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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6:28 p.m. ET, November 23, 2021

Jury breaks for the night after about 6 hours of deliberations

From CNN's Devon M. Sayers and Alta Spells

The jury in the trial of three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery finished deliberations for the day and is breaking for the night.

The jurors will reconvene at 8:30 a.m. ET Wednesday.

The Jury spent just over six hours deliberating today, beginning at 11:53 a.m. and ending around 6:20 p.m. ET.

The jury is considering charges against Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., who are charged with malice and felony murder in Arbery's death. The 25-year-old Black man was jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, when he was fatally shot in 2020.

4:41 p.m. ET, November 23, 2021

Here's a timeline of key moments of the Ahmaud Arbery murder case

From CNN's Dakin Andone

Courtesy S. Lee Merritt
Courtesy S. Lee Merritt

The jury has been deliberating for more than three hours in the trial for Ahmaud Arbery's 2020 killing.

Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. are charged with malice and felony murder

Arbery's killing sparked national outrage after a video of his shooting was made public. The 25-year-old Black man was out for a jog in Brunswick, Georgia, when he was fatally shot.

As we wait for a verdict to be reached, here's a timeline of the case:

  • Feb. 23, 2020 — Arbery is fatally shot: Arbery was shot dead in a confrontation with the McMichaels in the neighborhood of Satilla Shores, outside the city of Brunswick in Georgia's lowcountry. Arbery was on a jog — something he was known to do, according to those who knew him — when the McMichaels grabbed their guns and pursued Arbery. The men claimed to be conducting a citizen's arrest of Arbery. Bryan had also joined the pursuit and recorded the shooting on his cellphone.
  • Feb. 27, 2020 — Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney recuses herself: The day after the shooting, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself from the case, citing Gregory McMichael's position as a former investigator in her office. The attorney general's office says it received a letter from Johnson requesting the appointment of a new prosecutor on Feb. 27.
  • April 7, 2020 — Second prosecutor recuses himself: Waycross Judicial Circuit, George Barnhill, who took over the case after Johnson rescued herself, sent a letter to the Attorney General's Office informing the office of his own conflict of interest: His son worked in Johnson's office and had previously worked with Gregory McMichael on a previous prosecution of Arbery.
  • April 13, 2020 — The case is transferred to a third prosecutor: After receiving Barnhill's letter, the Attorney General's Office appointed Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden to the case. 
  • May 5, 2020: Video of the shooting surfaces: The 36-second video begins with Arbery jogging down the middle of a street toward a pickup truck stopped in the road. Gregory McMichael is in the bed of the truck while his son is standing near the driver's side door with a shotgun.
  • May 7, 2020 — The McMichaels are arrested: Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested on charges of murder and aggravated assault.
  • May 11, 2020 — A fourth prosecutor takes over: The attorney general announced a fourth prosecutor, Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes, would lead the case after Durden had asked to step down due to a lack of sufficient resources.
  • May 21, 2020 — Bryan is arrested: Two weeks after the McMichaels' arrests, the GBI arrested Bryan on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. 
  • June 24, 2020 — All three suspects indicted on murder charges: Four months after the shooting, a Glynn County grand jury indicted Gregory and Travis McMichael and Roddie Bryan on malice and felony murder charges in Arbery's death, District Attorney Holmes announced.
  • July 17, 2020 — Suspects plead not guilty: All three pleaded not guilty to the charges they face in mid-July 2020.
  • April 28, 2021 — Suspects are indicted on federal hate crime charges: In late April, federal prosecutors announced a grand jury had indicted the McMichaels and Bryan on hate crime and kidnapping charges.
  • May 11, 2021 — Suspects plead not guilty in federal court: The McMichaels and Bryan all pleaded not guilty to the federal charges in a hearing May 11. They remain in state custody, and the federal trial is set to begin February 2022.
  • Nov. 5, 2021 — Opening arguments in the Arbery murder trial begin: After a long and contentious jury selection process in a coastal Georgia county, a panel of 12 people — consisting of one Black member and 11 White members — was chosen. The younger McMichael took the stand during the trial as the defense's first witness and told the court he felt he was in a "life or death situation" when he shot Arbery. In her closing rebuttal, lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski emphasized to the jury that Arbery was accused of no crime and the defendants told police they knew of no crime he'd committed. Lawyers for the men charged with murder used their final statements to say the McMichaels and Bryan had reason to believe Arbery was up to no good because he'd entered an under-construction home and he ran when confronted.

CNN's Eliott C. McLaughlin, Devon M. Sayers, Alta Spells, Christina Maxouris contributed reporting to this post. 

2:54 p.m. ET, November 23, 2021

The jury is working through lunch  

From CNN's Devon M. Sayers and Alta Spells 

The jury considering charges for Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery, deliberated over lunch, the court's bailiff told the pool producer in the courtroom.  

The jury received the case shortly before noon today.

1:26 p.m. ET, November 23, 2021

The jury has been deliberating for more than 1 hour. Here's what we know about the panel.  

From CNN’s Alta Spells and Angela Barajas  

The trial jury consisting of 11 White jurors and one Black juror began deliberating on the charges facing Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their co-defendant William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., the three men accused of chasing and killing 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery just before noon this morning. 

There are nine White females, two White males and one Black male serving on the trial jury, with two White females and one White male serving as jury alternates, according to CNN analysis of juror data.

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. 

Georgia's Glynn County is about 70% White and 27% Black according to information from the US Census Bureau.

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

The judge overseeing the case 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.

Jury deliberations began at 11:53 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

12:18 p.m. ET, November 23, 2021

Ahmaud Arbery's mother: "We will get justice for Ahmaud"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Wanda Cooper-Jones speaks outside the Glynn County Courthouse on Tuesday.
Wanda Cooper-Jones speaks outside the Glynn County Courthouse on Tuesday. (CNN)

As the jury started deliberations in the trial of the three men accused in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, his parents and family attorney made short statements outside the courtroom in Brunswick, Georgia.

Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery's mother, said that the lead prosecutor Linda 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.

"It's time to allow the legal process to take its course. We are confident that the state put all the evidence out necessary to convict these men on all charges, and we're confident that this jury will seriously consider all the evidence and come back with a verdict that is reflective of what actually happened which is the brutal and unjustified murder of Ahmaud Arbery," said Lee Merritt, who represents Arbery's mother.

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

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.