Defense rests its case in trial over Ahmaud Arbery’s killing

Defense attorneys for the three men accused of murder in the death of Ahmaud Arbery rested their case on Thursday following testimony from seven witnesses, including the man who shot and killed the 25-year-old last year.

Travis McMichael, the man who fired the shots that killed Arbery, took the stand on Wednesday as the defense team’s first witness. McMichael, his father Greg McMichael, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, face murder and other charges in the Feb. 23, 2020 shooting of the 25-year-old in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick. The three men contend they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest because they suspected Arbery of entering English’s vacant home following a string of neighborhood break-ins. State prosecutors have said while Arbery was seen inside the unsecured home on several occasions, he never stole anything or damaged any property.

The state on Tuesday rested its case in chief after calling upon 23 witnesses to testify. Among the witnesses were numerous police officers who responded to the scene of the shooting and GBI agents who investigated Arbery’s death.

The defense resting marks the close of evidence and indicates no further testimony will be heard in the case. Closing arguments will begin on Monday.

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Here is the latest from the courtroom:

[4:02 p.m.]: Court is back in session. The jury has returned to the courtroom. The defense attorneys for Travis McMichael have rested their case. The defense attorneys for Greg McMichael also rested their case. The defense attorneys for Roddie Bryan also rested their case.

Court is in recess until 9 a.m. Monday.

[3:12 p.m.]: Sube Lawrence has been released for the day. The court has entered a 15-minute recess.

[2:39 p.m.]: Beasley has been released for the day following a brief direct examination by Bob Rubin and cross-examination by Paul Camarillo. The defense next calls Sube Lawrence to the stand.

Lawrence says she lives catacorner from the home under construction.

[2:30 p.m.]: The defense has completed its examination of Brinson and he has been released for the day. The defense has now called Annabelle Beasley to the stand. She lives in the Satilla Shores neighborhood and lives next door to her daughter, Sube Lawrence.

[2:26 p.m.] Court is back in session. The defense has called Jack Brinson to the stand. He is a resident of the Satilla Shores neighborhood.

[2:08 p.m.]: Perez has been released for the day. The defense has called its next witness to the stand. He will be examined by attorney Jason Sheffield following a brief recess.

[1:58 p.m.] On the day Arbery was killed, Brooke Perez testified she came home with her children and saw Travis McMichael standing in the road, covered in blood.

She said Travis looked distressed, and that her husband told someone was dead. Perez described it as a “gruesome sight”

The security cameras they had installed recorded Arbery running from the nearby home, she told Dunikoski.

[1:47 p.m.] Brooke Perez went into her yard with the handgun on Feb. 11, the night Travis McMichael saw Arbery enter English’s home.

The next day, she posted about it on Facebook.

“It’s the same guy the last few times. We have him all over camera. Boy, is he fast and he knows our neighborhood really good,” she wrote.

Attorney Bob Rubin asked what she was thinking, and Perez said she was worried.

“Why is the same person coming here over and over and over?” she said.

[1:46 p.m.] The defense has called Brooke Perez. Her husband, Diego Perez, was among the first people to the scene after Arbery was killed. She said some tools were been stolen from her husband’s truck in June 2019.

She called the non-emergency police line to report the theft. After the tools went missing, the couple purchased a home security system that included high-definition cameras.

“It just felt like a violation,” she said, “something that shouldn’t have been this close to my home.”

They eventually became aware of someone entering Larry English’s unsecured home, Perez said. On at least one occasion, she said her husband went out to investigate with his gun, but didn’t see anyone.

Brooke Perez later asked English’s wife if she could put up “no trespassing” signs on their property to deter people from entering. She also posted a description of Ahmaud Arbery online in December 2019, months before Arbery was killed.

[1:15 p.m.]: The defense’s third witness is Cindy Clark, another resident of Satilla Shores. Jason Sheffield is asking her about crime in the neighborhood.

Clark said she installed a doorbell camera following a spike in what she called “petty crime.”

[1:07 p.m.]: Judge Walmsley has admonished the prosecution for the “dealth penalty” question asked by Ollivierre to the last witness. He said the jury will be instructed to disregard the question.

“The court does find that the question that was presented was inflammatory and irrelevant and completely unnecessary, particularly given the witness that was on the stand,” he said. “It has potentially injected into this case issues not appropriate for the jury ... Counsel should have known that this was a question that should not have been asked.”

Gough’s motion for a mistrial was denied.

[11:45 a.m.]: The defense passed the witness. Prosecutor Larissa Ollivierre asked the woman if she had been the victim of any crime. The witness, Lindy Cofer, said she hasn’t been the victim of a crime since 1976.

