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Three men involved in Ahmaud Arbery's killing found guilty of murder

The jury reached a verdict in the case on Wednesday.

Posted: Nov 24, 2021 10:55 AM
Updated: Nov 24, 2021 12:53 PM

(CNN) -- A jury delivered guilty verdicts Wednesday on murder charges against three White men who chased and shot Ahmaud Arbery as the 25-year-old Black man jogged last year through their Glynn County, Georgia, neighborhood.

Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. were all found guilty on multiple charges in connection with the murder.

Jurors in the trial of three men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery began their second day of deliberations Wednesday morning.

Roughly 90 minutes into Wednesday's proceedings, the jury requested to review two video clips, one of them enhanced, from the scene of the February 23, 2020, fatal shooting, as well as the audio of Gregory McMichael's 911 call that day. They watched each video snippet three times and listened to the 911 audio once before returning to the jury room.

The jury took a short lunch break before resuming deliberations just before 1 p.m. ET.

Deliberations come after eight days of testimony, involving 23 witnesses. The jury reviewed the case for more than six hours Tuesday after the prosecution presented a rebuttal to the defense's closing arguments.

Ahmaud Arbery killing trial: Live updates

Three men -- Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. -- are standing trial on charges related to the shooting of Arbery in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23, 2020.

Each of the defendants face nine separate charges, including malice and felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. If the jury finds Bryan not guilty of a second aggravated assault charge, they can consider three lesser misdemeanor charges for simple assault, reckless conduct, or reckless driving.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges. The McMichaels claim they were conducting a citizen's arrest after suspecting Arbery of burglary of a nearby home under construction, and that Travis McMichael acted in self-defense by shooting Arbery. Bryan maintains he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

If jury deliberations continue past Wednesday, court will adjourn for the Thanksgiving holiday and deliberations may resume Friday and Saturday if needed.

Authorities are preparing for all possible outcomes following a verdict in terms of public reaction, which has been keyed in on a trial that consistently revolved around issues of self-defense and race.

"We plan for the worst, but we hope for the best. But we're trying to come up with contingencies for many different scenarios that could unfold as a result of the verdict," said Glynn County Police Department Captain Jeremiah Bergquist, who also heads the local task force unit overseeing public safety during the trial.

Prosecution gave rebuttal Tuesday

Attorneys for each of the three defendants offered different arguments Monday for why their clients were not guilty.

Alongside Travis McMichael's central argument of self-defense, Gregory McMichael's attorney Laura Hogue repeatedly claimed that Arbery was a habitual trespasser in the area, and said jurors should consider that Gregory McMichael had proper reasonable suspicion of Arbery to act.

Kevin Gough, an attorney for Bryan, said Bryan was more of a witness than anything else and that his video showing the shooting enabled the case to move forward.

Tuesday brought a rebuttal from lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, who emphasized to the jury that the men acted on suspicions alone and had no evidence Arbery had committed a crime. Travis McMichael also had inconsistencies from testimony in court when compared to statements made to police right after the shooting, she added.

Dunikoski said all three men were culpable of the charges faced because they could have de-escalated the situation by calling police or not chasing Arbery. Instead, she argued, the men committed aggravated assault with their trucks when chasing and trying to falsely imprison Arbery, leading to the moment Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery.

"If you take that out, would he be alive?" she asked the jury of Arbery. "It's real simple. The answer is you can't take out any of these crimes. If you take out any one of these crimes that they committed and he's still alive. All of the underlying felonies played a substantial and necessary part in causing the death of Ahmaud Arbery."

Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery's mother, said Tuesday after court proceedings that Dunikoski "did a fantastic job" in her final rebuttal.

"She presented the evidence again very well. I do think that we will come back with a guilty verdict, and I want to leave with this: God has brought us this far, and he's not going to fail us now. We will get justice for Ahmaud," she told reporters.

Marcus Arbery Sr., Arbery's father, said what he saw in the courtroom was "devastating," but also expressed confidence in getting a guilty verdict.

After the jury started to deliberate, Travis McMichael's attorney, Jason Sheffield said, "I feel very confident in the case that we have put forward. I feel very confident in the evidence of Travis' innocence," adding "we will accept the verdict whatever it is."

Makeup of jury was source of contention

Nine White women, two White men and one Black man are serving on the trial jury, with two White women and one White man serving as jury alternates, according to a CNN analysis of juror data.

Only having one Black juror has been a key complaint from prosecutors and Arbery's family, as Glynn County's population is about 69% White and 26% Black, according to 2019 data from the US Census Bureau. Arbery was Black and the defendants are White.

The 12-member trial jury and three alternates were selected after a protracted jury selection process that lasted two and a half weeks and included summoning 1,000 prospective jurors from the South Georgia coastal community. Of those summoned, less than half showed up.

The makeup of the jury was challenged by the state at the conclusion of the jury selection process. Dunikoski claimed defense attorneys disproportionately struck qualified Black jurors and based some of their strikes on race.

Judge Timothy Walmsley said, "This court has found that there appears to be intentional discrimination," but ruled that the case could go forward with the selected jurors because the defense was able to provide valid reasons, beyond race, for why the other Black jurors were dismissed.

Defense attorneys also took issue with there being fewer older White men without college degrees in the juror pool, saying the demographic was underrepresented.

The-CNN-Wire
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