The murder prosecution against three Georgia men in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, took another step forward on Thursday. A judge ruled there was probable cause to bind the cases against all three defendants over for trial.
Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, are both charged with one count each of murder, and aggravated assault. William “Roddie” Bryan, 50, is charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Arbery’s family and authorities said Arbery was out jogging on a public road when the McMichaels confronted him on February 23. Travis Michael is charged as the actual shooter. At the time, the elder defendant allegedly told authorities he had a gut feeling Arbery was responsible for recent break-ins, though he didn’t know if the man had stolen anything or not.
The state argued that Arbery was “chased, hunted down, and ultimately executed at the hands of these men.” There’s no dispute that Travis McMichael killed Arbery. His defense admits it. The question is the degree of legal culpability which the state is trying to prove against Travis McMichael and the others. Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Richard Dial testified on Thursday that he believed Arbery was defending himself when he turned to face his alleged attackers: When Arbery felt he couldn’t get away, he chose to fight. During cross-examination, the defense attempted to suggest that Arbery still had the opportunity attempt to keep escaping (e.g., through a yard).
During testimony, Dial said that Bryan claimed Travis McMichael called Arbery a “fucking n****r” after the shooting. The special agent said this defendant had used the n-word multiple times on social media and phone conversations.
At the preliminary hearing, Travis McMichael’s defense argued that it was Arbery who escalated the situation by running at their client. Travis McMichael feared for his safety, his defense argued: It wasn’t Arbery who engaged in self-defense; it was Travis McMichael.
Gregory McMichael’s attorney argued that while it may not have been a good idea to be armed, the defendant did have the instinct to do so for the reasons he did, and had visual evidence that Arbery may have been in the area before.
Bryan, who recorded the fatal incident, is accused of using his vehicle to try to box in Arbery to help the McMichaels. His attorney argued that the state couldn’t prove specific intent under the relevant law. Bryan had no communication with the co-defendants before the shooting and didn’t know what was going on, his attorney argued.
“The state has it backward,” he said.
The judge sided with the prosecution.
[Mugshot via Glynn County]
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