The latest in the trial in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 6:45 PM ET, Mon November 22, 2021
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6:37 p.m. ET, November 22, 2021

The prosecution and defense made their closing arguments today. Here's what they said.

The prosecution and the defense delivered their closing arguments today in the trial of Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., the three men charged with malice and felony murder in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.

Here's what happened today in court:

  • Prosecution delivers closing argument: Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski began her closing argument saying the defendants' actions were not a lawful citizen's arrest because they were "not present when any crime was committed." She accused the men of shooting and killing Arbery because he wouldn't stop and talk to them.
  • Prosecutor says the defendants "trapped" Arbery: Dunikoski argued the defendants had "trapped" Arbery "between two cars with no weapon, and no way for anyone to help him." 
  • Defense delivers closing argument: Defense attorney Jason Sheffield began his closing argument saying that before Travis McMichael shot Arbery, he believed "that he has committed the offense of burglary." 
  • Defense attorney argues defendants performed a citizen's arrest: Sheffield hit back at the prosecution's argument, saying McMichael had "the right to perform a citizen's arrest" and that McMichael viewed Arbery as a "recurring intruder" who might be armed.
  • Defense files for mistrial over protests outside courthouse: The defense filed another motion for a mistrial, after seeing a group of protesters with "large weapons" and a coffin containing the name of the defendants on the back of a truck outside the courthouse. Some demonstrators described themselves as members of the New Black Panther Party and the Lion of Judah Armed Forces and said they were exercising their Second Amendment rights.

6:39 p.m. ET, November 22, 2021

Mother of Ahmaud Arbury calls defense "beyond rude"

From CNN's Devon M. Sayers and Alta Spells

Ahmaud Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones, left, along with her attorney Lee Merritt, listens to William "Roddie" Bryan's defense attorney Kevin Gough present his closing statement to the jury, Monday, November 22.
Ahmaud Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones, left, along with her attorney Lee Merritt, listens to William "Roddie" Bryan's defense attorney Kevin Gough present his closing statement to the jury, Monday, November 22. (Stephen B. Morton/Pool/AP)

Speaking after the defense finished their closing arguments in the trial of the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery, his mother called comments made in court by one of the defense attorneys “beyond rude.”

Arbery’s parents, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbury Sr., spoke to the media from the courthouse steps right after the defense finished their closing arguments.

“This was very difficult for the family, you saw them at different stages walk out the courtroom, because literally after those men in that courtroom assassinated their child, now they’re sitting here assassinating his character,” family attorney Ben Crump said.

“She described Ahmaud as his long legs and his dirty long toenails, that was just beyond rude,” said Cooper-Jones speaking about comments made during closing statements by Gregory McMichael's attorney Laura Hogue.

“Regardless of what kind of toenails he had, what size legs he had, that was still my son, and my son actually was running for his life in that description. I thought that was just flat out just rude,” she continued

“It’s just wrong,” Marcus Arbery Sr, said about the defenses' attempts to frame his son negatively. “So, the way that they tried to characterize his is just really hurting to his mom and me,” Arbery’s father said.

“They got no defense ground so she trying anything, they desperate so we already know that. So, all we want is justice. Justice for Ahamad,” he added.

“They had dozens of other people who visited the home, nobody chased them, nobody said that they burglarized the home, why is that?” asked Crump, suggesting race played a key role in Arbery’s death.

6:06 p.m. ET, November 22, 2021

White House in touch with local authorities ahead of Arbery verdict 

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

The White House is in touch with local authorities ahead of the verdict in the Ahmaud Arbery killing trial, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, but she didn’t say whether President Biden has been keeping up with the trial. 

“I'm not going to speak to obviously an ongoing trial,” Psaki said from aboard Air Force One. “As we know there's closing arguments that have been broadcast on television. It’s certainly possible the President has seen those but I'm not going to have a comment – nor will he – before they conclude.” 

"The President has spoken many times to this horrific event in the past. And it's not just about this case, in his view, we have a lot of work to do as a nation," she added.

Psaki said the White House was “in touch with local authorities,” about where “there may be concerns,” and would offer assistance as needed, as the administration did during the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.

5:05 p.m. ET, November 22, 2021

Court adjourns for the day

From CNN's Mike Hayes


The judge in the trial of three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery informed the court that he is sending the jury home for the day.

