Jurors have reached a verdict in the racially charged high-profile trial of the three white men accused of killing black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.
The defendants — Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William Bryan Jr. — are charged with murder, false imprisonment and other felony offenses in the shooting of Arbery, 25, who was jogging through their neighborhood just outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020.
Defense lawyers have contended that the three men were trying to make a lawful citizen’s arrest against Arbery, who they believed had been burglarizing a local under-construction home when Gregory spotted him looking around inside it.
The McMichaels hopped in their pick-up and began chasing after Arbery. Travis, 35, testified at trial that he tried to “de-escalate” the eventual confrontation between the trio but was forced to make a “life-or-death” decision to shoot Arbery when the man grabbed his gun.
Bryan, a neighbor of the McMichaels, helped in the chase and recorded cell-phone video of the pursuit and shooting.
Prosecutors said Arbery’s only crime was being black and daring to run away from his assaulters.
The defendants “can’t claim self-defense under the law because they were the original unjustified aggressors,” special prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said in closing arguments.
She added that the men had no right to make a citizen’s arrest because they didn’t have knowledge of him committing a crime.
“They don’t know what he’s done. They don’t know why he’s out there running. They don’t have immediate knowledge. They have no knowledge. They have speculation because he is running down the street,” Dunikoski said.
Jason Sheffield, a lawyer for Travis McMichael, argued that while his client “wishes” the fatal encounter unfolded differently, it “does not mean that his actions on that day weren’t rooted in the law.
“You are allowed to use force that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if you believe it’s necessary,” he said.
All three defendants face a minimum sentence of life in prison if convicted of the murder charges.