Attorneys spar over trial of 3 charged in Arbery murder
BRUNSWICK, Ga. (WTOC) - There were moments in court Thursday as attorneys argued over what evidence a jury will hear in the murder trial of three men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.
Arbery — who has family ties to the CSRA and is buried near Waynesboro — was shot and killed in 2020 in a Brunswick neighborhood after three men chased him in vehicles.
The shooter Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and the man who recorded a cellphone video of the shooting, Roddie Bryan, are expected to go before a jury on Oct. 18 on malice murder charges.
As Judge Timothy Walmsley stated, the point of Thursday’s conference was to make sure everything is on track for that October trial date. They covered a lot of topics Thursday, but the prosecution and defense do not agree at all about what should be allowed into court.
They argued over body camera footage from officers who responded to the shooting. Also statements all three defendants made on that day and months later.
The judge says he will schedule another hearing to see if the jury should hear or see all that evidence.
The most heated exchange was about whether witnesses could use legal terms to describe what happened that day. Terms such as burglary, theft, and carjacking.
The defense has said the three suspects acted under Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law and says they acted in self-defense during a struggle before Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery.
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, appeared to imply that Arbery was trying to carjack Bryan as Bryan chased Arbery through the Satilla Shores neighborhood in a vehicle.
“Your honor, allow me to be crystal clear. The defendant, Mr. Bryan, hit Mr. Arbery with his truck. That’s why his palm prints on it. That is why his t-shirt fibers are on it. Because he assaulted him with a 5,000-pound lethal weapon known as a pickup truck,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said.
Walmsley said he will schedule time after Sept. 1 to settle the issue of what evidence will be allowed in front of a jury.
Meanwhile, attorneys for the McMichaels have moved to keep media outlets out of the courtroom when lawyers question potential jurors to determine whether they have biases in the widely publicized case. They said it was critical that potential jurors feel as comfortable as possible answering questions about race and other sensitive topics to ensure their clients are tried by an impartial jury.
Media outlets including The Associated Press have pushed back on that request. They have argued that it would violate well-established precedent and said the questioning of potential jurors — a process known as voir dire — must be open to the public and the press. Closure can only be considered in “extraordinary circumstances” when a potential juror makes that request and evidence shows public questioning would significantly harm the person’s privacy, the outlets said in a court filing on Tuesday.
From reports by WTOC, WRDW/WAGT and The Associated Press