Last week the three defendants in the murder case of Ahmaud Arbery were in two separate hearings regarding their cases. Last Tuesday Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and William Roddie Bryan pleaded not guilty to Federal Hate Crime charges.
“Today was another step closer for us,” said Arbery’s aunt Thea Brooks. “We are pleased with the Federal Hate charges that have been announced. We look forward to coming back for the hearing and pray that these charges stick so we can continue to fight in our own way for justice for Ahmaud.”
Tuesday’s hearing was the first time Arbery’s family were in the courthouse along with the three defendants. In prior hearings the defendants were video streamed into court from jail.
Brooks said Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, was in an emotional state saying being in the same room with the defendants was rough.
“When the feds stepped in it was a big relief for our family,” Marcus Arbery said. “We know we are close to getting justice for my son.”
Arbery Family attorney Lee Merritt said Arbery’s mother Wanda-Cooper Jones was not able to attend the Federal hearing but she was expected to attend the hearings of May 12 and May 13 where the family was set to meet with the new prosecuting attorney after lead attorney Jessie Evans abruptly resigned from his position with the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office. Replacing Evans is Linda Dunikoski who was already part of the prosecuting team.
The hearing held May 12 and May 13 in Glynn County Superior Court addressed several motions filed by the defendants’ attorney. Judge Timothy Walmsley must now decide what evidence he will allow as evidence in the trial set to start Oct. 18, to include whether Arbery’s mental history or his previous interactions with law enforcement should be admissible in court.
Dunikoski argued that Arbery’s mental state or his past is irrelevant in the case since the defendants were claiming they were acting in self-defense.
"The only purpose for placing the 'other acts' of Mr. Arbery before jury is to smear the character of Mr. Arbery and suggest that his murder was deserved," prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
“They are attempting to bring in all kinds of evidence that has nothing to do with Feb. 23, 2020,” Merritt said after the hearings.
He said there is always a concern that the trial can become something other than the actions the defendants took on the day they decided to hunt Arbery down while he jogged through the neighborhood.
“But their arguments failed to connect with us personally and I believe, based on the questions asked in court, these arguments are not likely to prevail in court.”
“I think we are moving in the right direction,” Cooper –Jones said. “I am very confident that we will get justice for Ahmaud.”
Cooper-Jones said she didn’t mind being in the same courtroom as the defendants saying that she can now place a real face to those who killer her son instead of just seeing them via video.
“Regardless of the testimony we all heard Ahmaud was our baby son,” Cooper-Jones said when asked about the information presented in the hearing about her son. “Ahmaud wasn’t just a jogger, he was a son. He was a brother. He was a grandson. Ahmaud was a person. He went out for a run and he never came home.”
Merritt said the prosecutors also filed motions the judge will need to consider in regarding to past behaviors of the three defendants which would show character traits the men have that could show why they would have committed the crime against Arbery.
He said the defendants’ attorney are simply grasping at straws attempting to prove Arbery’s murder was justifiable.