Factbox-Why a viral video is key evidence in trial of men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery
FILE PHOTO: A mural of Ahmaud Arbery is painted on the side of The Brunswick African American Cultural Center in downtown Brunswick, Georgia, U.S. October 19, 2021. REUTERS/Octavio Jones/File Photo
By Rich McKay
(Reuters) – Jury selection is under way in the trial of three white men charged with killing Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery, 25, in a suburb of Brunswick (NYSE:BC), Georgia, in February 2020.
Here are some facts about the case:
WHO IS CHARGED?
Former policeman Gregory McMichael, 65, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, each face charges of murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment.
Arbery, an avid jogger, left his mother’s house for a run on a Sunday afternoon. He crossed a four-lane highway into the nearby Satilla Shores neighborhood.
The defendants told police they thought Arbery looked like a burglar who had been plaguing the neighborhood. Gregory and Travis McMichael grabbed guns and pursued Arbery in a white pickup truck. Bryan saw them racing by, joined the chase in his own truck and videotaped part of the subsequent encounter between the McMichaels and Arbery.
Police reports say the men blocked Arbery’s escape with their trucks. Bryan’s cellphone video shows Arbery grappling with a shotgun leveled at him by Travis McMichael before being shot three times and falling prone on the street after he turned to run.
Defense lawyers say Travis McMichael fired in self-defense and that Arbery was attacking him when he grabbed the barrel of the shotgun.
Some lawyers not involved in the case have speculated that prosecutors could argue that Arbery grabbed the weapon in a fight for his life. Charging documents say the men unlawfully chased him and illegally detained him with their pickup trucks and had the intent to do him harm “with malice aforethought.”
WHO IS AHMAUD ARBERY?
Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, known to his friends as both “Maud” and “Quez,” was a former linebacker for his high school football team, the Brunswick Pirates. He once dreamed of playing in the National Football League.
Friends say he loved rap, recorded his own songs, and was always working – either with his father, Marcus Arbery, who owns a landscaping business, or at a truck-washing company.
He was enrolled at South Georgia Technical College, studying to be an electrician like his uncles, but was taking a break to work and make enough money to continue his studies.
It took 74 days before charges were filed, and only after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation stepped in and took the case from local authorities.
District Attorney Jackie Johnson was voted out of office after a grassroots campaign vilified her handling of the Arbery case. She was later indicted for violating her oath of office by showing favoritism toward the defendants because Gregory McMichael, a former police officer, worked for her office as an investigator. Court papers say she also obstructed a police officer by telling him not to file charges.
Johnson has plead not guilty to the charges and has told the media she did nothing wrong in the case.