Ahmaud Arbery Shouldn't Be Called a 'Victim' in Murder Trial of George and Travis McMichael, Their Lawyers Say
Attorneys for George and Travis McMichael, the white father and son accused of murder in the shooting death of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery, don't want him referred to as a "victim" in court.
Attorneys for George and Travis McMichael, the white father and son accused of murder in the shooting death of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery, don't want him referred to as a "victim" in court, and spectators should be barred from wearing Black Lives Matter attire, according to motions filed in the last days of 2020.
“Use of the terms such a ‘victim’ allows the focus to shift to the accused rather than remain on the proof of every element of the crimes charged,” reads the motion filed on Dec. 30 in Georgia's Glynn County Superior Court. “Working from the premise that the accused is innocent until proven guilty, it is the prosecution’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the essential elements of the crimes alleged.”
The McMichaels have pleaded not guilty to felony and malice murder charges in connection with the shooting death of 25-year-old Arbery, a Black man who was chased and shot as he jogged in a residential neighborhood in February 2020, authorities said.
The defendants are being held without bail.
The McMichaels "do not concede that criminal conduct occurred in this case," the motion continued. "This burden of the prosecution should not be alleviated, minimized, or diminished by the use of loaded words which imply that prosecution has met its burden of proof that the crimes alleged have actually been committed."
Another motion asked the court to limit photos of Arbery to just one during trial, and that image include only himself. The document also sought to ban relatives from identifying Arbery in the photo, "to avoid creating cumulative prejudicial error in the trial of this case."
Defense attorneys also asked that the court forbid trial spectators facemasks or T-shirts with "Black Lives Matter," "I can't breathe" and similar slogans.
"It is the right of those supporters to wear whatever clothing they choose, to hold up any sign they wish, and to chant whatever slogan they like outside the courtroom," the motion said. "That is the beauty of our First Amendment. But once inside the courthouse, the sanctity of the defendant's right to a fair and impartial trial trumps the First Amendment."
George and Travis McMichael are also charged with aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. They have pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.
William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., who recorded cellphone video of Arbery's death, allegedly hit Arbery with his truck as he chased the jogger with the McMichaels, authorities said. Bryan has pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment and felony murder.
He, too, is being held without bond.
Attorneys for the father and son say they were justified in pursuing Arbery because there had been a number of robberies in the neighborhood, and that Arbery was shot during an altercation with Travis.
Bryan has said he was only a witness to the encounter, and was not involved in Arbery's death.
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