What can we expect at upcoming hearing in Arbery killing?
Thursday, May 28, 2020
A week from today, the three men charged with Ahmaud Arbery’s death will appear before a judge in Glynn County.
It will be the first time for prosecutors and investigators to lay out some of the evidence against the three men. And attorneys for the suspects will offer their first defenses.
Arbery was fatally shot Feb. 23 when a white father and son armed themselves and pursued the 25-year-old black man after they spotted him running in their neighborhood outside the coastal Georgia city of Brunswick.
More than two months passed before Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, were charged with murder and aggravated assault. One of the McMichaels’ neighbors, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., was
The McMichaels told police they believed Arbery — who has family ties to the CSRA and is buried near Waynesboro — was responsible for break-ins in their neighborhood. Arbery’s family says he was an avid runner who was out on a jog.
Attorneys for Arbery’s parents said there was a sense of relief after Bryan’s arrest. The family and their attorneys pushed for the arrest for weeks. Bryan and his attorney have maintained that he is just a witness, although the Georgia Bureau of Investigation director said his agents did not believe that. The agents outlined Bryan’s alleged involvement in an arrest warrant signed last week.
The warrant said Bryan attempted to block and detain Arbery with his car without legal authority, leading to a charge of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
The three men are each charged with underlying felonies, and state law allows investigators to charge them with felony murder since Arbery died during the alleged felonies. One of the attorneys for Arbery’s parents, Lee Merritt, is hopeful more people are held accountable.
The U.S. Justice Department is reportedly
Merritt said any civil suit filed by the family will focus on other things, as well.
"Implicit bias is arguably not a hate crime,” Merritt said. “I can see an argument for that. The truth is: we're not hanging our hat on the hate crime nature of these claims, but really the lack of due process afforded the family of Ahmaud Arbery's following this investigation."
Prosecution on a hate crime requires proving that the motivating factor in Arbery’s death was race. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice did not rule out other charges in a statement earlier this month.
Merritt said a federal prosecutor told the slain man’s mother that federal officials are investigating potential misconduct by local officials who initially handled the case.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation also is conducting an investigation into possible misconduct by the offices of the district attorneys of the Brunswick and Waycross Judicial Circuits.
“We are satisfied with those arrests at a state level. We believe that the federal government's investigation, the FBI, the DOJ investigation, may find additional evidence to hold people like Jackie Johnson, George Barnhill, and Robert Rash accountable, as well,” Merritt said.
Johnson and Barnhill are the first two prosecutors to handle the case. Rash is a Glynn County officer who allegedly sent a text message to a homeowner in the neighborhood telling him to call Gregory McMichael with problems.
Gregory McMichael is a former Glynn County police officer who later worked 20 years as an investigator for the local district attorney's office. He retired a year ago.
Glynn County District Attorney Johnson recused herself from the case because the elder McMichael had worked under her. District Attorney George Barnhill of the neighboring Waycross Judicial Circuit stepped aside about a month later because his son works for Johnson as an assistant prosecutor.
Prosecutor Tom Durden got the case in mid-April and was ultimately replaced as prosecutor by Cobb County District Attorney Joyette M. Holmes.
The preliminary hearing for the McMichaels and Bryan is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. June 4 in Glynn County Magistrate Court.