NATIONAL NEWS

Jury adjourns for day without verdict in Ahmaud Arbery case

Feb 21, 2022, 4:41 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:39 pm

Travis McMichael, left, speaks with his attorney Jason B. Sheffield, center, during his sentencing,...

Travis McMichael, left, speaks with his attorney Jason B. Sheffield, center, during his sentencing, alone with his father Greg McMichael and neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan in the Glynn County Courthouse, on January 7, 2022 in Brunswick, Georgia. Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. will be sentenced for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery as he ran through their south Georgia neighborhood. (Photo by Stephen B. Morton-Pool/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stephen B. Morton-Pool/Getty Images)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — Three white men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery on a residential street acted out of “pent-up racial anger” and should be convicted of hate crimes, a federal prosecutor told a jury Monday. Defense attorneys argued that the Black man was fatally shot in self-defense and had acted suspiciously during prior trips to the neighborhood.

The jury of eight white people, three Black people and one Hispanic person adjourned without a verdict Monday evening after deliberating about for about three hours following closing legal arguments in U.S. District Court. Verdicts on hate crime charges rest not on whether the pursuit and shooting were justified, but whether they were motivated by racism.

The jury was to resume deliberations Tuesday morning.

The trial, which began a week ago, has been taking place simultaneously with that of three former Minneapolis police officers who have been charged with violating the civil rights of George Floyd. Floyd died on May 25, 2020, when then-officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground and pressed a knee to his neck for what authorities say was 9 1/2 minutes. Defense attorneys for the third officer rested their case Monday, paving the way for closing arguments.

In Georgia, prosecutor Christopher Perras argued that Travis McMichael “was just looking for a reason” to hurt a Black person when the 25-year-old Arbery jogged past his home on a Sunday afternoon. Perras cited a slew of racist comments and videos the defendant had posted online.

And when McMichael, his father and a neighbor began chasing Arbery, they had no evidence he had done anything wrong, but they assumed he had because he was Black, Perras said.

When McMichael’s father, Greg McMichael, saw Arbery jogging down the street, “he didn’t grab his phone and call police,” Perras said. “He called his son and grabbed his gun.”

“There’s a big difference between being vigilant and being a vigilante,” said Perras, later adding: “It’s important for you to understand the full depth of the defendants’ racial hatred.”

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, Bryan’s attorney. “But we have to elevate ourselves … even if it’s the tough thing.”

It’s been nearly two years since Arbery fell dead from two shotgun blasts on Feb. 23, 2020, after a five-minute chase through the Satilla Shores subdivision just outside the port city of Brunswick. The slaying was captured in a graphic cellphone video that sparked outrage far beyond Georgia.

Basic facts of the case aren’t disputed. The McMichaels armed themselves and chased Arbery in a pickup truck after he was spotted running past their home on a Sunday afternoon. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the pursuit in his own truck and recorded the video of Travis McMichael firing the fatal shots at point-blank range.

Travis McMichael’s attorney, Amy Lee Copeland, told the jury prosecutors presented no evidence that he “ever spoke to anyone about Mr. Arbery’s death in racial terms” or committed prior acts of racial violence.

Copeland noted the McMichaels pursued Arbery because they recognized him from videos recorded by security cameras inside a neighboring home under construction, which Arbery had entered at night four times in the months before the shooting. She said the behavior was suspicious, though there was no evidence Arbery had stolen anything.

As for the shooting, Copeland said it was “based on self-defense,” with Travis McMichael opening fire after Arbery tried to grab his shotgun.

“Mr. Arbery tried to wrestle the gun out of Travis McMichael’s hand,” Copeland said. “You can see the struggle on the recording.”

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 three men violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because he’s Black. They are also charged with attempted kidnapping, and the McMichaels face counts of using guns in the commission of a crime.

Regardless of the outcome of the hate crimes case, the McMichaels have been sentenced to life in prison without parole for their murder convictions. Bryan also received a life sentence, with parole possible only after he’s served at least 30 years.

