Jury begins deliberations in trial in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery

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

Updated 9:14 PM ET, Tue November 23, 2021
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11:54 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

Jury released for deliberations in trial of 3 men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery

From CNN’s Devon M. Sayers and Alta Spells  

Left to right: Travis McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan and Gregory McMichael
Left to right: Travis McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan and Gregory McMichael (Getty Images)

The jury has been released to begin deliberations in the trial of Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery.

Judge Timothy Walmsley spent about 50 minutes providing instructions to the jury.

The state of Georgia has accused the three White men with chasing down and killing Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, while he was out for a jog on Feb. 23, 2020, in the Satilla Shores neighborhood, just outside the Georgia city of Brunswick. 

The jury deciding the case consists of 11 White jurors and one Black juror.   

Each of the defendants face nine separate charges, including malice and felony murder (four), aggravated assault (two), false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony.  

If the jury finds Bryan not guilty of the 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 nine charges. The McMichaels claim they were conducting a citizen's arrest and that Travis McMichael acted in self-defense at the time of Arbery’s death. Bryan maintains he is innocence of any wrongdoing.

11:41 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

Judge instructs the jury on the law for making a citizen's arrest

From CNN's Mike Hayes

Before jury deliberations began, the judge in the trial over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery read the jury instructions in court on Tuesday.

During the trial, the prosecution and defense argued over whether the defendants had the right to make a citizen's arrest when they attempted to detain Arbery. The state's position was that the defendants did not have this right because they had not observed or had no "immediate knowledge" of any crime committed by Arbery when they confronted him on February 23, 2020.

The defense raised numerous objections to the state's description of the law for making a citizen's arrest. Throughout the trial, the judge reminded the jury that despite these arguments, it would be his responsibility to instruct them on how to interpret the law.

While reading the instructions, the judge noted that "the defendants have raised the defense that even if they have committed the acts described in the indictment, there are circumstances that justify it," including that they were attempting to make a "lawful" citizen's arrest. 

Here is how the judge described a lawful citizen's arrest for the jury:

"A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence, or within his immediate knowledge. If the offense is a felony, and the offender is escaping or attempting to escape, a private person may arrest him upon reasonable or probable grounds of suspicion."

The judge added that a "private person" may not attempt to make a citizen's arrest based on the "unsupported statement of others alone." 

He said that the citizen's arrest must occur "immediately after" the crime occurs or "in the case of felonies, during escape." 

"If the observer fails to make the arrest immediately after the commission of the offense, or during the escape in the case of felonies, his power to do so is extinguished," he said.

11:34 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

The judge is reading jury instructions

Judge Timothy Walmsley looks on as the prosecuton delivers its final rebuttal at the Glynn County courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, on November 23.
Judge Timothy Walmsley looks on as the prosecuton delivers its final rebuttal at the Glynn County courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, on November 23. (Octavio Jones/Pool/AP)

Judge Timothy Walmsley is reading the jury instructions after the prosecution wrapped its final rebuttal in the trial. The jury will then begin deliberations.

Travis McMichael, along with his father Gregory McMichael and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., face charges including malice murder and felony murder in the killing of Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020. The men pursued Arbery — whom they suspected of burglary — in their vehicles, which led to Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.

"Whatever your verdict is, it must be unanimous, that is, agreed by as to each count of the indictment, and as to each defendant," the judge explained. "Each verdict might be in writing, and signed by one of your members as foreperson, dated, and returned to be published in open court."

In her closing rebuttal, Linda Dunikoski, the lead prosecutor, argued that the defendants cannot use the claim of self-defense and asked the jury to find the men "guilty for all of the charges in the indictment."

"They started it; they do not get to claim self-defense. And then, of course, provocation. You can't force someone to defend themselves against you so you get to claim self-defense. This isn't the Wild West. No. So there's three instances where the defendants don't get to claim self-defense," Dunikoski told the jury.

What we know about the jury: The jury consists of one Black member and 11 White members. The jury's makeup has drawn criticism from Arbery's family and put into focus the South's history of racial exclusion in jury selection.

Ben Crump, an attorney representing the Arbery family, expressed his disappointment in the jury selection earlier this month, saying the final panel doesn't represent the population of the city were both Arbery and the defendants lived.

"A jury should reflect the community. Brunswick is 55% Black, so it's outrageous that Black jurors were intentionally excluded to create such an imbalanced jury in a cynical effort to help these cold-blooded killers escape justice," Crump said in a statement.

CNN's Nicole Chavez and Brandon Tensley contributed reporting in this post. 

10:43 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

Prosecution rests closing argument rebuttal 

From CNN’s Devon M. Sayers and Alta Spells 

Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski spent just under two hours this morning, rebutting claims made during the defense team's closing arguments on Monday.  

This ends the presentations from attorneys in the trial over the death of Ahmaud Arbery.  

Judge Timothy Walmsley is expected to instruct the jury before deliberations begin. 

