LIVE UPDATES: Opening statements held in trial over Ahmaud Arbery’s killing

Opening statements began Friday morning for the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery.

»Watch first day of the trial, courtesy of Court TV

Travis McMichael, his father Greg, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, all of whom are white, are standing trial for murder and other charges in the February 2020 death of Arbery in Brunswick. He was Black.

The defendants contend they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest because they suspected Arbery of entering a home under construction in their Satilla Shores neighborhood following a string of break-ins.

5:36 p.m.: Court is adjourned until 9 a.m. Monday.

5:29 p.m.: Sheffield asks Duggan about what he recalls about Travis McMichael from the day of the shooting. He notes that McMichael was covered in blood and was pacing. The attorney reminds Duggan about the question he asked McMichael at the scene: “Are you OK?”

While Duggan meant the question literally in order to determine if McMichael had a physical injury, Sheffield said his client interpreted it in an emotional way. “And he said, ‘no, I just killed someone.’ Right?” Sheffield said. Sheffield said Duggan had likened McMichael’s reaction to that of a driver hitting a child with a car.

5:25 p.m.: Sheffield then asks Duggan about his next action, assessing Arbery at the scene of the fatal shooting. The officer says in the police report he wrote related to the incident, he wrote several notes about Arbery’s condition. “One of the things you noted was that he had fixed eyes,” Sheffield said. “And fixed eyes are a sign of brain death.”

5:23 p.m.: The state has passed the witness to Jason Sheffield, an attorney who represents Travis McMichael. Sheffield begins questioning Duggan about what was on his mind as he arrived at the scene and how he determines officer safety.

5:06 p.m.: The state entered a second video into evidence. This time, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski shows Officer William Duggan the dashboard camera footage taken from his car on the day of Ahmaud Arbery’s death.

The footage shows the scene flying by as Duggan drives into the Satilla Shores neighborhood. When the car stops, the full scene is in the frame. Arbery can be seen face-down in the middle of the road. Another Glynn County officer is seen walking around, apparently taking photos of the scene. Travis McMichael can be seen pacing in the background.

The video shows Duggan approach the bleeding Arbery and turn him over. The second officer is seen walking back and forth out of frame, carrying various items, including a towel, while Duggan applies pressure to Arbery’s chest. Dunikoski paused the video on a frame of a man walking toward Duggan. Duggan tells the state the man is Gregory McMichael. He also says a third man in the background is William “Roddie” Bryan.

5:03 p.m.: Jurors were just shown graphic body camera footage of Arbery lying on the pavement, his shirt soaked in blood. Duggan said he knew Arbery was dying.

”The blood loss I saw at the scene, the lack of rise and fall I saw in his chest, there was nothing I could do for him,” he tells Dunikoski.

4:56 p.m.: The state resumes questioning Officer William Duggan about his body camera video from Feb. 23, 2020. The jury and Duggan are being shown the video. One juror is shielding herself with her notebook unable to watch the graphic video. Arbery’s mother has her head in her hands.

4:53 p.m.: The panel of jurors is being brought back into the courtroom after technical difficulties brought witness testimony to a pause. Court is back in session following a recess. Duggan will return to the stand.

4:12 p.m.: The state tendered into evidence Duggan’s body camera footage from Feb. 23, 2020. The footage is being shown to the jurors.

4:07 p.m.: When asked about what he was doing on Feb. 23, 2020, Duggan says he was working an off-duty job at a church. He said he was in full uniform in a marked patrol car. Duggan told prosecutor Linda Dunikoski he responded to the Satilla Shores neighborhood after he heard reports of shots being fired there over his radio. When the officer arrived, he saw another officer on the scene taking photos. A Black man was laying on the pavement, while a few other people were “milling around” near the scene. Duggan told Dunikoski he did not immediately see any weapons.

4:05 p.m.: Duggan said he is not familiar with Travis McMichael or Roddie Bryan, but has had “occasion to meet” Greg McMichael.

3:55 p.m. Attorney Kevin Gough, who defends William “Roddie” Bryan, has opted to reserve his opening statement until after state prosecutors have completed delivering their arguments. Judge Timothy Walmsley then excused the jury and explained that bodycam footage from the witness will be shown and can elicit a strong reaction. He suggested people who feel that the video could render a stark reaction leave the courtroom.

William Duggan, the state’s first witness, has taken the stand under oath. Duggan is a Glynn County police officer who has been with the department for 12 years.

3:39 p.m.: Greg McMichael later told an officer that their intention was to stop Arbery so he could be arrested, or at least identified, Hogue said. Greg McMichael was absolutely sure this was the guy, Hogue said, calling his client’s suspicions “well-founded.” “Greg McMichael is not guilty of any of these crimes.”

3:24 p.m.: Hogue said his client eventually moved to the back of his son’s truck and looked on in horror as the confrontation occurred. He said he called 911 and tried his best to explain to the operator where they were when Arbery ran back toward Travis.”

