Brunswick, Georgia — The trial for the three White men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery had an emotional start as the slain Black man’s mother watched graphic video of her son being chased down and killed.
Wanda Cooper-Jones sobbed in court as she watched the video for the first time. The now infamous video was part of the prosecution’s opening statements in the murder trial of Travis and Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan.
Prosecutors said the McMichaels assumed the worst when they spotted Arbery walking out of an open construction site while jogging in the neighborhood.
“All three of these defendants did everything they did based on assumptions — not on fact, not on evidence, on assumptions. They make decisions in their driveways based on those assumptions that took a young man’s life,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said Friday.
Jurors also saw a graphic body-camera video from the day Arbery was killed. The video was recorded by Glynn County police officer William Duggan, who was the prosecution’s first witness. At least one juror shielded herself with her notebook, unable to watch, as the video played.
Bob Rubin, defense attorney for Travis McMichael, argued that the defendant was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed Arbery while attempting to detain him for police. Rubin described the McMichaels as watching out for fellow residents after a series of break-ins and burglaries in the neighborhood. He also called Arbery the aggressor during the confrontation.
“It’s tragic that Ahmaud Arbery lost his life. But at that point, Travis McMichael is acting in self-defense. He did not want to encounter Arbery physically. He was only trying to stop him for the police,” Rubin said.
Arbery’s family addressed the media after a long day in court. “I decided it was time to see the video to heal my curiosities,” Cooper-Jones said. “It’s very heartbreaking but I’ve gotten past that part.”