesters, whether they were the Black Panthers group or some other group were behind the barriers in front of the courthouse … there was a truck carrying a coffin with the names of the defendants on it,” Gough told Judge Timothy Walmsley.

Gough alleged the Black Panthers have specifically said “their specific objective was to influence the proceedings in this case.”

He said “large weapons, apparently automatic weapons” were also seen outside the courthouse.

“I don’t know whether they intended to scare the defendants but I have co-counsel with a small child who is scared to death,” Gough said.

Walmsley denied the motion saying he’s been given no indication that things were getting out-of-hand outside the courtroom and that there was no evidence the jurors were exposed to anything intimidating.

Nov 22, 3:14 pm
Gregory McMichael’s attorney says don’t make Arbery a victim

Laura Hogue, an attorney for Gregory McMichael, pleaded with the jury not to make Arbery out as an innocent victim, suggesting the man with a big smile made bad decisions that led him to Satilla Shores on the day he died.

Hogue prompted gasps in the courtroom, saying, “Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made do not reflect the reality of what brought Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long dirty toenails.”

She said prosecutors have not proven that Gregory McMichael is guilty of malice murder and therefore innocent of all the rest of the charges he faces.

“Gregory McMichael pulled no trigger. How could the state seek a conviction for malice murder as Greg stood in the back of the pickup truck on the phone with 911 as the fatal shots were fired?” Hogue asked the jury.

Nov 22, 1:33 pm
Defense attorney alleges Arbery was assaulting Travis McMichael with his fists

Defense attorney Jason Sheffield said that when Travis McMichael and his father got into their truck and chased Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020, they had probable cause that Arbery had committed a felony break-in based on the totality of evidence they had at the time.

The defense attorney cited the increase in crime in the Satilla Shores neighborhood, the confrontation Travis McMichael had with Arbery 12 days earlier at the unfinished home in which he believed Arbery was armed, that he had previously been shown security video of the young Black man in the home on several occasions and that suddenly there was a neighbor pointing in the direction the same man was running after he left the construction site.

“Travis believes he’s committed the offense of burglary,” Sheffield said.

Sheffield said that under the law, the McMichaels had the right to make a citizens’ arrest and to be armed with firearms to make the arrests.

He said Travis McMichael was keeping an eye on Arbery to tell police the man’s whereabouts when Arbery found himself between Bryan’s pickup truck and the McMichaels’ truck.

Sheffield said that as Arbery ran directly at Travis McMichael, he was told the stop and even turned around when Travis McMichael reached into his truck and pulled out his shotgun.

Sheffield said the second time Arbery allegedly charged at Travis McMichael, the defendant raised his weapon as a deterrent and that he was fearful Arbery had a gun and was just hoping he would keep running by.

The defense attorney then told the jury that when Arbery came around the front of Travis McMichael’s truck and physically confronted the armed man and was using his fists as a weapon.

“Fists are that weapon,” Sheffield said, adding that at that time, Travis McMichael fired three shots at Arbery he was afraid Arbery “would beat him with his fists,” take his gun and kill him.

Playing a video Bryan took that partly showed the fatal struggle, Sheffield asked, “Is there any question that Ahmaud Arbery is assaulting Travis McMichael right before that third shot? Not one single bit of question.”

“It is absolutely horrific and tragic that this has happened and this is where the law becomes intertwined with heartache and tragedy,” Sheffield said. “You are allowed to defend yourself, you are allowed to use force that’s likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if you believe it’s necessary.”

He asked the jury to acquit Travis McMichael on all charges.

Nov 22, 12:12 pm
Travis McMichael’s attorney gives closing argument

Jason Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael, began his closing argument with the statement, “Duty and responsibility and following law will always be intertwined with heartache and tragedy.”

He added, “This case is about three things: it’s about watching, it’s about waiting, it’s about believing.”

Sheffield added that Travis McMichael spent nearly a decade in the U.S. Coast Guard “learning about duty and responsibility.”

“He received extensive training on how to make decisions that would ultimately impact his beliefs as a petty officer in the Coast Guard, as a boarding officer in the Coast Guard,” said Sheffield, adding that Travis McMichael trained on probable cause, use of force and using a gun to deter crime to the point it was part of his “muscle memory.”

He said around the time Arbery was killed, the neighborhood of Satilla Shores was experiencing an increase in crime and suspicious people lurking in the neighborhood. He cited the testimony of several residents of the community who testified.

“They told you that this was happening in their neighborhood scared them,” Sheffield said.

Sheffield directed the jury to an encounter Travis McMichael had with a man who was later identified as Arbery outside a home under construction in the neighborhood that Arbery was seen several times on security video entering.

Sheffield said the offense of burglary does not have to constitute a break-in, or a broken window or busted door.

“That’s not what’s required for the law. Those questions are meaningless and they are red herrings,” Sheffield said. “You just have to break the plane of the structure to constitute a burglary.”

Nov 22, 11:42 am
State wraps closing arguments, asks jury to use ‘common sense’

The prosecutor told the panel that all three defendants are guilty of the crimes they are charged.

She said the evidence shows the McMichaels and Bryan used their pickup trucks to falsely imprison Arbery, that Bryan admitted to police that he tried to block Arbery several times and once ran him into a ditch during the five-minute chase.

She cautioned the jury that the defense attorneys will make it seem logical that it was reasonable for the three men on trial to be scared of Arbery and that he was attacking them, and that Travis McMichael “had to pull a shotgun out on him.”

“They’re going to make it seem so reasonable,” Dunikoski said. “Put on your critical thinking caps. Use your common sense when they’re up here giving their closing arguments.”

Nov 22, 10:59 am
Prosecutor alleges Travis McMichael’s testimony was ‘completely made up for trial’

Dunikoski methodically went through the evidence piece by piece Monday, telling the jury that at no time did the McMichaels and Bryan ever mentioned to police on the day of the killing that they were attempting to make a citizen’s arrest or that any of them saw Arbery leaving a house under construction in their neighborhood. She noted that a requirement for making a citizen’s arrest is to witness a felony take place or at least have direct knowledge of one having occurred.

“But for their actions, but for their decisions, but for their assumptions, Ahmaud Arbery would be alive,” Dunikoski said.

She asked the jury to reject Travis McMichael’s testimony that he, his father and Bryan chased down Arbery and shot him in self-defense, saying you can’t be the initial aggressors and then claim self-defense.

“Here’s the problem, this is completely made up for trial,” Dunikoski said, pointing out the differences between what Travis McMichael told police on the day of the shooting and what he said during his testimony.

“Simply put ladies and gentlemen, if you determine that this was not a citizen’s arrest, this was not legitimate, he had no probable cause, you can’t do this based on the law, then guess what? They’re not justified in killing him, they’re not justified of any of the felonies they committed against him,” Dunikoski said.

Nov 22, 10:17 am
Prosecutor says defendants attacked Arbery because he was Black

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski began her closing argument by telling the jury that the three defendants chased and killed Arbery based on “assumptions and decisions” made in their driveways based on rumor and neighborhood gossip.

“The state’s position is all three of these defendants made assumptions, made assumptions about what was going on that day and they made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black man running down the street,” Dunikoski said.

She stressed that the “bottom line” is that the defendants assumed Arbery had committed a crime “because he was running real fast down the street.”

“They did not call 911. They wanted to stop him and ‘question’ him before they called 911,” she said. “How do we know that? Because that is what they told the police that night.”

She asked the jury to closely consider the evidence she said shows beyond reasonable doubt that the men committed murder.

“This is your search for the truth,” Dunikoski told the jury. “You are Glynn County.”

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