As the long-awaited trial of the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery in the US state of Georgia began on Friday, prosecutors and defense counsel presented differing accounts of the circumstances that led to the death of the 25-year-old.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said in her opening statement that the suspects had no cause to pursue Arbery or accuse him of crime when they pursued him through their Brunswick neighborhood, a seaside hamlet 480 kilometers (300 miles) southeast of Atlanta.
“They felt he must have done something wrong that day,” Dunikoski explained. “He tried to run around their truck to get away from these guys, complete strangers, who had previously threatened to murder him.” Then they assassinated him.”
The defendants’ attorneys, Gregory McMichael, age- 65, his child Travis McMichael, age-35, and his neighbors William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, referred to Arbery as a “intruder.”
They claimed that their clients – all of whom are white – had reasonable grounds to believe Arbery had committed the crime.
Travis McMichael, who shot Arbery three times, said his client was acting in self-defense as Arbery grabbed for his shotgun, according to his lawyer, Robert Rubin.
“He has no option,” Rubin added, “because if this person takes his gun, he’s dead or his father’s dead.”
A video released of Arbery’s death last year provoked anger across the United States, fueling racial justice rallies that erupted across the country following the murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota law enforcement officer.
On Friday, video evidence of the event was shown in court.
Initially, the suspects in the Arbery case were not charged by local authorities. After the video went public, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took up the investigation and arrested the defendants months later. They were accused with assassination.
Arbery was a “avid runner,” according to Dunikoskisaid, who noted that he was slain just 3.2 kilometers from his house. She went on to say that he was being “assaulted” by the suspects, who had no proof that he had done anything illegal.
The 12-member jury that will decide the case’s conclusion was finalized on Wednesday, however it only featured one Black individual, which the prosecution objected to.