BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Defense attorneys in the hate crime trial of three white men convicted of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery settled their case on Friday after calling only a single witness.
None of the defendants – Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William Bryan – stood up for themselves.
These men were convicted in state court last year for chasing Mr Arbery through their South Georgia neighborhood and killing him. All three were sentenced to life in prison. During the federal trial, they were charged with the murder and murder of Mr. Arbery specifically because he was Black.
On Friday, only attorneys for Gregory McMichael gave evidence to the jury, in an attempt to bolster the defense’s central argument that the men pursued Arbery because they suspected him of carrying out the crimes. theft in the area, not because of his race.
The only defense witness, a woman who lived in the Satilla Shores neighborhood where the defendants lived and where Mr. Arbery died, testified that on one occasion in 2019 she saw a seemingly worthy white man under the bridge near the entrance to the neighborhood. AJ Balbo, Mr. McMichael’s attorney, played a recording of a call McMichael sent to authorities that summer after he also saw a white man under the bridge that he believed to be worthy of the police. suspicious and perhaps responsible for the thefts. The defendants argued in both trials that they were on alert because of the break-in.
An advocate for Mr. Arbery’s family expressed skepticism about that line of reasoning.
“The defense tried to use this witness to show that their client was not racist, that they called the police on a white man and were concerned about crime, but only because you Calling the police on a white person doesn’t mean you’re “not racist,” said Lynn Whitfield, a senior attorney with the Transformational Justice Alliance who sat with Mr. Arbery’s family during the proceedings. in court, said. “They didn’t chase the white man through the neighborhood with guns and kill him.”
It is up to the jury to determine whether the men deprived Mr Arbery of public street use because he is Black, not whether they committed the murder. The men were also charged with attempted kidnapping, and the McMichaels were each charged with using a weapon in a violent crime. If convicted, they face life in prison. The guilty verdicts will have practical ramifications if the men’s state sentences are overturned on appeal.
Friday’s witness defense came after prosecutors called 20 witnesses and presented dozens of pieces of evidence over three and a half days, including texts, WhatsApp and Facebook messages and comments containing language racist that these men posted and sent to others.
Among the prosecution’s witnesses was Kristie Ronquille, who testified Friday morning.
Ronquille said that in 2011, while she was working with the Coast Guard in Pascagoula, Travis McMichael, then her supervisor, made disparaging comments about Blacks after learning that She had previously dated a Black man. Crying in the stands, Ms Ronquille said Mr McMichael called her an “N-lover” on more than one occasion.
When asked by Travis McMichael’s attorney, Amy Lee Copeland, why she didn’t report him, Ms. Ronquille said she recently joined the Coast Guard.
“This is my supervisor — it’s like telling your boss,” she said. “Who do you tell about your boss?”
On Friday, prosecutors also called Kim Ballesteros, a neighbor of the McMichaels who said she remembers standing at the end of the driveway, telling Gregory McMichael that she had a rental property. new. Mr. McMichael told her about his own tenant, a Black woman who had rented from him. He said he cut off the woman’s air conditioner in the summer to make her pay the rent.
Understanding the death of Ahmaud Arbery
Take a shot. On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black young man, was was shot to death after being chased by three white men While jogging near his home in suburban Brunswick, Ga. Mr. Arbery’s murder was captured in a graphic video widely viewed by the public.
Ms Ballesteros recalls Mr McMichael saying: ‘You should see how fast her fat ass was. Ms Ballesteros said Mr McMichael called the woman a “walrus” because she was “big and black”.
“I was surprised,” Ms. Ballesteros said. “It’s racist and uncomfortable, and I’m really disappointed.”
Mr. Balbo, an attorney for Gregory McMichael, noted that Ms. Ballesteros continued to speak with Mr. McMichael after the incident and that his client was rented to African-Americans.
Another witness, Carole Sears, said she recalled hearing Gregory McMichael “lie” about Black people after learning that Julian Bond, the civil rights leader, was dead. At the time, Mr. McMichael was an investigator with the local district attorney’s office and she was in his car in connection with a legal matter in Brunswick, Ga. Mrs. Sears was saddened by Mr. Bond’s death, while Mr. McMichael was very pleased, she said. Ms. Sears recalls Mr. McMichael saying: “I wish that guy had been on the ground years ago. “All those black people are just trouble and I wish they would die.”
Ms Sears said she did not speak for the rest of the trip because she was afraid.
In opening remarks this week, defense attorneys criticized the racist language used by their clients, but they also stressed that the use of such language is not evidence that the men killed Mr. Arbery because he was black.
The men chased Mr. Arbery “not because he was Negro, but because he was.” the man,” Mr. Balbo said in his opening remarks.
The jury will hear final arguments from the government and the defendants on Monday.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/us/ahmaud-arbery-mcmichael-trial.html After calling a witness, the defenses in the Arbery hate crime trial