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Prosecution begins closing argument over killing of Ahmaud Arbery

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The three white men on trial for the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery killed him because the man refused to stop and explain himself while running through their Georgia neighborhood, a prosecutor told a jury as closing arguments began on Monday.

Gregory McMichael, 65; his son Travis McMichael, 35; and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, have pleaded not guilty to charges including murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski in her summation was expected to highlight inconsistencies in testimony and initial statements to police as well as question the credibility of the defendants’ assertions that Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, posed a threat to them.

“They made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black man running down the street,” she said. They killed him “not because he’s a threat to them, but because he wouldn’t stop and talk to them.”

“No weapon, no threats,” she said, “no way to call for help: he didn’t even have his cellphone on him. He ran away for five minutes.”

The younger McMichael was the only defendant to take the stand, testifying that he fired his shotgun at close range at Arbery in self defense in what he said was the most traumatic event of his life. He said Arbery had grabbed at his gun after the five-minute chase through the defendants’ mostly white neighborhood of Satilla Shores on Feb. 23, 2020.

Dunikoski said the jury should consider whether McMichael lied on the stand and derided his testimony as self-serving: “I don’t dispute that it was the most traumatic experience of his life. How did Mr. Arbery’s day go for him, huh?” she said.

Bryan’s cellphone video of the killing sparked outrage when it emerged more than two months later and the public learned that the men involved had not been arrested.

McMichael testified that he and his father thought Arbery might have been behind recent thefts in the neighborhood. No evidence has emerged that Arbery took anything on his frequent runs through Satilla Shores.

Arbery had nothing on him when he was killed but his running clothes and sneakers.

Dunikoski told the jury that at most Arbery could be accused of trespass after jurors saw security-camera videos of him, dressed in his running clothes, walking around an empty, half-built house in Satilla Shores on several nights in late 2019 or 2020.

The defendants have argued that they had a right to try to detain Arbery under Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law, which was repealed in the wake of outrage over the killing.

That law allowed anyone to detain a person if there is reasonable and probably knowledge that the person is fleeing a serious felony crime they just committed.

But trespassing is a misdemeanor, she said, and none of the defendants knew where Arbery had been or what he was doing before running past their driveways.

The prosecutors from the Cobb County district attorney’s office say the defendants “assumed the worst” about Arbery, who was known to friends as an avid jogger.

For the felony murder charges, the prosecution does not have to show the defendants intended to kill Arbery. They only need to prove that the men assaulted him, by driving at him or wielding the shotgun at him, or falsely imprisoned him using their trucks, and that one of those underlying felony crimes caused Arbery’s death.

The three defense teams will make their closing arguments before the jury begins deliberations.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Alistair Bell)

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