The bombshell behind the last day of the McMichael/Bryan trial for the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery came with a tinge of pain that will be unpacked as Black America awaits another verdict.
After calling just seven witnesses, including the shooter, Travis McMichael, defense attorneys rested their case Thursday, Nov. 18, as McMichael testified that Arbery did not threaten him in any way before he pointed his shotgun at him.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley scheduled closing arguments in the trial for Monday, setting up the possibility of verdicts before Thanksgiving.
Under cross-examination by the prosecution on his second day of testimony, Travis McMichael gave a damning statement, saying that Arbery hadn’t shown a weapon or spoken to him at all before McMichael raised his shotgun.
The son, who said he was “under the impression” that Arbery could be a threat, was hit back with a stern response by prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, who said, “All he’s done is run away from you, and you pulled out a shotgun and pointed it at him.”
The Feb. 23, 2020 cellphone video was replayed in court on Thursday, Nov. 18, showing Arbery running around the back of McMichael’s pickup truck after McMichael first pointed the shotgun at him. Arbery then runs around the passenger side as McMichael moves to the front and the two come face to face. After that, the truck blocks any view of them until the first gunshot sounds.
McMichael’s courtroom confession Wednesday marked the first time any of the three defendants spoke publicly about the killing. His father Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan did not testify. McMichael said Arbery forced him to make a split-second “life-or-death” decision by attacking him and grabbing his shotgun.
The prosecution noted that’s not what McMichael told police in an interview two hours after the shooting occurred.
“So you didn’t shoot him because he grabbed the barrel of your shotgun,” Dunikoski said. “You shot him because he came around that corner and you were right there and you just pulled the trigger immediately.”
“No, I was struck,” McMichael replied. “We were face to face, I’m being struck and that’s when I shot.”
McMichael said he had approached Arbery because neighbors indicated something had happened down the road and he wanted to ask Arbery about it. Arbery was running in the Brunswick neighborhood at the time. He said Arbery stopped, then took off running when McMichael told him police were on the way.
As multiple residents testified, outside the Glynn County courthouse hundreds of pastors gathered, while a defense lawyer renewed his bid to keep Black ministers out of the courtroom. Rev. Jesse Jackson again joined Arbery’s family inside, while Walmsley declined to take the issue up again, noting he’d already rejected the same motion from Bryan attorney Kevin Gough twice.
Gough has complained about everything from Rev. Al Sharpton’s presence inside the courtroom to the Black Lives Matter activists outside. “We had a huge protest at lunchtime that was so loud, with bullhorns literally 20 feet from the front door of this courthouse, that you could literally hear what was being said at the doors of this courtroom,” Gough told the judge.
This is a still-developing story.