Under Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law — a Civil War statute that was repealed six months ago but still applies in the trial because it was in effect at the time of the shooting — it was legal for an ordinary person to detain somebody suspected of committing a felony.
In weighing whether the defendants were justified in making a citizen’s arrest, however, the jury had to consider whether the men “reasonably suspected” that Arbery had committed a felony and was trying to escape.
As they deliberated in the Glynn County courthouse, jurors had to sort through a lengthy indictment with complex, interlocking charges.
Prosecutors charged the three defendants not just individually but as “parties concerned in the commission of a crime,” meaning that if the jury found that one man committed a felony, it could convict them all of that crime.
Lawyers presented widely different narratives in court. Prosecutors said the three men made “assumptions” about Arbery, had no evidence he had committed a crime and gave chase “because he was a Black man running down the street.”
Defense attorneys argued that Arbery was “not an innocent victim” and that the defendants had reasonable suspicion that Arbery had committed burglaries in their neighborhood and, therefore, “the right to perform a citizen’s arrest.”
During the trial, the jury was able to watch the final moments before the shooting. In a short, grainy cellphone video shot by Bryan as he drove his pickup truck, Arbery can be seen running along a sun-dappled street shaded by live oak trees toward a parked pickup truck. Gregory McMichael is standing up in the truck bed with a handgun, and Travis McMichael stands beside the open driver-side door holding a shotgun.
As Arbery runs past the truck on the passenger side, the camera pans away and then shows Arbery swerving to the left and disappearing briefly from view behind the truck.
A gunshot rings out, and Arbery can be seen on the driver’s side tussling with Travis McMichael over the gun. A second shot rings out, and Arbery wrestles with McMichael. A third shot is fired at point-blank range and Arbery stumbles to the ground.
The jury was also presented with security camera videos showing Arbery entering a home under construction in the neighborhood multiple times in the months leading up to Feb. 23 — the last time just minutes before he was shot dead.©2021 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.