The judge Friday cleared the courtroom of reporters and other spectators before hearing a legal motion by Bryan's attorney, Pete Theodocion, asking that prosecutors be prohibited from showing a jury several text messages between Bryan and others containing “racially insensitive language.”
Theodocion didn't quote those text messages in his written motion filed Dec. 30 but said they included messages regarding the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. He said others included Bryan saying a thief who stole a friend's bike was likely Black and Bryan expressing “disapproval of his adopted daughter dating an African American.”
“The evidence Defendant Bryan seeks to exclude is of a highly inflammatory nature and would significantly limit his ability to be fairly tried by an impartial jury,” Theodocion wrote. “An African American juror would be particularly and rightfully angered at such language and would naturally be hyper-inclined to make a decision on an improper basis.”
The judge granted Theodocion's request Friday to hear arguments on his motion behind closed doors, along with other legal motions already under seal, so attorneys could discuss the messages in detail without making their contents public before the case goes to trial.
Theodocion told reporters outside the courtroom that the judge adjourned without ruling on whether any of the messages could be shown to a jury.
Prosecutors said in a court filing that their sealed legal motions detailed “racial-animus evidence” they planned to use against the McMichaels and Bryan.
That likely includes Bryan’s statement to Georgia investigators that Travis McMichael uttered a racist slur while standing over a fatally wounded Arbery as he lay in the street.
At a June 2020 pretrial hearing in the state’s murder case, GBI agent Richard Dial testified that Bryan said he heard Travis McMichael use: (expletive) N-word.
Attorneys for Travis McMichael denied that he made the statement. State prosecutors never mentioned the slur during the murder trial last fall.
During the trial in Glynn County Superior Court, defense attorneys argued the McMichaels and Bryan had a reasonable suspicion that Arbery was a burglar. Travis McMichael testified he opened fire in self-defense after Arbery attacked him with fists and tried to grab his shotgun.