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Friday, December 3, 2021

His own words would have ruined those who killed Ahmaud Arbery

by Russ Bynum and Kate Brumback

The video of Ahmed Arbery’s shotgun death was a shocking piece of evidence that suddenly brought the killing of the black man to the national consciousness.

But the murder sentence of the three white men who pursued him could have been secured by his own words to investigators on the day of the shooting.

Greg McMichael, who was in the bed of a pickup truck when his son killed Arbery, told police that the black man was “trapped like a rat” and told Arbery: “Wait, or I’m f-ing yours. I’ll blow my head!”

Such statements allowed prosecutors to reference the short video that did not show the entire shooting and took less than five minutes of the men chasing Arbery.

“It’s the statements that spoiled the defense more than the video. If he had never spoken to the police and they said we saw him take something from the property and run away – well the jury acquitted him.” would have done it,” said appellate attorney Andrew Fleischman, who followed suit from Atlanta.

what did they say:

The shooter, Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and neighbor William “Roddy” Bryan all spoke extensively and candidly with Glyn County investigators, just hours after Arbery was killed in their Brunswick, Georgia, neighborhood in February 2020. Of.

He told police that he was not sure what Arbery had done wrong, which would later be a major blow to his defense that they were making a civilian arrest.

Citizen’s arrest laws, largely repealed by lawmakers after Arbery’s death, require a person to witness a crime or to have immediate knowledge or reasonable suspicion that a citizen will be arrested to justify his arrest. For is on the run from a crime.

“I don’t think the guy actually stole anything from there, or if he did it was early in the process. But he keeps going into this damn house over and over again,” Greg McMichael said in a transcript of the interview According to said Glynn County Police Sgt. Roderick Nohili read in court.

Bryan was on his front porch when he saw Arbery running behind McMichaels’ truck. He told police that he didn’t recognize any of them, or know what prompted the chase, but still got involved after calling: “Have you got him?”

In an interview with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Bryan said he wanted to take a picture of Arbery to show the police, but could not pinpoint any crimes Arbery had committed.

“I thought he did something wrong,” Brian said. “I didn’t know for sure.”

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The statements allowed prosecutor Linda Dunnikowski to systematically separate the defense’s arguments.

“No one was talking about the arrest of the civilian. And I don’t mean the use of magic words ‘civilian arrest’. I mean no one is saying, ‘We saw that guy stealing and we were going to catch him so we can hand him over to the police because he committed this crime,'” Atlanta defense attorneys Page Pate said.

defense case

This left lawyers for the men struggling to explain their statements.

“The evidence suggests that Roddy Bryan legitimately struggles to find the right words,” Brian’s attorney, Kevin Gough, told jurors in his closing argument on Monday.

Travis McMichael testified in his defense that he was in shock when he first spoke to police, calling the shooting the most traumatic event of his life.

Greg McMichael’s attorney suggested that perhaps he never yelled at Arbery: “Wait, or I’ll blow your head” like he told the police because the remark was not recorded on cellphone video of the shooting or the 911 call Greg McMichael calls police. did. Both of those recordings comprised only a small part of the five-minute chase that ended in Arbery’s death.

“Basically you only have a few defenses to deal with a confession,” Pate said.

familiar faces

Greg McMichael was a former investigator at the Glynn County District Attorney’s office and may have felt like he could stir up trouble among his acquaintances and friends.

It worked for some time. The men were not charged for more than two months—only after video of the shooting surfaced and the case was handed over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. State agents charged the men two days later.

“It’s just a case of a customer who got himself out of trouble and those statements later put him back in it,” Fleischman said.

Phone records show Greg McMichael called his former boss, District Attorney Jackie Johnson, right after the shooting. Johnson referred the case to an out-of-town prosecutor, who cited civil arrest law in recommending no charges. A third prosecutor was reviewing the case when the video surfaced and handed it over to the state.

Johnson was charged with a misdemeanor charge of violating his oath of office and obstructing police for his role in the investigation. Authorities have released little information about Johnson’s actions, other than to say that he never disclosed that he had asked another prosecutor to advise police in the immediate aftermath of Arbery’s murder.


Jeffrey Collins contributed to this report.

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