Ahmaud Arbery murder trial still on for Oct. 18

The Ahmaud Arbery murder trial is still set to begin on Oct. 18, a judge decided Wednesday.

During a conference call, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley, who is presiding over the case, said the trial will proceed as scheduled unless COVID-19 levels soar once again in Glynn County, said defense attorney Bob Rubin, who participated in the call.

Just a few weeks ago, Glynn was one of the worst counties in the nation in terms of COVID-19 infections and transmissions. But the numbers of cases there have been gradually decreasing.

Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old Black man, was shot and killed in the Satilla Shores neighborhood just outside coastal Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020. Three men, all of whom are white, will stand trial for murder and other charges: Travis McMichael, who shot and killed Arbery; his father, Greg McMichael, a former investigator in the local district attorney’s office; and William “Roddie” Bryan, a neighbor.

Greg McMichael and his son, who were both armed, chased Arbery in Travis McMichael’s pickup truck through the Satilla Shores neighborhood. Bryan soon joined in the chase in his pickup and took the infamous cellphone video that showed Arbery being hemmed in and then charging at Travis McMichael, who killed Arbery with three shotgun blasts.

The McMichaels and Bryan contend they were making a valid citizen’s arrest because they believed Arbery had burglarized a home under construction and was fleeing. Prosecutors say no citizen’s arrest was justified, and they note Arbery, who was running through the neighborhood, had no stolen items in his possession when he was killed.

The upcoming trial is expected to receive national attention.

The recent spike in COVID-19 cases has ravaged Glynn County because of the highly contagious delta variant and a low vaccination rate (45%) of county residents. To date, 254 residents of Glynn have died of the virus, and 31 of those deaths have occurred in just the past two weeks.

A rate of 100 confirmed and suspected new cases per 100,000 county residents is considered a “high community spread” by the Georgia Department of Public Health. At the end of August, Glynn County’s rate hit a staggering 2,900 cases per 100,000 residents.

On Wednesday, the state health department reported the rate of Glynn’s COVID-19 cases was still high but improved at 1,446 per 100,000 residents.