For prosecutors, this is a modern-day “lynching”.
The trial of the three white Americans indicted in the February 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African-American jogger, opened in Georgia with the start of jury selection.
This murder and the efforts of local authorities to cover it up, just before George Floyd's death, had catalyzed the anti-racism protests in the summer of 2020. In the event of a guilty verdict, Gregory McMichael, 65, his son Travis, 35, and their neighbor William Bryan, 52, could face capital punishment.
On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was jogging in Brunswick, a coastal town in the southern United States, when he was chased by the three men.
In a call to police, Travis McMichael claims the jogger entered a house under construction and he said looks like someone suspected of multiple burglaries in the neighborhood.
The three men assure that they wanted to carry out a “citizen arrest”, as authorized by the law of Georgia at the time. On a video filmed by their neighbor William Bryan, we see the father, armed with a pistol, and his son cutting the road to Ahmaud Arbery with their pick-up. The jogger tries to run around it. The son, Gregory McMichael, gets out of the vehicle armed with a shotgun. A struggle begins, first off-screen. Three rifle shots are heard. Ahmaud Arbery, shot twice in the chest and once in the arm, collapses.
The three men were charged with murder and false arrest - including the neighbor, because he, according to the prosecution, hit Ahmaud Arbery with his vehicle during the chase.
They were also charged with "hate crime" by federal justice, which will earn them a second trial in February 2022. According to a police officer who arrived on the scene, Travis McMichael notably shouted "Fucking nigger!"
("Fucking nigger") after killing Ahmaud Arbery.
" Self-defense "
All three defendants have pleaded not guilty.
Gregory McMichael asserts that Ahmaud Arbery "violently assaulted" his son - during the short off-screen moment in the video - who therefore acted in self-defense, according to him.
This strategy, based on the “stand your ground” doctrine, is reminiscent of that of George Zimmerman, the armed neighborhood vigilante who had chased and killed Trayvon Martin in 2012 after an altercation.
Zimmerman had been acquitted.
According to CCTV footage, Ahmaud Arbery stopped for three minutes in the house under construction.
But according to the owner's lawyer, he did not steal anything and it is possible that he stopped - as well as several times in the previous months - to drink water.
Before the hearing, finally, the judge ruled: the defense will not have the right to evoke
Prosecutor indicted for protecting suspects
Rare fact: One of the local prosecutors, Jackie Johnson, was indicted in September for violating his oath of office.
According to the indictment, she "showed favor and affection" towards Gregory McMichael, a former police officer who worked for a long time in his department, and ordered investigating officers not to arrest her son.
The selection stage of the 12 members of the jury and the four alternates should last at least two weeks, with an opening of the debates expected in early December.
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