Defense Attorneys Want to Put Ahmaud Arbery on Trial for His Own Killing by Introducing Past Arrests Into Evidence

Illustration for article titled Defense Attorneys Want to Put Ahmaud Arbery on Trial for His Own Killing by Introducing Past Arrests Into Evidence
Photo: Sean Rayford (Getty Images)

If attorneys for defendants in trials that involve white supremacy and Black death are nothing else, they are consistent. Their strategy is very much basic: Put the negroes who aren’t alive to defend themselves on trial.


The strategy likely aided in setting free the killers of Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor. It didn’t work in the case of George Floyd, but that doesn’t mean lawyers in these cases are going to throw out the tried and true, so it should surprise no one Black that defense attorneys for Greg and Travis McMichael, two of the three men involved in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, asked a judge Wednesday to allow Arbery’s past arrests into evidence as well as evidence that Arbery suffered from mental illness.

The Associated Press reports that during a pretrial hearing, four police officers presented testimonies detailing past encounters with Arbery. Those encounters included all of two past arrests.

From AP:

Jason Sheffield, one of Travis McMichael’s lawyers, told Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley on Wednesday that Arbery’s past arrests and other incidents include not only “theft crimes.” He said they also show Arbery — when confronted by police or other authority figures — would become “angry and aggressive, physically and verbally.”

“His intent and his motive is something that is central to this case,” Sheffield said.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski argued Arbery’s past had no bearing on the McMichaels’ decision to pursue him since they knew nothing about him prior to the fatal chase.

“It doesn’t matter what Mr. Arbery’s thoughts were... It doesn’t matter what his actions were,” Dunikoski said. “He was running away from these men.”

Here’s a question: What the hell does Arbery’s alleged aggressiveness when “confronted by police or other authority figures” have to do with the McMichaels?

I understand that Georgia had a citizen’s arrest law in place at the time of the killing, but does anybody get to be a citizen arrester? If armed vigilantes saw three white men chasing a Black man through a neighborhood and assumed it was a lynching in progress (which, well...) would the McMichaels have been obligated to recognize the “authority” of those seeking to citizen arrest them? If they didn’t yield to said “authority” would they also be characterized as “angry and aggressive”—which are common descriptors associated with Black people who are fed up with white nonsense.


My point is, what reason did Arbery have to assume his attackers were authority figures? I mean, outside of the fact that white people always think they’re in charge of shit. These men were not police officers with badges—they were white men with guns and a pickup truck.

What “intent?” What “motive?” Do they mean his intent and motive to stay alive?

But this isn’t about logic, it’s about making a thug out of Arbery and presenting him to a jury as a man who deserved what he got.


More From AP:

Arbery pleaded guilty to charges he carried a gun onto a high school campus in 2013, a year after he graduated. Rodney Ellis, police chief for the Glynn County school system, testified at Wednesday’s hearing that Arbery tried to evade officers on foot and stopped only when two of them pointed guns at him.

Officer Robert Mydell of Glynn County police testified about Arbery’s 2017 arrest on charges that he tried to steal a TV from a Walmart store. Court records show he pleaded guilty to shoplifting.

Two other officers testified they recalled encounters with Arbery, saying he became angry when questioned. He was not charged with crimes in either instance.


Cops really got on the stand for no reason but to testify that Arbery got angry.

A convenience store owner also testified that a Black man stole food from her store multiple times and said that she recognized that man as Arbery when she saw his photo in the newspaper after he was killed.


“They’re trying to make it like he’s on trial,” Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., told reporters outside the Glynn County courthouse, AP reports. “But he ain’t.”

One would think that Arbery was the one who chased someone through a neighborhood and fatally shot him.


Anyway, according to AP, the judge didn’t rule on the defense’s motion on Wednesday but gave the defense and prosecution 20 to 40 days to submit written arguments.

They’re also all set to return to court Thursday to discuss Arbery’s mental health and whether mental illness may have been a factor in Arbery’s “engaging in hand-to-hand combat” with Travis before he was shot. (In other words: Fighting to stay alive might be evidence of mental illness. Wow.)


Dunikoski argued that defense attorneys—who once argued that Arbery shouldn’t be referred to as a victim—are trying to tell the jury that “Mr. Arbery wasn’t right, he had some mental issues” and “therefore it’s his fault they had to kill him.”


Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons



Oh, he got angry when confronted with police stopping him for no reason (we know the reason)?  And this is portrayed as evidence of mental illness?  This isn’t mental illness.  This is a normal human being annoyed by being targeted because of the color of his skin.