Legal experts have said that it’s tougher to prove hate crimes than it is the crime of murder. The McMichaels and Bryan have all pleaded not guilty to the hate crimes.

Defense attorneys insisted the trio pursued Arbery based on an earnest, though erroneous, suspicion that he had committed crimes in their neighborhood. Greg McMichael told police he recognized Arbery from security camera videos from the neighboring construction site as he came running out of the same unfinished house the day of the shooting.

Greg McMichael’s attorney, A.J. Balbo, said Monday that his client had previously confronted a white person he suspected of possibly committing crimes in the area. Balbo said his client didn’t chase Arbery because he was a Black man, but because he was “THE man” from the security videos.

Those videos showed Arbery taking nothing from the construction site. An officer told the McMichaels there was no evidence of him stealing. Bryan, who knew nothing of the security footage, told investigators he assumed Arbery had done something wrong when he ran past Bryan’s house with the McMichaels in pursuit.

Theodocion argued it was “entirely reasonable” for his client to assume that a truck he recognized as belonging to someone in the neighborhood was chasing Arbery because he had done something wrong. He said the chase and Bryan’s participation in it “would have happened regardless of race, based on the circumstances.”

FBI agents uncovered roughly two dozen racist text messages and social media posts from the McMichaels and Bryan in the years and months preceding the shooting.

In 2018, Travis McMichael commented on a Facebook video of a Black man playing a prank on a white person: “I’d kill that f—-ing n—-r.” Greg McMichael had posted a Facebook meme saying white Irish “slaves” were treated worse than any race in U.S. history. And for several years on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Bryan wrote messages in which he mocked the holiday honoring the civil rights leader.

Some witnesses testified they heard the McMichaels’ racist statements firsthand. A woman who served under Travis McMichael in the U.S. Coast Guard a decade ago said he made crude sexual jokes after learning she had dated a Black man and called her “n——r lover.” Another woman testified Greg McMichael had ranted angrily in 2015 when she remarked on the death of civil rights activist Julian Bond, saying, “All those Blacks are nothing but trouble.”

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event J...

Gregory Krieg, CNN

Trump will win South Carolina primary, CNN projects, as he closes in on the Republican nomination

Former President Donald Trump will win South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary, CNN projects, further tightening his grip on the nomination and leaving his last remaining major rival Nikki Haley to consider her dwindling options.

2 hours ago

A paddle boarder tows an inflatable unicorn on a temporary lake in Death Valley on Thursday, Feb. 2...

Ty O'Neil, John Locher and Stefanie Dazio

Kayakers paddle in Death Valley after rains replenish lake in one of Earth’s driest spots

Kayakers have been paddling in one of the driest places on Earth after a series of storms battered California’s Death Valley and replenished Lake Manly.

9 hours ago

(Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)...

Associated Press

Toyota recalls 280,000 pickups and SUVs because transmissions can deliver power even when in neutral

The recall is to fix a transmission problem that can let the vehicles creep forward while in neutral.

23 hours ago

The defendants are accused of stealing software used to train Apache helicopter pilots....

Haley Britzky and Sharif Paget, CNN

2 National Guardsmen killed after military helicopter crash in Mississippi

Two National Guard members died after a helicopter crashed Friday afternoon during a training flight in northeast Mississippi.

1 day ago

FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018 photo, containers holding frozen embryos and sperm are stored ...

Associated Press

Facing backlash over IVF ruling, Alabama lawmakers look for a fix

Lawmakers began scrambling for ways to protect Alabama in vitro fertilization services after multiple providers paused services in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos could be considered children under a state law.

1 day ago

Beguiling Joshua trees and intriguing rock formations helped draw millions of vistoris to Joshua Tr...

Forrest Brown, CNN

The most visited National Park Service sites in 2023 are …

See what Utah National Park proved to be the most popular in 2023.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Jury adjourns for day without verdict in Ahmaud Arbery case