‘Breakdown’ Ep. 10: The defense makes its case

Defense lawyers for Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael and Roddie Bryan are accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery in 2020. Episode 10 of the AJC's "Breakdown" podcast focuses on a crucial hearing to determine whether Arbery's past can be used during the murder trial.
Defense lawyers for Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael and Roddie Bryan are accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery in 2020. Episode 10 of the AJC's "Breakdown" podcast focuses on a crucial hearing to determine whether Arbery's past can be used during the murder trial.

The latest episode of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Breakdown” podcast recaps a number of breaking developments since the previous episode.

There’s finally a trial date. There’s a new lead prosecutor. There’s a new federal hate crimes indictment. And there’s much more.

The AJC’s podcast, now in its eighth season, is covering the Feb. 23, 2020, fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in the Satilla Shores neighborhood just outside of coastal Brunswick.

This season’s 10th episode focuses primarily on a consequential two-day hearing before Judge Timothy Walmsley.

Walmsley is presiding over the state case where Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael and Roddie Bryan stand accused of Arbery’s murder and other crimes. They have pleaded not guilty and contend they were making a lawful citizen’s arrest when they tried to detain the unarmed Arbery.

During the hearing, defense attorneys asked Walmsley to allow them to submit into evidence at trial prior run-ins Arbery had with police. A number of witnesses testified about those encounters, including Glynn County school system police chief Rodney Ellis.

ExploreComplete coverage of the Ahmaud Arbery case

Driving in his police car in December 2013, with his gun trained on a fleeing Arbery and yelling at him to stop, Ellis testified he saw Arbery reach down to his waist.

His thoughts? “Lord, please don’t let me have to shoot this man,” he testified.

Separately, the state asked Walmsley to bar the defense from being able to tell the jury about Arbery’s mental illness – schizoaffective disorder.

ExploreListen to previous seasons of the AJC's 'Breakdown' podcast

“It’s clearly an effort to go ahead and say, ‘Mr. Arbery wasn’t right, he had some mental health issues, and therefore it’s his fault about what happened,’” new lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski argued. ‘”He didn’t respond correctly or appropriately to the defendants and therefore it’s his fault they had to kill him.’ And that, of course, is offensive.”

Defense attorney Jason Sheffield agreed if he were putting in this evidence to say Arbery was at fault, “that would be very offensive.”

But Sheffield said that wasn’t the case. “What we are talking about is what is the inherent truth about what was happening in the lives of these people at the time the conflict happened,” he said.

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