Jurors deliberate in Arbery killing trial

·2-min read

A jury in the US has begun deliberating over whether three white men are guilty of murder for chasing and shooting Ahmaud Arbery as he ran through their mostly white neighbourhood last year.

After being sworn in Georgia more than two weeks ago, the 12-member jury heard from more than two dozen witnesses.

These included Travis McMichael, the only defendant to take the witness stand, who said he fired his shotgun at 25-year-old Arbery in self-defence.

McMichael, 35, his father Gregory McMichael, 65, and their neighbour William 'Roddie' Bryan, 52, have pleaded not guilty to charges including murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment for the killing in the coastal suburb of Satilla Shores in February 2020.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley instructed the jury of 11 white men and women and one black man in the law governing the case after lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski delivered a final two-hour rebuttal to defence lawyers' closing arguments.

Dunikoski asked the jurors to find the defendants guilty of all the charges and argued the defence was seeking to blame the 25-year-old Arbery for his own death.

"Standard stuff: malign the victim, it's the victim's fault," Dunikoski told the jury.

"I know you're not going to buy into that. It's offensive."

The defence has argued the defendants had a right and a neighbourly obligation to jump in their pickup trucks and chase Arbery to detain him under the law because they had reason to believe he may have been connected to previous property crimes that had left the neighbourhood on edge.

No evidence ever emerged that Arbery ever stole anything on his frequent runs through Satilla Shores, a leafy cluster of homes outside the small coastal city of Brunswick.

He was killed with nothing on him besides his jogging clothes and running shoes.

Dunikoski said the men simply did not have the reasonable suspicion of a crime necessary to detain Arbery, and that Arbery had a constitutional right to not answer any of the questions the men shouted from their trucks.

The trial has underscored divisions among Americans over guns, shown in stark relief after a jury's acquittal in a separate case last week of a teenager who fatally shot two men during 2020 racial-justice protests in Wisconsin.

In both trials, defendants claimed self-defence in fatal shootings.

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