Ahmaud Arbery case: Georgia judge to hear pretrial motions

A Georgia judge is set to hear pretrial motions in the murder case against three men charged with the slaying of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man shot dead while jogging in a neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia.

Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, stand accused of arming themselves and pursuing Arbery in a pickup truck on Feb. 23, 2020. A neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery after a scuffle.

All three men were charged with malice murder and felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

They appeared before a magistrate judge on Tuesday to plead not guilty to federal hate crimes related to the case. 

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley issued a notice stating that jury selection will begin Oct. 18, with the trial commencing as soon as a jury is seated.


Death of Ahmaud Arbery

Then 25-year-old Arbery was shot dead while running through a neighborhood near the coastal town of Brunswick, Georgia, in February 2020.

The father and son who pursued Arbery — Gregory and Travis McMichael — weren’t arrested or charged until the state took over the case more than two months after the shooting. A prosecutor initially assigned to the case had cited Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law to argue that the shooting was justified.

Video of the fatal encounter was recorded by William "Roddie" Bryan, a neighbor who joined the chase.

Civil rights groups demanded further investigation, saying the killing appeared to be racially motivated. 

Suspects arrested months later

The McMichaels weren’t arrested and charged with murder until May 7, after state agents took over the case.

The arrests came days after a video of the shooting surfaced. 

A judge denied bond for both men, who were charged with felony murder.

Days later, Bryan was arrested and charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Public outcry over Arbery's death

Arbery's death sparked protests calling for systematic change to a criminal justice system that charged suspects months after the incident took place.

There was still palpable outrage from Arbery's death when a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd on May 25, leading to protests across the U.S. in the name of justice for victims such as Floyd and Arbery.

People across the state — where Arbery died, near his grave and in Atlanta at the state capitol — memorialized Arbery on the anniversary his death. 

Recent reforms

On Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp officially repealed Georgia’s Civil War-era citizen’s arrest law, used by the McMichaels attorneys as defense of their actions. 

The state House and Senate passed the bill by overwhelming margins.

"I’m just very, very thankful," said Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother. "Unfortunately I had to lose my son in this manner, but with this bill being in place, I think it will protect young men as they’re jogging down the street." 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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