Hate crimes case in Arbery killing now in hands of jury

9 months ago

BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- They chased, shot and killed a running Black man who was unarmed and committed no crimes, and left a trail of racist text messages and social media posts in the months and years before the shooting.

Whether the three white men previously found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery are also convicted of federal hate crimes is now in the hands of a different jury.

The jury of eight white people, three Black people and one Hispanic person received the case Monday following a week-long trial in U.S. District Court in the port city of Brunswick. They adjourned for the night after about three hours of deliberations, which were to resume Tuesday morning.

The trial closed Monday with prosecutors saying 25-year-old Arbery's slaying on a residential street was motivated by “pent-up racial anger” revealed by the defendants' electronic messages as well as by witnesses who testified to hearing them make racist tirades and insults.

“All three defendants told you loud and clear, in their own words, how they feel about African Americans,” prosecutor Tara Lyons told the jury Monday.

Defense attorneys insisted past racist statements by their clients offered no proof that they targeted Arbery because of his race. They urged the jury to set aside emotions when deciding the case.

“It’s natural for you to want retribution or revenge,” said Pete Theodocion, the attorney for defendant William “Roddie” Bryan attorney. “But we have to elevate ourselves ... even if it’s the tough thing.”

It’s been nearly two years since Arbery was fatally shot Feb. 23, 2020, after a chase through a subdivision just outside Brunswick. The slaying was captured in a graphic cellphone video that sparked widespread outrage.

Basic facts of the case aren’t disputed. Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and chased Arbery in a pickup truck after he was spotted running past their home. Bryan, a neighbor, joined the pursuit in his own truck and recorded the video of Travis McMichael firing the fatal shots at point-blank range.

Police found Arbery had no weapon and no stolen items. Prosecutors said he was merely out jogging.

Travis McMichael’s attorney, Amy Lee Copeland, told the jury that prosecutors presented no evidence that he “ever spoke to anyone about Mr. Arbery’s death in racial terms.” She said her client opened fire in self-defense after Arbery tried to take away his shotgun.

Greg McMichael’s attorney, A.J. Balbo, argued that his client initiated the chase not because Arbery was a Black man, but because he was “THE man” the McMichaels had seen in security camera videos taken from a neighboring house under construction.

The McMichaels and Bryan were all convicted of murder last fall in a Georgia state court. The U.S. Justice Department charged them separately in federal court with hate crimes, alleging that all t...

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