We still don’t have an official date for the trial of Travis and Gregory McMichael in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, but attorneys for the father and son are hoping that when the trial does begin, jurors won’t hear any reference to Arbery as the “victim” in the case.
In a new court filing, the McMichaels’ defense team are asking a judge to impose several conditions on prosecutors and spectators in the courtroom once the trial gets underway.
Defendants, Travis and Greg McMichael, respectfully move that the prosecution be prohibited from the use of prejudicial terms at trial, during jury selection, or in the presence of witnesses,’ the attorneys wrote in the motion filed on December 30.
‘These terms include the use of the word “victim.” The purpose of this motion is to prevent the prosecution from ignoring its duty to prove beyond reasonable doubt that crimes were actually committed and that McMichaels committed the crimes as charged.
‘Due process requires minimal injection of error or prejudice into these proceedings. Use of terms such as “victim” allows the focus to shift to the accused rather than remain on the proof of every element of the crimes charged.’
In addition to that motion, the attorneys also filed others, asking that the number of in-life photos are limited to one and that court spectators in the trial be prohibited from wearing facemasks or t-shirts with slogans like ‘Black Lives Matter’.
The McMichaels both argue that the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery was self-defense, not murder, so you can understand why their attorneys would try to convince a judge that referring to Arbery as a “victim” could be considered prejudicial. On the other hand, the McMichaels are charged with the murder of Arbery, so in the eyes of the state of Georgia, the 19-year old was a victim when he was shot by Travis McMichael.
According to Ahmaud Arbery’s family, the teenager was out jogging on February 23rd. The McMichaels have repeatedly said that they believed Arbery was responsible for several recent trespasses of an unfinished home in the neighborhood, and believed that he may have been responsible for the theft of a gun from Travis McMichael’s truck several weeks earlier.
After Gregory McMichael saw Arbery “hauling ass” while running down the street on the afternoon of the 23rd, he grabbed a pistol while his son got his shotgun, and the pair began pursuing Arbery along with neighbor William Bryan. The trio, in two vehicles, repeatedly tried to stop Arbery, eventually blocking the road as he ran up to the truck driven by Travis McMichael.
McMichael stepped out the truck, shotgun in hand, and Arbery first tried to run around the man before turning and charging at him. A split second later Travis McMichael opened fire, striking Arbery in the abdomen.
While the McMichaels say that Travis McMichael had no choice but to pull the trigger, prosecutors have argued that the three men had no legal right to try to chase down and detain Arbery in the first place, and that it was Arbery who was acting in self-defense when, after trying and failing to avoid the three men chasing him, he reached for McMichael’s shotgun.
By the way, prosecutors have made a few requests of their own to the judge overseeing the case, including asking that the defense be blocked from introducing any evidence about Arbery’s previous run-ins with the law, convictions, and mental health history. So far the judge has yet to rule on the motions filed by prosecutors and the McMichaels defense team, and with a trial date not yet set, it could be some time before we learn what parameters will be in place when jurors begin to hear testimony.
I’ve said before that, based on the available evidence, I think that charges against the McMichaels and William Bryan are appropriate. It’s pretty clear that under Georgia law they had no legal right to try to detain the young man, no matter what crimes they might have believed he was responsible for in the past. I’m not convinced that the three men had set out to murder Arbery when they began to pursue him, but without the pursuit itself and attempt to detain Arbery at gun point the shooting wouldn’t have happened. Even if the jury never hears Ahmaud Arbery referred to as a “victim,” the facts of the case are going to make it difficult for the three defendants to successfully argue that they were acting in self-defense.