The first witnesses are scheduled to be called to testify on Tuesday (Feb. 15) in the federal hate crimes trial of the three men convicted in the slaying of Ahmaud Arbery in Feb. 2020.
The testimonies come a day after prosecutors told the jury that they intend to prove that each defendant has made racist statements in the past.
Local station WJXT reports that prosecutors have a lengthy list of witnesses to call, including several neighbors, members of the Glynn County police department, and sheriff’s office, along with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The jury consists of eight white and three Black people, and one Hispanic person.
The prosecutors, in their opening statements, said that Travis McMichael had in the past referred to Black people as “animals,“ “monkeys,” and “subhuman savages,” according to WJXT.
The same prosecutor quoted his father, Gregory McMichael, as saying: “Those Blacks are all nothing but trouble.” Further, prosecutors also said that their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan was upset to learn that his daughter was dating a Black man.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the McMichaels and Bryan, who were convicted in a state murder trial and sentenced to life in prison last month, admitted Monday that their clients used racial slurs but that their pursuit of Arbery, which led to his death, was not motivated by racism. They claim that they believed that he was a criminal burglarizing nearby properties.
“I’m not going to ask you to like Travis McMichael,” said his defense attorney Amy Lee Copeland. “I’m not going to ask you to decide that he had done nothing wrong. But I’m going to ask you to return a verdict of not guilty to this indictment.”
Bryan’s attorney Pete Theodocian pushed back against the prosecution’s contention that his client was a racist at all. “I’ve heard the N-word more today than I’ve heard it in the past three or four years, and we haven’t even heard any evidence yet.”
All three men will be tried separately in U.S. District Court, charged with violating Arbery’s civil rights and going after him because of his race. They have pleaded not guilty to those charges.
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Arbery’s family, although having undergone one trial, still face more courtroom procedures in the pursuit of justice for their son.
“It’s going to be hard. Ahmaud was killed. Ahmaud was killed almost two years ago, and knowing that Ahmaud was killed because he was Black, it’s going to be harder,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones told WJXT. “I think that we’ll get another victory out of this. I think it’s going to be a long, long hard trial.”