Jurors were told Tuesday that the three Georgia men who shot and killed black runner Ahmaud Arbery in February 2020 had a long history of racist remarks and were motivated by anti-black animosity.
Three – Gregory McMichael, 66; his son Travis McMichael, 36, and neighbor William “Roddy” Bryan, 52, were convicted in November of Arbery’s murder and all received life sentences, with only Bryan even having the option of parole.
Their federal hate crime trial began on Monday, with prosecutors set out to prove that the trio were racially motivated, which is notoriously difficult to confirm.
Their state court, which found them guilty, did not delve into the motivations of the three men and instead avoided the difficult issue of race.
As Arbery’s parents sat in a courtroom in Brunswick, Georgia, prosecutors portrayed the trio as deeply racist relics of a bygone era.
Barbara Bernstein, deputy chief of the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, said that if Arbery, an avid jogger, were white, he could go on an afternoon run unhindered and “be home in time for Sunday dinner.”
She told the court: “Instead, he went for a run and ended up saving his life by running.
“Instead, he bled out, alone and scared, in the middle of the street.”
Travis McMichael, his father Gregory and their neighbor William “Roddy” Bryan were called racist murderers by prosecutors on Tuesday.
Ahmad Arbery, 25, was shot dead in February 2020. Now his killers face trial for hate crimes.
Arbery’s mother is seen on January 7, when the trio were sentenced.
Bernstein cited several posts posted on Facebook and elsewhere in which all three men used racial epithets.
She particularly highlighted the words of Travis McMichael, who shot Arbery, who she said made violent and racist statements on social media, including calling blacks “monkeys” and “subhuman savages.”
He also told a friend that he was glad to leave the Coast Guard because he no longer needed to work with or be around black people, she added.
She said the jury would hear from a witness how Gregory McMichael “had racist rants about black people.”
Bernstein said Bryan used a racist epithet in an online post after learning four days before Arbery’s death that his daughter was dating a black man.
Defense lawyers for the three men said in their opening statements that they find their clients’ use of racist epithets deeply offensive, but stressed that this is not grounds for convicting them.
Arbery trips and falls to the ground after being shot by Travis McMichael.
They said the men were not motivated by the Arbery race.
“I can’t stand in front of you and tell you that my client never used the N-word,” said Amy Copeland, Travis McMichael’s lawyer.
‘He did. He left a digital footprint in a few years.”
But Copeland said Travis McMichael was mostly concerned about the cases of theft that put his area on high alert when he decided to go after Arbery.
Forensic experts said it will be the task of prosecutors to back up evidence of racist language with evidence that the three men were racially motivated on the day of the shooting.
The court is to hear Special Agent Richard Dial of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who previously testified that Brian told his office that Travis McMichael uttered a racist slur as Arbery lay dying.
Brian’s lawyer, Pete Theodokion, attempted to distance his client from the McMichaels, stating that when he joined the McMichaels in prosecuting the Arberys, he suggested “he (Arbery) did something wrong, but not because of his race” .
Travis McMichael in court on January 7 during sentencing.
Hate crimes are especially difficult to prove.
Between 2005 and 2019, the Department of Justice opened only 17 percent of alleged hate crime cases, according to a report published in July 2021.
Travis McMichael said at a hearing last month that he was willing to plead guilty to assaulting Arbery because of his “race and color” after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors.
But he changed his mind after Judge Lisa Wood rejected the agreement, saying she couldn’t accept it because it obliged her to sentence McMichael to 30 years in federal prison before he was returned to Georgia to serve out the rest of his life. . sentence for murder.
She said she needed more information to know if the 30-year sentence was fair and gave emotional testimony from the Arbery family.
The case is expected to last 12 days.