Ahmaud Arbery Case

November 22, 2021
Ahmaud Arbery Case

Your oath requires that you will decide this case based on the evidence.

Judge Timothy Walmsley delivering instructions to the jury before they begin deliberations in the trial of the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery.

What Happened:

  • February 23, 2020: Fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. No charges were initially filed in the case.
  • May 5: A video posted on social media showed the February 23 fatal shooting.
  • May 7: Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael were arrested. They were both charged with murder and aggravated assault.
    • According to the police report, Gregory told police there were several recent break-ins in the neighborhood, and that Arbery was previously caught on surveillance video. He told police that when he and his son saw Arbery running down the street, they jumped into their truck in an attempt to intercept him; Gregory, a former police officer and investigator, said he and his son grabbed their guns because they “didn’t know if the male was armed or not.” As they drove after Arbery, they shouted, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you.” Gregory said that when they caught up with Arbery, his son got out of the truck with his shotgun and Arbery began to “violently attack” him. He said Arbery and his son fought over the shotgun, that his son fired a shot, and that a second later another shot was fired. The video of the incident reveals that a third shot was fired.
    • Arbery, who was unarmed, died at the scene. His family says he regularly jogged in the neighborhood where the shooting incident took place.
    • According to the autopsy report, Arbery was hit by three bullets: two in the chest and a third that grazed his right wrist.
  • May 11: The U.S. Justice Department said that it’s “assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crime charges are appropriate.”
  • Around May 11: Another video was released which shows a man, who appears to be Arbery, entering a home under construction in the neighborhood before the incident.
    • The man in the video walks into the home, stays inside for several minutes, and then runs out and down the street. Another man in the video can be seen across the street from the home; he reportedly enters the frame and calls police. This is one of several videos, including a video from inside the home under construction, that has now been released.
  • May 21: The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., the man who shot the May 5 video of Arbery’s shooting, on charges of felony murder & criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment in connection with the incident that resulted in the death of Arbery.
    • Bryan’s lawyers say he was only a witness to the shooting, but prosecutors say he contributed to Arbery’s death when he attempted to falsely imprison Arbery, specifically by trying to detain Arbery with his vehicle and trying to intercept Arbery while he was being chased by the McMichaels.
  • June 4: At a hearing involving all three defendants, the judge ruled the cases against them are strong enough to proceed. During the hearing, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent testified that Bryan said Travis McMichael said “f****** n*****” after shooting Arbery, and that there was additional evidence that McMichael used the n-word on social media and text messages. The same agent testified: “I don’t believe it was self-defense by Mr. McMichael, I believe it was self-defense by Mr. Arbery.”
  • June 24: A grand jury returned an indictment against Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan, charging them each with the following nine counts: malice murder, felony murder (four counts), aggravated assault (two counts), false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
  • June 26: The Georgia governor signed a new hate crime into law, which imposes additional penalties for crimes motivated by a victim’s race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or other factors.
  • November 13: All three defendants were denied bond. During the hearing, prosecutors revealed Travis McMichael previously used racial slurs on social media and in a text message, and the judge deemed William Bryan a possible flight risk.
  • December 16: New video footage from police body cameras taken just after the shooting was obtained by various news outlets. In the clips obtained, police officers are seen checking on Arbery and talking with the three men later charged with his murder.
    • Travis McMichael, the man who shot Arbery, is seen pacing while cooperating with police officers. He says, “I mean, I just shot a man. Last thing I’ve ever wanted to do in my life.”
    • His father, Gregory McMichael, said Arbery attacked his son, tried to take his gun away, and that he would have taken a shot himself if he “could’ve got a shot at the guy.”
    • William Bryan, who previously said he was a bystander to the shooting, said Arbery “obviously was up to something … I pulled out of our driveway and was going to try to block him … Should we have been chasing him? I don’t know … At one point when I cornered him over there he was trying to get in my truck.”
  • February 23, 2021: On the one-year anniversary of his death, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother filed a federal lawsuit against the three defendants charged with his murder, various local police officials, and Glynn County, alleging there was a conspiracy to protect those responsible for his death and a "cover-up" attempt by law enforcement concerning her son’s murder.

How The Case Is Now Being Handled:

  • Georgia’s attorney general requested a federal investigation into the handling of the case.
  • The U.S. Justice Department said it will review the handling of the case and that it’s “assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crime charges are appropriate.”
  • Georgia’s attorney general, Chris Carr, has also appointed a district attorney from the Atlanta area (far outside the immediate area where the crime took place) to lead the prosecution.

What You Should Know About Georgia Law:

  • Non-law enforcement may make a “citizen's arrest” if they witness a crime and may use reasonable force to do so.
    • In February 2021, Georgia’s governor announced legislation to overhaul Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law. He said the reform will “prevent evil acts of vigilantism and keep our communities safe …"
  • A person claiming self-defense is only justified in using deadly force if they reasonably believe such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself/herself or a third person, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

READ MORE: Ahmaud Arbery Murder Investigation

***UPDATE: November 23, 2021***

  • October 18, 2021: The trial of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery begins.
  • November 22, 2021: Closing arguments are given by the defense and prosecution.
    • "Ladies and gentlemen, use your common sense. Put your critical thinking caps on. It's all the state can ask you to do." Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski to the jury.
    • "This courtroom is sacred. It is our last place for truth … It is going to take courage to set aside what you think and feel, and to focus on the bare facts of this case." Defense attorney Jason Sheffield to the jury.
  • November 23, 2021: The prosecution delivers a rebuttal, the judge delivers instructions to the jurors, and deliberations begin.
    • In Judge Walmsley's instructions to the jurors, he said: "A reasonable doubt means just what it says. It is a doubt of a fair-minded, impartial juror honestly seeking the truth. It is a doubt based upon common sense and reason. It does not mean a vague or arbitrary doubt, but it is a doubt for which a reason can be given arising from a consideration from the evidence or lack of evidence, a conflict in the evidence, or any combination of these … If the killing is done with malice, it is murder, regardless of how briefly the malicious intent existed. No specific length of time is required for malice to arise in a defendant's mind. Malice may be formed in a moment, and instantly a fatal wound may be inflicted. If malice was in a defendant's mind at the time of the act or the killing and moved a defendant to do it, that is enough for the killing to be murder. The state does not have to prove motive to prove murder. Any evidence of motive has been admitted for your use in determining a defendant's state of mind at the time of the killing."

Jury begins deliberations in trial in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery (CNN)

by Jenna Lee,