Following the conclusion of the defense closing arguments, the lead prosecutor told the judge that the state planned to take two hours to present its rebuttal argument. The judge asked the jury if they wanted to continue today or resume proceedings tomorrow morning, and the jury said they wanted to leave for the evening.

"Based on that, I'm going to go ahead and break for the day," the judge said.

He said that the court will start at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow and continue with closing arguments at that time. 

4:55 p.m. ET, November 22, 2021

Prosecution's closing rebuttal expected to take 2 hours

From CNN's Devon M. Sayers and Alta Spells

Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the judge that she expected to use two hours for her rebuttal Monday afternoon, just before the court recessed for a short break. 

Judge Timothy Walmsley plans to ask the jurors whether they want to continue this evening or wait until tomorrow when they return.

Speaking to attorneys without the jury in the room, the judge said he would charge the jury tomorrow.

4:48 p.m. ET, November 22, 2021

Defense teams finish their closing arguments in the trial of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery

From CNN's Devon M. Sayers and Alta Spells 

The defense teams of the three men accused of chasing and killing 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery have completed their closing arguments.  

Kevin Gough, William "Roddie" Bryan's attorney, was the last of the three attorneys to present his closing statements Monday afternoon. He spoke for nearly two hours, finishing shortly after 4:30 p.m. ET.

The court is in a short recess. The prosecution will have a chance to make remarks when the court reconvenes.

4:53 p.m. ET, November 22, 2021

Bryan's "trust" in police "was not rewarded," his defense attorney says

From CNN's Mike Hayes

Defense attorney Kevin Gough concluded his closing argument by asking the jury to send his client, William "Roddie" Bryan, "home."

He asked that the jury consider three questions when they deliberate the case: "When did Roddie Bryan know that the McMichaels brought guns? When did Roddie Bryan know that Travis McMichael would shoot Mr. Arbery? And at that point but, what could Roddie Bryan possibly have done to stop it?" 

Gough said that his client, who provided cell phone video of the shooting to the police, "put his faith" in law enforcement, but his "trust was not rewarded."

"Mr. Bryan put his faith in a Glynn County police department. And then he put his faith in the GBI [Georgia Bureau of Investigation]. He put his trust in law enforcement. He put his trust in our government to do the right thing by him. But his trust was not rewarded."

He asked the jury to return a verdict of not guilty on all counts for Bryan.

Gough was the final of three defense attorneys to make closing arguments in the case.

4:28 p.m. ET, November 22, 2021

Bryan's defense attorney says his client's "presence" was "superfluous...irrelevant" to Arbery's death

From CNN's Mike Hayes

Defense attorney Kevin Gough said, during his closing argument, that his client, William "Roddie" Bryan's "presence" during the killing of Ahmaud Arbery "is absolutely superfluous, and irrelevant to the tragedy." 

Gough argued that by the time Bryan came upon the scene, his codefendants, Travis and Gregory McMichael had "trapped" Arbery.

"Now, they do come down the road, and there is a time period before the shooting, or technically Mr. Bryan is behind Mr. Arbery. But it is clear, by this point, and certainly clear to Mr. Arbery that he cannot outrun the McMichaels. No matter where he goes, they can follow. So, again, how is Mr. Bryan's any meaningful way, a cause of this shooting?"

The defense attorney argued that the McMichaels "were certainly capable of catching up with [Arbery], and shooting him if that was their intention," without the presence of Bryan.

4:13 p.m. ET, November 22, 2021

Defense suggests William "Roddie" Bryan followed Arbery because of "divine providence"

From CNN's Mike Hayes


Defense attorney Kevin Gough played portions of the cell phone video that his client, William "Roddie" Bryan, captured of the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery during his closing statement Monday afternoon.

Bryan told the police that he followed Arbery in his truck and recorded the incident because he was trying to document what was going on. 

"He said that that is what he was trying to do," Gough noted during his closing.

But Gough continued by making the strange suggestion that Bryan continued pursuing Arbery because something was "guiding" him to do so.

"Maybe. And that is just me going out on a limb. I'm going to just suggest to you that perhaps, and I know that I'll get grief for this, I would submit to you that you can call it karma, you can call it faith, I would call it divine providence. Somebody is guiding Mr. Bryan, whether it is a conscious thought process or not. Something is guiding Mr. Bryan down the street to document what is going on," Gough said.