BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Attorneys for a white father and son charged with chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery asked a judge Wednesday to allow evidence of the slain Black man's past problems to be presented when their clients stand trial for murder.
Four law enforcement officers took the witness stand at a pretrial hearing and detailed prior encounters with Arbery, including two arrests, that defense lawyers ultimately want a jury to hear. They also sought permission to introduce evidence Arbery suffered from a mental illness.
“They're trying to make it like he's on trial,” the slain man's father, Marcus Arbery Sr., told reporters outside the Glynn County courthouse. “But he ain't.”
Prosecutors argued that Arbery's criminal record and other prior problems should be kept out of the trial, saying they are irrelevant to the defendants' decision to arm themselves and ultimately shoot a man who was trying to run away.
Travis McMichael and his father, Greg McMichael, pursued the 25-year-old in a pickup truck after they spotted him running in their neighborhood Feb. 23, 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun.
Defense attorneys argue the three men committed no crimes. They say the McMichaels suspected Arbery was a burglar after he was recorded by video cameras inside a home under construction. Travis McMichael's lawyers say he shot Arbery in self-defense.
Prosecutors say nothing was stolen from the construction site and Arbery was merely jogging.
Jason Sheffield, one of Travis McMichael's lawyers, told Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley on Wednesday that Arbery's past arrests and other incidents include not only “theft crimes.” He said they also show Arbery — when confronted by police or other authority figures — would become “angry and aggressive, physically and verbally.”