The murder trial of three white Georgia men charged in the 2020 killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man prosecutors allege was "hunted down" and shot to death while out for a Sunday jog, has begun.
The evidence portion of the high-profile case kicked off just after 9 a.m. Friday in Glynn County Superior Court in Brunswick, Georgia.
"I do feel like we're getting closer to justice for Ahmaud day by day," Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said in an interview scheduled to be broadcast Friday night on ABC's "Nightline."
The trial started under a cloud of controversy after a jury comprised of 11 white people and one Black person was selected on Wednesday, prompting an objection from prosecutors that the selection process, which took nearly three weeks, ended up racially biased.
On Thursday afternoon, one of the seated jurors, a white woman in her 40s or 50s, was dismissed from the panel for undisclosed medical issues. One of the alternate jurors, a white person, replaced her, bringing the number of alternates to three. All of the alternates are white.
The three defendants are Gregory McMichael, 65, a retired police officer; his son, Travis McMichael, 35; and their neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, 52.
The men have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
The McMichaels and Bryan were also indicted on federal hate crime charges in April and have all pleaded not guilty.
Arbery was out jogging on Feb. 23, 2020, through the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick when he was killed.
- Bryan's attorney defers opening statement
- Gregory McMichael's attorney gives opening statement
- Travis McMichael was attempting to 'de-escalate' when he shot Arbery: Attorney
- Travis McMichael's attorney gives opening statement
- Defense objects to prosecutor's opening statement
- Arbery's mother breaks down as death video played
- Videos of Arbery in home under construction shown
Graphic images shown of Arbery's body from police response
The first day of the trial came to an end with the jury being shown graphic video of Arbery covered in blood and lying in the middle of the road after he had been shot three times.
The body-camera video of Officer William Duggan was played in court along with dash-camera video from his car.
Duggan said his body camera captured the scene when he first arrived.
He said the first thing he did was to make sure the scene was secure and safe for him and a second officer already there.
Duggan said Arbery was lying face down in the road and that he turned the body over and quickly assessed that Arbery was already dead.
"The amount of blood loss I observed at the scene and the lack of rise and fall of the chest, and the gaping wound on the side of his chest ... there was nothing I could do for him," Duggan said.
The trial will resume Monday morning.
Prosecution calls 1st witness
Prosecutors on Friday afternoon launched into their case, calling their first witness, Officer William Duggan of the Glynn County Police Department.
Duggan testified that he had just finished an off-duty side job at a church on Feb. 23, 2020, when he heard a radio call of shots fired and a person down in the Satilla Shores neighborhood.
He said he was in full uniform and responded to the call to back up the one patrol officer who was at the crime scene.
"I did see a Black male lying on the ground in the middle of the road on the pavement," Duggan said of what he observed when he arrived at the scene.
He said he also saw Travis McMichael sitting nearby covered in blood.
"I remember at some point asking, 'Are you OK?'" he said of his response to Travis McMichael.
He said McMichael told him he was not OK because he had just shot a man.
Under questioning from Dunikoski, Duggan said his body camera was activated at that time.
Just prior to Duggan taking the witness stand, Walmsley cautioned everyone in the courtroom that the prosecution planned to play Duggan's body-camera footage and that it contained graphic images of Arbery lying dead on the ground.
In an attempt to avoid any outburst in the courtroom, Walmsley asked anyone who felt uncomfortable watching the video to step out of the room.
Bryan's attorney defers opening statement
Kevin Gough, the defense attorney for William "Roddie" Bryan, told the judge that he wants to wait to give his opening statement until after the prosecution presents its case.
While Judge Timothy Walmsley described the strategy as unusual and one that he's never encountered in his decade on the bench, he granted Gough's request.
Gregory McMichael's attorney gives opening statement
Franklin Hogue, an attorney for Gregory McMichael, told jurors that when his client saw Arbery running past his home on Feb. 23, 2020, he was certain it was the same man he saw in videos shown to him by neighbors of a suspected burglar targeting the Satilla Shores community.
"Greg was absolutely sure, he was absolutely certain, and his suspicions were well-founded," Hogue said.
He agreed with Travis McMichael's attorney, Rubin, that the elder McMichael feared that the man he and his son were chasing was armed with a gun.
He said that while in the rear bed of his son's pickup on the phone with police, Greg McMichael saw Arbery running in his direction away from Bryan's truck.
"Then you hear him yell, 'Stop right there, damn it! Stop,'" Hogue said, referring to the recorded 911 call Gregory McMichael was on. "Then the last word you hear was him saying is 'Travis.'
He's in abject fear that he is about to witness his only son shot and killed in front of his very eyes," Hogue said.
Hogue said that following the shooting, Gregory McMichael had a lengthy interview with police in which he said, "My intention was to stop this guy so he could be arrested or identified."
"The truth of this case is that Greg McMichael is not guilty of any of these crimes," Hogue said.