Ahmaud Arbery’s Killers Search for Ways to Justify His Death

By Shani Saxon Aug 04, 2021

Defense attorneys in the upcoming trial for the killing of  Ahmaud Arbery seem to be setting the stage for a huge victim-blaming session if they get their way. Lawyers for  Gregory and Travis McMichael—the father and son who chased down Arbery before fatally shooting him three times at close range—have submitted multiple requests to the Georgia Superior Court judge that suggest they are hoping to put Arbery on trial, reporter Kali Holloway writes in The Daily Beast.


Attorneys for the defense “filed a motion late last year requesting that Judge Timothy Walmsley permit only one photo of Arbery “when living” to be shown during the trial, that he be depicted alone and not in the company of loved ones, and that he be identified to the court during trial by a non-family member,” according to The Daily Beast. The defense’s argument is that allowing more photos of Arbery would tamper the trial, which is expected to begin in October. The defense argued in the filing that additional images could create “the danger of unfair prejudice” among the jury.


Reports The Daily Beast:


The McMichaels’ lawyers have also filed a motion asking that prosecutors be barred from referring to Arbery as a “victim” for the same reasons. “The purpose of this motion is to prevent the prosecution from ignoring its duty to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that crimes were actually committed and that [the] McMichaels committed the crimes as charged,” the defense motion states. The filing goes on to note that the McMichaels do “not concede that criminal conduct occurred in this case,” and that “the use of loaded words,” such as identifying Arbery as a “victim,” tacitly ascribes guilt to the McMichaels, denying them the presumption of innocence.


These requests, as The Daily Beast reports, are signs that the defense is attempting to justify Arbery’s “white vigilante” killing by positioning it as an act of self-defense. This is the case in spite of the fact that “cellphone footage—shot by third defendant and ambush participant William “Roddie” Bryan—clearly documents the armed vehicular pursuit of Arbery by his attackers, capturing the horrific moment when Travis McMichael fired off the shotgun blasts that killed the 25-year-old Arbery.”


The McMichaels and Bryan have entered “not guilty” pleas to the nine charges they each face. Those charges, as The Daily Beast reports, include “four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, malice murder, false imprisonment, and criminal intent to commit false imprisonment.”


The defense’s strategy is to paint Arbery as a big, Black threat “whose death was warranted and even necessary,” The Daily Beast reports. In response, the state of Georgia has filed paperwork to push back against many of the defense’s filings.


According to The Daily Beast:


“Had the defendants stayed at their homes and simply called 911, Mr. Arbery would be alive,” the document reads. “Instead, the defendants took it upon themselves to gather their firearms, get into their pickup trucks, and chase after Mr. Arbery…They chased him, attempted to hit him with the pickup trucks, assaulted him and repeatedly tried to falsely imprison him.”


“They were the initial aggressors, they stated the chain of events that led to Mr. Arbery’s death, and Mr. Arbery did nothing to initiate or instigate interaction with the defendants. For over five minutes, Mr. Arbery ran away from the strange, shotgun-wielding men, who were chasing him, and trying to hit him with pickup trucks. How terrifying it must have been for him to be hunted down in such a fashion.”


Jury selection in the Arbery case is set to begin on Oct. 18.