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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Discussion of race is conspicuously absent in the murder suspects trial of arbitrary homicide

BRUNSWICK, Georgia. When Ahmaud Arbury, a 25-year-old black man, was chased through the Georgia area by three white men and shot at close range, his killing was widely regarded as an act of racial violence.

One of the defendants told authorities that one of the men spoke racist profanity immediately after shooting Mr. Arbury. On one of the trucks the men were carrying was a toilet plaque bearing the symbol of the Confederate flag.

Yet in 10 days of testimony in the South Georgia courtroom, the jury did not hear any discussion of race or accusations of bigotry. Prosecutors generally shied away from this question, despite the fact that they had the opportunity to ask about it when they presented their case.

The absence was noteworthy given that prosecutors had made it clear in advance that they could make race an important aspect of their case.

On Thursday, Linda Dunikoski, the chief attorney, asked for permission to tell the jury that Travis McMichael used racist insults, an accusation that Mr. McMichael’s lawyers denied. Ms Dunikoski faced serious legal obstacles in providing such evidence. But before a judge could rule on the matter, the defense had substantiated their case, and they waived their right to present rebutting witnesses after several hours of cross-examining Mr. McMichael at the stand.

However, the lack of open discussion about race in court surprised legal experts and sparked controversy over the wisdom of the prosecution strategy, which may have been influenced by the fact that 11 out of 12 jurors are white.

“I’m at a loss,” Esther Panich, a legal analyst and longtime Atlanta-based criminal defense attorney, said Thursday. “While the state is not obliged to prove motivation, the jury would certainly like to know what might motivate the accused to commit such a crime.”

The murder trial, which takes place in the small coastal town of Brunswick, not far from the shooting site, is not the final word on whether the defendants – Mr. McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William Brian – were motivated by race: In February, all three men loom a federal trial of hate crimes.

But in recent days in Brunswick, the chasm between the limited story presented in court and the broader story told beyond the ears of the jury seemed wider than ever.

Kevin Gough, Mr. Brian’s lawyer, has repeatedly introduced race into public opinion, arguing that the presence in the courtroom of prominent civil rights leaders, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III, could have influenced the jury. “We don’t want more black pastors to come here,” he once said. Mr. Gough, following the rules of the court, always made these comments while the jury was out.

He was joined this week by Jason Sheffield, a lawyer for Travis McMichael, who said the jury needed to be shielded from the “nationwide conversation” sparked by the case.

Mr. Gough’s comments were widely criticized and prompted Mr. Sharpton’s National Action Network to invite many black pastors to Brunswick on Thursday to show support for the Arbury family.

Some pastors held signs that read “Black Pastors Matter.” A group of Mr. Arbury’s aunts arrived, wearing shirts that read “These are black pastors for me.”

Rev. Christopher Pittman of First Brian Baptist Church in Savannah said Mr. Gough’s comments were reminiscent of rhetoric from the 1960s and earlier. “It takes me back in time,” he said. “We shouldn’t be arguing about it until now.”

In theory, the jury is not aware of this, who at the end of each day in court, Judge Timothy R. Walmsley instructed not to seek outside information on the case.

Instead, the jury heard repeated, detailed accounts of how the three men pursued Mr. Arbury through their neighborhood and were asked to consider whether they had a legal basis for doing so. The defense told the jury that the men had reason to believe that Mr. Arbury was a robber during a series of incursions in the neighborhood. Ms Dunikoski claimed that they pursued him based on what she described as far-fetched “guesses and travel decisions”.

They heard that Gregory McMichael told the police that Mr. Arbury was “caught like a rat” before he was shot. And the jury was shown a graphic video filmed by Mr. Brian in which Travis McMichael shoots Mr. Arbury three times with a shotgun.

A spokeswoman for the Cobb County District Attorney declined to comment on the prosecution’s strategy. But Paul Butler, a former federal attorney and professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, said the one-sided number of white juries may have played a role in the prosecutor’s decision not to be more aggressive in its racial judgment. Before the jury was completed, prosecutors unsuccessfully tried to convince the judge to block the defense and thwart a number of potential black jurors.

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“I’m sure the fact that they are practically all white juries matters,” Mr. Butler said. “There is a risk when racial talk is introduced into a lawsuit, so I think prosecutors have obviously seen the risk of presenting evidence about race.”

Mr Carlson said introducing racial themes also carries the risk that an appellate court may end up finding such evidence overly biased. And if prosecutors felt they were winning this week, Mr Carlson said, they might decide the risk isn’t worth it.

Prosecutors have previously indicated to the court that they will actually make the race a problem. Shortly before the argument began, a judge ruled that they could provide photographic evidence of Travis McMichael’s truck, which showed that it was adorned with a toilet plaque depicting an old Georgia state flag featuring a Confederate battle flag. The defense sought to hide this from the jury, arguing that the photo was intended to “demonstrate some reprehensible motive, bias or bias that is not true.”

Prosecutors filed a motion last year that they plan to present what they called “racial” evidence, including Travis McMichael’s Facebook post “Johnny Rebel”, “racial messages” pulled from Mr. Brian’s mobile phone, and ” Identity Dixie ”on Facebook. post by Gregory McMichael.

At the hearing, prosecutors read a text message from November 2019 in which Travis McMichael used a racist reputation for blacks by describing the idea of ​​shooting a “dumb man” with “golden teeth.”

However, several weeks before the trial, prosecutors indicated that they had decided not to use “evidence of racial hatred in the form of communications from the accused with third parties” in their submissions of evidence, calling it a “strategic decision.”

Before the trial, defense attorneys insisted that the case was far from the modern “lynching” as described by people like Mr. Sharpton, but instead was a legitimate attempt to arrest a citizen under state law at the time. Robert Rubin, a lawyer for Travis McMichael, said the case involved a “duty and responsibility” to ensure security in the area, and noted that Mr. Arbury was repeatedly spotted making unauthorized visits to a home under construction.

Even without openly discussing race in open court, the defense appears to have “relied on the benefits of racial bias that they hope the jury has,” said S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer representing the Arbury family in a civil case. arguing that the defendants must confront “this external danger, this mysterious black man.”

Mr Butler, a law professor at Georgetown, believes the prosecution should have raised the issue of racial motivation before it substantiated its position. “If an acquittal is issued, I think the prosecution will be that the prosecution did not use the evidence of racism on the part of the accused,” he said.

However, John Perry, pastor and former president of the local NAACP, said it was “refreshing” that the jury was not tackling the issue of race. “The facts themselves are compelling enough to show what these people have done,” he said. “When you race, you enter intent, and I don’t know how intent can be proven.”

Allen Booker, Brunswick City Commissioner who represents the majority of its black residents, said that regardless of what was discussed in court, he believed the jury understood that race was a factor in the case.

“If the 11 whites and one black who live here do not know this is a race issue, they can spend a year on it and still don’t know about it,” he said. “They know.”

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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