Ahmaud Arbery case: Closing arguments today in hate crimes trial

Hate crime trial for killers of Ahmaud Arbery begins

caption arrowCaption
Hate crime trial for killers of Ahmaud Arbery begins

Closing arguments are expected today in the federal hate crimes trial for the three men convicted of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder.

Prosecutors from the U.S. Justice Department have argued that Travis McMichael, his father Greg and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were motivated by racism when they hopped in their pickup trucks two years ago and chased the unarmed Black man through their subdivision.

Arbery fell dead in the street after being shot twice at close range by Travis McMichael. All three defendants were convicted of murder last year and sentenced in January to life in prison. Only Bryan, 52, was given the possibility of parole.

Attorneys representing the three men in the hate crimes case acknowledge their clients said racist things in the past, but contend the defendants chased Arbery because they wrongly suspected him of committing crimes in their neighborhood.

THE TRIAL SO FAR

Testimony concluded Friday with the defense calling just one witness. By contrast, federal prosecutors called 20 witnesses over four days, many of whom testified the three defendants had lengthy histories of making incendiary remarks about Black people.

WHAT’S AHEAD

The government is expected to deliver its closing remarks about 9:30 a.m. The court-appointed attorneys representing the McMichaels and Bryan will then be given time to argue on behalf of their clients before federal prosecutors get the final word.

The case then goes to the jury, which was seated last Monday ahead of opening statements. Last year’s state trial lasted about six weeks.

Attorney Page Pate, who has a Brunswick law office and has closely followed the case, said he doesn’t think an acquittal is likely after last week’s explosive testimony. The best bet for the defense, he believes, is to get one or two holdouts on the jury who simply don’t believe in hate crimes.

“They couldn’t contest the evidence of racial prejudice,” he said of the defense’s strategy. “The only argument they could make is that even though there’s evidence out there that these folks have said bad things in the past, they still would have done what they did even if Ahmaud Arbery was not Black.”

A FATHER’S REACTION

Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud’s father, said some of the evidence presented at trial was difficult to sit through.

He got up and left the courtroom Friday morning when a a GBI firearms expert pulled out the 12-gauge shotgun Travis McMichael used to kill his son. Jurors were also shown photographs of Ahmaud’s T-shirt, which was stained dark red with blood and had several large holes from the deadly buckshot blasts.

But Marcus Arbery said the hate crimes trial is important because it shows the world “who these men really are.”

“These men had so much hate in they heart,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday.

For updates during the day from the trial, visit ajc.com.

ExploreComplete coverage of the Ahmaud Arbery case