“Do you believe that someone stealing is deserving of the death penalty,” Ollivierre asked.

The prosecution objected to the question and the witness was dismissed.

Laura Hogue is asking that Ollivierre be censured in front of the jury for asking that question. Court has recessed for lunch.

[11:35 a.m.] Travis McMichael has stepped down from the stand. The defense has called its second witness, a woman who lives in Satilla Shores and is a member of the neighborhood Facebook page. She is testifying that some neighbors complained about crime on the social media platform.

[11:30 a.m.]: Dunikoski has finished questioning Travis McMichael. Jason Sheffield, his attorney, is now asking him questions on the stand.

[11:22 a.m.]: Dunikoski is telling Travis that he and his father could have made several decisions that could have prevented Arbery’s death, including calling the police from their home or letting Arbery run away when they realized he did not want to speak with them.

“You could have just let him go,” Dunikoski said.

In the police statements given hours later, she noted the younger McMichael never mentioned that he and his father were trying to make an arrest.

[11:12 a.m.]: The state is playing the first part of the cellphone video of the Arbery’s shooting. Travis McMichael said he was “on alert” while Arbery ran toward him and “focused on what he perceived as a threat.”

“All he had done so far is run away from you, right?” Dunikoski asked.

[10:55 a.m.]: Defense attorneys motioned to an excuse a juror who was seen repeatedly nodding off during testimony. Bob Rubin, Travis McMichael’s attorney, said Juror No. 12 had fallen asleep “during open, direct and cross-examination.”

Judge Timothy Walmsley said he would keep an eye on her.

Kevin Gough, who represents William “Roddie” Bryan, pointed out that the Rev. Jesse Jackson was in the courtroom again with Arbery’s family. He also said he saw someone wearing an “I support Black Pastors” T-shirt during the break. Cheers broke out in the overflow room next door, where several Black pastors are seated.

[10:30 a.m.]: The court has entered a 15-minute recess.

[10:08 a.m.]: When McMichael says the statement he gave to police was choppy and incomplete due to him being under intense stress, Dunikoski asks why he was stressed. McMichael says he was scared because he had just killed a man, which was the most traumatic event of his life.

“You were nervous because you thought you were going to jail, right?” she asks.

McMichael says “no” and states he was nervous because he was giving a statement to police.

“So you don’t think you’re going to jail?”

[9:36 a.m.]: Dunikoski presents McMichael with a handwritten statement he had previously given to police. In the statement, McMichael says he had seen Arbery reach into his pants and was not sure if he was armed.

[9:30 a.m.]: Dunikoski asks McMichael about a man who she says is a Facebook friend of his. McMichael says he is not familiar with the man.

Dunikoski presents McMichael with a Facebook post that he had previously shared with the man. The post concerns the person McMichael suspected of stealing a handgun out of his truck. McMichael said he had a feeling that he knew who was responsible for the theft and had been watching them for several days.

“And you then indicated that this could be the same individual who’s been causing trouble in the neighborhood?” Dunikoski asks.

“Yes,” he replies.

“But that’s not Mr. Arbery?” she asks.

“No ma’am,” he says.

Dunikoski then asks McMichael why during his police interview he said that his gun had been stolen out of his car and he felt that Arbery could have been responsible for some of the thefts in the neighborhood.

[9:22 a.m.]: Dunikoski re-opens the cross-examination by asking McMichael about an interview he gave to Glynn County police officer Sgt. Roderic Nohilly in the hours following the fatal shooting. According to a transcript, McMichael told Nohilly he felt he and his father “needed to find out what was happening” after spotting Arbery running down the road away from the house under construction. He also indicated seeing his neighbor, Matthew Albenze, outside the home and said he thought that Arbery “may have been trying to get away from the police.”

“I’m going to talk to you about some of the legal terms you used yesterday. First I’m going to talk to you about probable cause,” Dunikoski says.

On Wednesday during his direct examination, McMichael told the jury probable cause is a “reasonable suspicion” that a crime has been committed.

“That’s only half of the definition though, right?” Dunikoski asks. She adds that the second part of “probable cause” is having a reasonable suspicion that the suspect in question is the person who committed the crime.

“That makes sense,” McMichael responds.

McMichael says he felt he had probable cause based on the videos he had seen of Arbery walking around inside the house under construction, the interaction he had had with Arbery in previous weeks, and what he observed his neighbor, Matt Albenze, doing on Feb. 23, 2020.

[9:19 a.m.]: Travis McMichael, who shot Ahmaud Arbery, has taken the stand. The jury has been brought into the courtroom. Linda Dunikoski will continue her cross-examination of McMichael, which began on Wednesday afternoon.

[9:02 a.m.]: Court is in session.