After moving at a plodding pace for more than two months, the case of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing has, from an investigative perspective, hit warp speed.
Protesters were kept inside for weeks because of Georgia’s coronavirus restrictions, and two prosecutors recused themselves from the case, citing links to one of the Glynn County men now charged with murder, while a third asked to step down.
There wasn’t much movement in the 25-year-old’s slaying until Tuesday, when a video showing the fatal shooting in Satilla Shores surfaced on a Brunswick radio station’s website. The case, which, to observers, had appeared stagnant, came alive.
The third prosecutor in the case said that day he would present evidence to a grand jury and asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to assist in the case. Within 48 hours, the GBI announced it had arrested Travis McMichael, 34, the man who shot Arbery, and his father, Greg McMichael, a former Glynn County police officer and prosecutorial investigator.
Greg McMichael, 64, told police that he and his son grabbed their guns and chased Arbery in their truck, believing he was responsible for burglaries in their neighborhood, according to a police incident report. When they confronted him, the father told police, Arbery attacked Travis McMichael, who killed him as the two struggled for his shotgun, the report says.
CNN’s attempts to reach the McMichaels have been unsuccessful.
Here’s the latest:
Where does the case stand?
Pretty much where it stood last week, but with a much louder call for justice. In addition to Arbery’s supporters – who, since the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown, have staged demonstrations – celebrities and politicians including presidential candidate Joe Biden, LeBron James, LL Cool J and Kim Kardashian West have joined the chorus.
What are the McMichaels charged with?
The McMichaels face murder and aggravated assault charges, the GBI said Thursday. The charges against Greg McMichael note he was “party to the crime.” Georgia law provides multiple scenarios in which parties to a crime can be charged with the crime itself.
Are they still in the Glynn County Jail?
Yes. At a Friday court appearance, a judge said bail would be decided at a later date. It’s unclear whether the McMichaels are represented by attorneys.
Why did the arrests take so long?
It’s not completely clear, but the recusals of two district attorneys – one of whom dubbed the McMichaels’ actions “perfectly legal” – doubtless played a role.
Two Glynn County commissioners – one of whom, Paul Murphy, has spoken to CNN – have publicly said local police told them that Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson’s office instructed authorities not to make an arrest.
Johnson called the accusation false and says the Glynn County Police Department should have requested GBI assistance earlier. She recused herself the day after the killing, citing Greg McMichael’s 20-year tenure as an investigator in the office, and commissioners are now to trying to “make excuses and ignore the problems at the Glynn County Police Department, for which they are ultimately responsible,” she said.
The GBI said no one requested its help in the case until Tuesday (though the GCPD had previously requested the agency’s help with threats it was receiving and with the leak of the video).
Will there be more arrests?
Attorneys for Arbery’s family have called for the arrest of William “Roddie” Bryan, who filmed the video showing Arbery’s killing.
A Glynn County police report indicates Greg McMichael told an investigator that Bryan was assisting them in their pursuit of Arbery, but Bryan’s attorney refuted the allegation.
“There is no relationship whatsoever between Roddie and the McMichaels,” said Kevin Gough, Bryan’s attorney. “My client lives in that neighborhood, he’s at his house minding his own business and things happen and in a matter of minutes his life has been changed forever.”
Bryan is no vigilante, had no real relationship with the McMichaels, cooperated with police and provided them video of the killing, Gough said. Yet he’s been vilified, receiving death threats and losing his job, the lawyer said.
The GBI has not accused Bryan of a crime, but Director Vic Reynolds told reporters, “We investigate everybody involved in the case, including the individual who shot the video.”
When is the trial?
That will be laid out in future court hearings. Before putting a defendant on trial, she or he must be indicted, and the prosecution will not be able to present evidence to a grand jury until the state Supreme Court’s coronavirus restrictions are lifted June 12.
Will it be tried in Glynn County?
It will be up to the McMichaels’ legal team to decide whether to press for a change of venue, which will ultimately be decided by a judge.
Who will prosecute it?
After state Attorney General Christopher Carr appointed Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden as the third prosecutor in the case, Durden said he had “neither previous knowledge of the incident nor any relationship with any investigators or witnesses.”
He has now asked to step down, according to a Monday statement from Carr.