According to Arbery’s relatives, he was out for a jog when he was shot and died. Defense counsel argue that the McMichaels were attempting to perform a valid citizen’s arrest of Arbery when Bryan cut him off and captured footage of the pursuit and shooting.
They also claim Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense during a struggle over Travis’ shotgun.
On Wednesday, Bryan stated that evidence, including neighbourhood security cameras, will prove that Bryan joined the chase with no intention of harming Ahmaud Arbery, that he did not attempt to assault Arbery with his car, and that he is not otherwise responsible for his death.
Gough showed a security footage of Bryan on his front porch as he saw Arbery sprinting by with the McMichaels following after him. Bryan strolled calmly into his house and got his mobile phone and vehicle keys, which he had left behind, according to Gough.
Gough also attempted to refute reports that Bryan attempted to drive Ahmaud Arbery over with his truck after getting in his truck and heading off. He pointed again, this time to surveillance video of Bryan’s pickup pulling out of his driveway.
At that time, there is no proof that Bryan did anything other than “crawl out of his driveway to try to cut off Mr. Arbery,” according to Gough.
Bryan, he said, promptly cooperated with law authorities following the incident, including handing over the cell phone footage he shot of the pursuit and shooting.
The defence is set to begin questioning witnesses on Wednesday afternoon. Late last week, defence attorney Jason Sheffield stated that the defence will call 30 witnesses, with testimony continuing into early next week.
Charges were not filed against the guys for months, despite the fact that mobile phone footage of the shooting was made public, sparking nationwide anger and protests.
Race has been a factor both inside and outside the courtroom, not only in terms of those on trial (the three defendants are White, while Ahmaud Arbery is Black), but also in the processes leading up to the trial, with defence attorneys objecting to Black pastors sitting in the gallery.
Aside from malice and felony murder, the defendants are also charged with aggravated assault, false detention, and criminal attempt to commit a felony. They have all pled not guilty. If convicted, each man may face life in jail with no chance of release.
Prior to Gough’s opening statement, the judge dismissed defence petitions for a directed judgement of acquittal on at least some of the allegations against the defendants, arguing that a jury couldn’t find them guilty based on the evidence given.
Gough protested to the presence in the gallery of civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson on Wednesday, before beginning his opening statement, and asked the court to declare a mistrial.
The request was refused by the judge.
Jackson appeared in court for parts of this week after Gough protested to racial rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton’s attendance in court last week. Last week, Gough stated, “we don’t want any more Black preachers coming in here” to potentially influence the jury, and afterwards apologised.
Gough’s complaints began last week, when Sharpton joined Arbery’s parents in praying together during a break in the court proceedings. Gough objected once again on Monday, when Jackson made his first appearance in the courtroom gallery in support of the Ahmaud Arbery family.
Gough filed a petition on Tuesday requesting the court to retain a record of who arrives in the courtroom in the event that any of the three defendants is convicted and an appeal is filed. Gough also requested that the court “take proactive measures” to ensure that the presence of individuals in the gallery does not infringe on his client’s rights.