The trial got underway Friday for three white men standing trial in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man whose killing was largely ignored until a leaked cellphone video stirred outrage that deepened a national reckoning over racial injustice.
Watch the opening remarks in the player above.
Greg McMichael and his adult son, Travis McMichael, armed themselves and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck as he ran through their neighborhood just outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase and recorded graphic video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times with a shotgun.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley swore the jury in to hear opening statements from prosecutors and defense attorneys. All three defendants are standing trial together, charged with murder and other felony counts.
Robert Rubin, the attorney for Travis McMichael, laid out a claim of self-defense in his opening statement.
“What we’re asking you to do is hard. And it may be unpopular, but we’re asking you to recognize your responsibility as jurors and being open to the facts and putting aside emotion and listening to the law and applying that and doing your duty,” Rubin said.
Georgia’s response to the killing has become part of a broader effort to address racial injustice in the criminal legal system after a string of fatal encounters between police and Black people such as George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.
Arbery had been dead for more than two months before the McMichaels and Bryan were charged and jailed last year. Greg McMichael, a retired investigator for the local district attorney, told police the men were trying to stop Arbery because they suspected he was a burglar. Security cameras had recorded him entering a nearby house under construction.
Greg McMichael said his son killed Arbery in self-defense after Arbery attacked with his fists and tried to take Travis McMichael’s gun.