As Ahmaud gets close to the back of the truck, you hear him yell, “Stop right there! Dammit, stop!” Hogue said. “As he sees him turn toward his only son, he drops that phone in the bed of the truck.”

3:15 p.m.: Hogue said Greg McMichael, who weighed 230 pounds at the time, squeezed into the truck on top of his grandson’s car seat as he and his son chased Arbery, who they believed was responsible for the string of neighborhood break-ins.

3:08 p.m.: On Feb. 23, 2020, Greg saw him running through the neighborhood, Hogue said.

“As he told police that day, he thought he was running from someone or something,” Hogue said. “Law enforcement trained and experienced for 30 years, Greg noted specific features of this man that matched exactly that which he had seen on surveillance cameras before.”

3:06 p.m.: Larry English, the owner of the house under construction, had described Arbery to police as “plundering around,” Hogue says. Officer Rash had canvased the neighborhood with a screenshot of Arbery from the surveillance cameras and asked neighbors if they had seen him, Hogue said. “Nobody in the neighborhood knows him or had ever seen him before.”

3:02 p.m.: Hogue said Greg McMichael was reupholstering boat cushions when a young man ran passed him at a sprint. He was, as he described “hauling ass,” Hogue said.

“He wasn’t out for know Sunday jog,” Hogue said. “That man was the same man whom neighbors, Greg’s own son, Travis, had seen in that house just a few doors down.”

Says Arbery was seen in the home four times before, each time at night.

3:26 p.m.: Court is in recess for 10 minutes.

3 p.m.: Frank Hogue, the attorney representing Greg McMichael, is addressing the jury.

“Greg McMichael is absolutely sure, he is absolutely certain and he is absolutely right the guy he suspected is the guy he saw,” Hogue said.

2:57 p.m.: Jurors are being brought back into the courtroom.

2:35 p.m.: Rubin has concluded his opening statements. Court will be in recess for 15 minutes.

2:32 p.m. “It’s tragic,” Rubin said. “It’s tragic that Ahmaud Arbery lost his life. But at that point, Travis McMichael was acting in self-defense. He did not want to confront Ahmaud Arbery. He was only trying to stop him for the police.”

2:30 p.m.: Rubin said his client raised his firearm and pointed it at Arbery because he wanted him to stop, not because he wanted to hurt him. “He doesn’t want a confrontation,” Rubin said.

2:25 p.m.: Rubin says while the McMichaels were chasing Arbery, Travis McMichael turned to his father and asked when the police were going to arrive. When Greg McMichael replied that he hadn’t called the police, Travis McMichael took out his own cellphone, dialed 911, and handed the phone to his father.

“The police were called before a shot was fired,” Rubin said. “That doesn’t indicate intent to murder.”

2:18 p.m.: Rubin explains to the jurors the stipulations of the citizen’s arrest law. He says Travis McMichael was trying to arrest someone based on probable cause that a felony had been committed, not because he had witnessed a felony being committed.

2:12 p.m.: Rubin contrasts the actions of Ahmaud Arbery and that of Travis McMichael on Feb. 23, 2020. He said his client was trying to put his 3-year-old son down for a nap while his father was reupholstering cushions. About the same time, Arbery was captured on camera walking toward Larry English’s house under construction. Rubin said neighbors in Satilla Shores called 911 to report Arbery’s presence in the home. When one neighbor locked eyes with him, Arbery ran out of the house, Rubin said. “He is not jogging,” Rubin said. “He is running away.”

2:08 p.m.: “Here are facts, not assumptions,” Rubin said. “Travis McMichael has now seen Ahmaud Arbery for the first time. He knows he is not authorized to be there. He knows stuff has been stolen because Larry English told him that. He knows this man has the audacity to return to this place again and again.” Rubin said based on Travis McMichael’s understanding of the situation and based on his training, his client had “probable cause” to believe that Arbery was committing burglary.

2:02 p.m.: Rubin tells the jury that on Feb. 11, 2020, Travis McMichael called 911 after seeing Ahmaud Arbery inside Larry English’s home under construction. Rubin says his client wasn’t sure if Arbery was armed, but saw him reach into his pocket. After encountering Arbery, McMichael returned home to call police. He and his father, Greg McMichael, returned to Larry English’s home with firearms in an attempt to find Arbery. They are joined by a neighbor and police soon arrive at the scene.

1:55 p.m.: Rubin claims that several people in the neighborhood have captured footage of Ahmaud Arbery on cameras outside their home, but nobody knows who he is.”He is at this point a scary mystery,” Rubin said. “Because nobody knows him.”

1:53 p.m.: English had a text exchange with a neighbor concerning the multiple occasions of people entering his home under construction, Rubin said. In the exchange, the neighbor said he would try to “intercept” the people in the home and hold them until the police came.

1:49 p.m.: When Larry English noticed that items had been stolen from his boat, he became suspicious, Rubin said. On Nov. 17, Larry English called police again after seeing a white couple inside his house under construction. Police did not arrive in time to speak to the couple.