10:41 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

Prosecution asks the jury to hold the defendants "accountable" for Ahmaud Arbery's killing

From CNN's Mike Hayes

(Octavio Jones/Pool/AP)
(Octavio Jones/Pool/AP)

Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski wrapped up a nearly two-hour-long rebuttal argument by telling the jury that this case is about "holding people accountable" for crimes that they committed.

"Ladies and gentlemen here is the thing, this is not about whether these 3 men are good people or bad people, that's not what this is about. It's about responsibility. It's about holding people accountable and responsible for their actions."

Dunikoski told the jury that "nobody gets a free pass" when they commit a crime like this.

"Nobody gets a free pass. Would you get a free pass? Who gets a free pass? No, the law basically says, if you commit the crime, you are going to be held responsible," she said.

She repeated for the jury that the case is not about whether somebody is a "good person or a bad person." 

"Ladies and gentlemen, when you come back with a guilty verdict on all the charges, this is not saying somebody is a good person or a bad person, when you are saying is you know they committed a crime. Now we know you committed a crime as well. That's all it is." 

Dunikoski asked the jury to find the defendants guilty of all charges.

10:38 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

Prosecutor says the McMichaels were working together: "That's why they are both responsible"

From CNN's Mike Hayes

(Pool)
(Pool)

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the jury that all three defendants — Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan — are equally responsible for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

Dunikoski said during her rebuttal argument on Tuesday that even though it was Travis McMichael who pulled the trigger and shot and killed Arbery, the other two defendants are culpable in his death because they were a "party to the crime."

She said that the McMichaels were "working together" to chase Arbery in their pickup truck.

"What are they doing in the truck? They are working together, Greg and Travis McMichael. That's why they are both responsible. You can think Greg McMichael is not a murderer? Yes, he is. He is just as big of a murderer as Travis McMichael," Dunikoski said.

Dunikoski said Bryan "decided to help" the McMichaels by chasing Arbery with his truck — at one point, "assaulting" Arbery with his vehicle — while he filmed the pursuit.

"Without Bryan chasing Ahmaud towards [the McMichaels], we would not be here," she said.

"When three people chase an unarmed man in pickup trucks with guns in order to violate his personal liberty, who gets to claim I am not responsible for that? Under the law in Georgia, no one gets to say that. Everybody is responsible," Dunikoski said.

10:46 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

Prosecutor: McMichael didn't know what Arbery did that day, "but he assumed the worst"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski played audio of the 911 call that Gregory McMichael made on February 23, 2020, when he, his son Travis McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. are accused of confronting and shooting 25-year-old Black man Ahmaud Arbery to death in Brunswick, Georgia.

On the call, McMichael can be heard saying:

"I'm out here at Satilla Shores. There's a Black male running down the street," then yelling, "Stop right there, god dammit! Stop!"

"What gives you the right to order Ahmaud Arbery to stop?" Dunikoski said in court.

"He didn't know what [Arbery had] done that day, but he assumed the worst; he must have committed some crime," Dunikoski added. "'What's your emergency?' 'There's a Black man running down the street.'"

10:19 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

McMichaels had no authority. They were "just some strange guys in a white pickup truck," prosecutor says

From CNN's Mike Hayes

(Pool)
(Pool)

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the jury during her rebuttal argument that the McMichaels had no law enforcement authority to stop Ahmaud Arbery.

"No badge, no uniform, no authority. Just some strange guys in a white pickup truck. Strangers...They don't have any authority to use verbal commands. This is a fellow citizen. This is another human being," she said.

The lead prosecutor noted that Travis McMichael never told Arbery or the police, after the shooting, that he was attempting to make a citizen's arrest or mentioned any specific crime that he saw Arbery commit.

"Wouldn't that be really, really important? Hey, I was trying to effectuate a citizen's arrest for a crime I know he committed. Would that now be something to tell the police? Never once, never told Mr. Arbery he was under arrest," Dunikoski said.

The state's rebuttal argument is ongoing.

10:05 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

Arbery entering construction site was misdemeanor of criminal trespassing, not a burglary, prosecutor says

From CNN's Mike Hayes

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski re-played for the jury a video on Tuesday of Ahmaud Arbery seen inside a Satilla Shores construction site a few weeks before he was shot.

In the clip, Arbery is seen walking around inside the construction of a home in the neighborhood before running off.

Dunikoski noted that one of the law enforcement officers who testified during the trial said that Arbery's actions looked consistent with criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor.

Dunikoski argued that the defense's suggestion that Arbery was "plundering" around the construction site and committed burglary, a felony, was not accurate.

"You saw the video. But did it look like from the video? Was he in there hiding? Was he in there crouched down?...Remember, nobody ever told him to not be on that property...the defense got here and said he is a burglar. He is a burglar, he is a burglar, he committed all of the burglaries. Why are there saying that?"

On why the defense is suggesting that Arbery committed a burglary, Dunikoski said, "Because they want it to be a burglary so it's a felony, so then they can chase him down." 

Dunikoski continued by playing a clip of a conversation between police and Gregory McMichael where he said that Arbery's actions appeared to be "criminal trespassing."