By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
In the trial of the three white men involved in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who seemingly jogged innocently through a predominately Caucasian neighborhood in February 2020, the chief prosecutor provided jurors with a dynamic closing argument.
Looking at the defendants, Greg and Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan,” as she delivered closing arguments, Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski railed, “You can’t start something and claim self-defense.”
Then pointing toward the men, Dunikoski remarked: “And they started this.”
Judge Timothy R. Walmsley then charged the jury, which retired for deliberation on Tuesday, November 23.
Arbery, 25, jogged through Satilla Shores, a neighborhood in Glynn County, Georgia, where the primarily white population outnumber Black residents by 70 percent to 26 percent.
As the McMichael duo chased their vehicle, Bryan helped to trap Arbery with his pickup truck, and Travis McMichael fatally shot him.
Throughout the trial, defense attorneys objected to the presence of Black pastors, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton arrived on varying days to offer support to Arbery’s family.
The racially charged case grew tenser during Defense Attorney Laura Hogue’s inciteful statements during her closing arguments.
“Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails,” Hogue remarked.
Many in the legal community immediately rebuked Hogue’s statement to the jurors, and Arbery’s mother walked out of the courtroom.
“I thought it was very, very rude to talk about his long, dirty toenails and to totally neglect that my son had a huge hole in his chest when he was shot with that shotgun,” Wanda Cooper Jones, Arbery’s mother, said in a televised interview after the comments.
They will also consider one count of malice murder and felony murder for each defendant, and both charges carry a sentence of life in prison without parole or the death penalty. However, prosecutors said they were not seeking death in the case.
The three defendants also face two counts each of aggravated assault, which carries a maximum 20-year sentence.
The 12-member panel also will deliberate on charges of false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony.
Each of the defendants has pleaded not guilty.