BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Facebook, a sleepy juror and a “potpourri of political statements,” were points of contention on Thursday in the trial concerning the death of Ahmaud Arbery. The defense ended the day in the courtroom by resting its case.
Three white men are facing murder charges for the events caught on video on Feb. 23, 2020, the day Arbery died.
Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery, his father Greg McMichael was present and egged him on to do it, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan hopped in his pick-up truck to film it all, according to the State of Georgia’s argument.
Prosecutors fine-combed through the details of Travis McMichael’s testimony, spending much of the morning poking holes in his statements leading up to the fatal shooting of Arbery.
McMichael admitted Arbery was “just running,” when he pursued him but stood firm that his decision-making was based on life or death.
“This is the most traumatic event I’ve ever been through in my life,” he said about the shooting.
Satilla Shores Facebook group
The defense had consistently argued that Satilla Shores, the neighborhood Arbery was jogging through, was experiencing an uptick in crime. Attorneys representing the McMichaels called on six neighbors to testify on that fact.
They spoke of car break-ins, property crime and suspicious people -- but most said nothing violent has happened in the neighborhood, at least, until Arbery's killing.
"I didn't witness any of it," said Cindy Clark about the crime being discussed on a neighborhood Facebook page.
The Facebook page would become a common thread through the testimonies, with residents of Satilla Shores noting it was a medium to act neighborly with residents posting about anything from when the ice cream truck was in town to whose car was broken into. Facebook posts and comments on the social media platform were presented as evidence.
Subee Lawrence grew up in the neighborhood and moved back to live next to her mother. Lawrence is also an administrator of the Satilla Shores-related Facebook group and was one of the final witnesses called to the stand for the day.
“Growing up there had never been crime,” she said, adding that reports compelled her to install security cameras.
She teared up on the stand saying the reports made her sons fearful of playing outside at night.
A sleepy juror
Woven throughout the trial breaks were moments attorneys argued if a juror was fully awake to hear the evidence presented.
On Wednesday, the defense raised concerns about juror No. 12 dozing off. The judge moved her next to the bailiff and reminded her of the importance of her contributions to the trial.
During a break in testimony, the defense once again asked the judge to keep an eye on her, adding that she still seem tired.
While perfecting the record in court, prosecutors addressed juror No. 12.
"Just wanted to note that juror 12 was wide-awake and paying lots, and lots of attention this afternoon to the case," Linda Dunikoski, the lead prosecutor in the case said.
"Juror No. 12 has been engaged," the judge said. "I have been watching her. She has moved, it looks like permanently, closer to the bailiff on her volition and it seems to be working."
A mask, t-shirt and calls for mistrial
Attorney Kevin Gough is now known for more than just arguing Bryan's case in court.
On Thursday alone, Gough requested for a mistrial multiple times and made sure records noted the presence of the "I support Black pastors" slogan in court and a Black Lives Matter mask.
Before resting his case, he once again asked the judge to consider a mistrial in the wake of "a potpourri of political statements."
"(There was a) huge protest at lunchtime that was so loud with bullhorns that you could hear what was being said," Gough said, calling the presence of Black pastors outside the courthouse prejudicial to his client's case.
Gough had mentioned Rev. Jesse Jackson's and Martin Luther King the third's presence at the courthouse.
“I’m not picking on anybody," he clarified. “That goes back to our concern for fair trial.”
The judge said he had already addressed Gough's concern and will stick to the court's decision.
Closing arguments in the case are expected on Monday.