1:48 p.m.: ”Now, he’s OK with curiosity seekers coming to his house,” Rubin said. “What concerned him was there is no legitimate reason for him to be there at night.”

1:45 p.m.: According to Rubin, English called the police after seeing Arbery out of concern for his belongings and his family. He said the man thought there was no reason for Arbery to be on his property at night.

1:39 p.m. “Satilla Shores was a neighborhood on the edge,” Rubin said. He said crime had increased in the neighborhood and several thefts had taken place. The attorney said parents no longer let their children ride their bicycles alone in the neighborhood and neighbors began posting messages about the crime in a Facebook group.

1:37 p.m.: Rubin tells the jurors about the Satilla Shores neighborhood, where Travis McMichael lived with his mother, father, sister and son. The attorney describes it as a “quiet, scenic neighborhood. The kind of neighborhood where parents let their kids ride their bikes.”

“This is the family and community that Travis McMichael felt a duty and responsibility to,” Rubin said.

1:35 p.m.: Bob Rubin, the attorney defending Travis McMichael has begun addressing the jury.

“This case is about duty and responsibility,” he said. “It is about Travis McMicahels’s duty and responsibility to himself, to his family, and to his neighborhood. And it is about your duty as jurors.”

Rubin said that while the state spoke about “assumptions and decisions,” he will speak about facts. He said McMichael is a father and former member of the Coast Guard, a role in which he received scenario-based law enforcement training.

1:25 p.m.: Court is back in session following a lunch break.

12:10 p.m.: Court is in recess for lunch.

11:25 a.m.: Dunikoski has concluded her opening arguments.

10:05 a.m.: Prosecutors in the Ahmaud Arbery case painted for jurors an image of a terrified Black man running for his life for more than five minutes as he was chased down and ultimately shot to death last year in a Glynn County neighborhood.

Linda Dunikoski, who delivered the state’s opening statements, asserted the three men charged with murder in Arbery’s death had no evidence that Arbery had committed any crime when they hemmed him in with their pickup trucks early last year.

“Why are we here? We are because of assumptions and driveway decisions,” Dunikoski told the nearly all-white jury. “All three of these defendants did everything they did based on assumptions. Not on facts, not on evidence. On assumptions.” She played the widely shared cellphone footage of the 25-year-old being shot at close range with Travis McMichael’s Remington 12-gauge shotgun as the two struggled in front of his pickup truck. Three shotgun blasts were fired, but Dunikoski said a medical examiner would testify at trial that Arbery was struck twice.

Arbery’s father, Marcus, got up and left the room when Bryan’s cellphone footage was played in court, saying, “I don’t want to see that.”

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, sobbed for several minutes as she was consoled by her attorney.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty, and contend they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest because they suspected Arbery of entering a home under construction in their neighborhood. But Dunikoski argued the McMichael’s had no reason to believe a crime had taken place when they armed up, got into Travis’ Ford pickup and chased Arbery down the street.

Bryan, who was working on his porch that afternoon, jumped in his own truck and joined in the pursuit, Dunikoski said. Video from his home security system appeared to show Arbery running at full speed down the road with the McMichaels right behind him. During the chase, the state argued, Bryan kept Arbery from leaving the Satilla Shores neighborhood, using his Chevy Silverado to force him into a ditch as he tried to escape. Prosecutors asserted he tried to strike Arbery with his vehicle several times, noting that Arbery’s palm print was later found on the side of the truck.

“That’s aggravated assault with a 5,000-pound lethal weapon, otherwise known as a pickup truck,” Dunikoski told the jury. Greg McMichael later told police that prior to the shooting, he instructed Arbery to, “stop, or I’ll blow your (expletive) head off,” the state asserted. “Greg and Travis McMichael sought to confront Mr. Arbery and took their guns with them to do it,” Dunikoski said, noting that the elder McMichael, a former police officer and investigator with the local district attorney’s office, also told officers they had “trapped him like a rat” during the pursuit. Arbery, Dunikoski said, had nothing on him at the time he was killed, and “couldn’t have even called for help if he wanted to.”

“They made decisions in their driveway, based on assumptions, that took a young man’s life,” she said of the McMichaels and Bryan. “The evidence the state expects to show is that this was an attack on Mr. Arbery for five minutes and the only thing Mr. Arbery did was to run away.”

9:42 a.m.: Both of Arbery’s parents are in the courtroom, along with Leigh McMichael, wife of Greg and mom of Travis. The families are separated by a row of pool reporters and a photographer.

9:28 a.m.: The jury has been brought into the courtroom.

9:20 a.m.: Before the jurors were sworn in Friday morning, Judge Timothy Walmsley ruled on two key motions that could end up swaying their opinions in the high-profile trial. The judge will not allow the defense to mention that Arbery was on probation when he was killed.

But he will also allow prosecutors to present photos and videos showing a Confederate flag license plate on the front of his Travis McMichael’s pickup truck when he pursued the 25-year-old through the Satilla Shores neighborhood and killed him during a struggle over a shotgun.

— Return for live updates of today’s court proceedings.