Ahmaud Arbery killing trial: Prosecutor delivers final rebuttal in the trial over Ahmaud Arbery’s killing

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski delivered her rebuttal early Tuesday. She had almost two hours remaining after delivering the first part of her closing arguments ahead of the defense teams. Dunikoski seized on the defense notion that the McMichaels were scared — and that their Glynn County, Georgia’ s Satilla Shores neighborhood had been living in fear because of crime in the area. She flatly said the armed men’s decision to chase Arbery for five minutes in their trucks is evidence alone they weren’t frightened. They had alternatives — including never chasing Arbery or calling police to deal with Arbery — but instead they chose to keep chasing him even after Arbery repeatedly tried to elude them on foot, said Dunikoski. They committed aggravated assault with their trucks — and the McMichaels, with their guns — while trying to falsely imprison Arbery, she said. During the course of these felonies, Dunikoski said, they killed Arbery. “If you take that out would he be alive?” she asked the jury. “It’s real simple. The answer is you can’t take out any of these crimes. If you take out any one of these crimes that they committed and he’s still alive. All of the underlying felonies played a substantial and necessary part in causing the death of Ahmaud Arbery.”Claims that they were protecting themselves and their neighborhood appear spurious when you consider that the property owner never accused Arbery of any crimes — aside from entering the property without incident — and nothing had been stolen in the 14 months prior to Arbery’s fatal shooting, she said. Dunikoski has previously cast doubt on the idea that Travis McMichael acted in self-defense when Arbery, unarmed and on foot, tried for five minutes to elude three men, two of them armed, chasing him in a pair of pickup trucks. She asked the jury: Why, if this was about stopping crime, did the McMichaels never mention a specific crime or citizen’s arrest to the police when they arrived at the shooting scene?Dunikoski finished her rebuttal just after 10:30 a.m. ET. Following a short recess, Judge Timothy Walmsley began giving the jury its instructions before releasing them for deliberations. Judge denies motion for mistrialDefense lawyers made remarks Monday that some legal experts felt were racially insensitive, and Dunikoski has been insistent that the defendants targeted Arbery “because he was a Black man running down the street.”The men acted on gossip and rumor, on “assumptions and driveway decisions,” she has said, and they had no immediate knowledge Arbery had committed a crime, a key factor to claiming citizen’s arrest as the McMichaels are doing. The defense moved for a mistrial based on what they said was Dunkioski’s misstatement of the state’s now-defunct citizen’s arrest law, but Walmsley denied the motion.Travis McMichael also acknowledged several times that he never saw Arbery armed, never heard Arbery threaten him and that Arbery showed no interest in conversing with McMichael.Along with his father, Gregory McMichael, and Bryan, his neighbor, Travis McMichael faces charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony in the February 23, 2020, killing. The trio pursued Arbery — whom they said they suspected of burglary — in their vehicles, which led to Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery. The three men have pleaded not guilty. Travis McMichael testified he shot Arbery in self-defense after Arbery grabbed his gun and told Dunikoski he was “scattered” and traumatized when he initially told police he did not know if Arbery grabbed the shotgun. If convicted, the men face sentences of up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Family objects to comments from defense attorneyOn Monday, Hogue claimed in court that Arbery repeatedly trespassed — and perhaps more — when entering an open construction site in the neighborhood outside Brunswick. “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 said.Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones,almost tripped leaving the courtroom after Hogue’s remark, saying “I gotta get out of here.”Arbery was never charged with any crimes in the neighborhood, and the owner of the construction site has never said he committed a crime, just that Arbery was caught on camera at the property. Race has been a key focus during the trial, with Arbery being Black and the three defendants as well as 11 of the 12 jurors being White. Ben Crump, an attorney for Arbery’s father, suggested race played a role in Arbery’s death.”They had dozens of other people who visited the home. Nobody chased them. Nobody said that they burglarized the home. Why is that?” Crump asked Monday.It was a point important to Dunikoski’s Tuesday rebuttal, as she acknowledged Arbery had been to the under-construction property multiple times. But he never stole anything, she said. Responding to defense implications that Arbery could’ve been responsible for items stolen from a boat in 2019, Dunikoski pointed out that property owner Larry English told police he had no idea who stole the items, the items may have been stolen at another location when he moved his boat, and that he suspected subcontractors working on the property might be responsible. In fact, English testified in a deposition, he wasn’t sure anyone stole anything — not the lumber, not an expensive saw — from the property in all of 2019 or in the first two months of 2020 before Arbery was killed, she said. Video from December 2020, showing Arbery inside the home looking around and nothing more, also appeared to provide a counterpoint to the defense argument that Arbery was never known to jog in Satilla Shores. In the video, which Dunikoski played for jurors in closing, Arbery exits the home empty handed, walks toward the street and breaks into a jog, disappearing from the camera view as he runs down Satilla Drive. “What’s Mr. Arbery doing? More importantly, what’s Mr. Arbery not doing?” she asked the jury in reference to the video. If Arbery committed a crime, Dunikoski said, it was criminal trespass, or maybe prowling or loitering, all of them misdemeanors — and none of them meeting the prerequisite for the McMichaels or Bryan to invoke citizen’s arrest. They even told police they didn’t know if Arbery had been in English’s house, she reminded jurors. “If the (McMichaels and Bryan) were not conducting a lawful citizen’s arrest, you do not have to consider — you still may if you want to — but you don’t really have to consider self-defense because if it’s not a lawful citizen’s arrest — that they were the first unjustified aggressors and they were committing felonies against Mr. Arbery, and therefore they don’t get to claim self-defense and you can go directly to the charges in the indictment.”Lawyers: Defendants just protecting neighborhoodAttorneys for each of the three defendants presented their own closings Monday.”Travis McMichael spent almost a decade of his life learning about duty and responsibility,” his attorney Jason Sheffield said, referring to McMichael’s time in the US Coast Guard. “He received extensive training on how to make a decision that will ultimately impact his beliefs.” Dunikoski countered that Travis McMichael didn’t follow his training and pointed out couldn’t have been adhering to de-escalation techniques when he chased Arbery — his armed father cursing at Arbery from the truck bed — and then exited his truck with a shotgun after blocking the road in front of Arbery. In his closing, Sheffield reiterated the feelings of neighbors who testified they were afraid because of incidents in the neighborhood, including burglaries. Sheffield argued that Travis McMichael felt a “responsibility” to help protect the neighborhood. “These are real experiences with real people who were very scared, and so they took it upon themselves to do something about it — got cameras, called the police, notify each other, citizens’ watch, neighborhood watch,” Sheffield said. Hogue told the jury they needed only to consider two questions when determining his guilt.”Did Greg McMichael have reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion to believe that Ahmaud Arbery had committed a burglary … and did he have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that Ahmaud Arbery was escaping or attempting to escape yet again?” she said.Attorney Kevin Gough, who represents Bryan, described his client as a mere witness. Gough argued that considerations should be made for Bryan as he was the one who filmed the video that changed the course of the investigation. “He did not know and could not know, hat Arbery would be shot. By that time, sadly, there was nothing that Roddie Bryan could do to prevent this tragedy. He didn’t shoot anyone. At the time of the shooting, he was some distance back. He was armed only with his cell phone,” Gough told the jury.”Ladies and gentlemen, without Roddie Bryan, there is no case,” he said.In her closing, Dunikoski emphasized that everyone is responsible. Because all three men convicted felonies before Travis McMichael shot Arbery, they are parties to the crime, she said. “Under the law in Georgia, it’s as if they were all holding the gun together,” she said. CNN’s Travis Caldwell, Alta Spells, Martin Savidge, Angela Barajas, Jade Gordon, Theresa Waldrop and Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.

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