Jury begins deliberations in trial in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery

By Mike Hayes, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0214 GMT (1014 HKT) November 24, 2021
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9:25 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

Prosecutor in Arbery murder trial: "You can't start it and claim self-defense"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Linda Dunikoski, the lead prosecutor in the trial of Ahmaud Arbery's killing, argued that the defendants cannot use the claim of self-defense.

"One can use lethal force and self-defense, but only under certain circumstances. You can't claim self-defense if you are the unjustified initial aggressor — meaning if you started it. Who started this? Wasn't Ahmaud Arbery," Dunikoski said during the prosecution's final rebuttal this morning.

Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., who are White, face charges including malice and felony murder in the killing of Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, after chasing him in a neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23, 2020.

"They started it; they do not get to claim self-defense. And then, of course, provocation. You can't force someone to defend themselves against you so you get to claim self-defense. This isn't the Wild West. No. So there's three instances where the defendants don't get to claim self-defense," Dunikoski said to the jury.

"This is the important one: cannot commit aggravated assault with a shotgun, with trucks, false imprisonment, or criminal attempt at false imprisonment, any of those. Not justified using force, if you're doing any of those things; they were doing all four of them. And you're not justified in using force, if that person was the unjustified aggressor. You can't start it and claim self-defense," she said.

9:27 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

Prosecutor says Travis McMichael had "alternatives" to shooting Arbery

From CNN's Mike Hayes

Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski speaks on November 23.
Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski speaks on November 23. (Pool)

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said during her rebuttal argument that the use of force by Travis McMichael, when he shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery, was not reasonable.

"There is no fear here. There is only anger. Remember, it's the standard of reasonable beliefs. That the force used is necessary. Do you really believe he had no other choice but to use his shotgun...No other choice."

Dunikoski told the jury that one of the "alternatives" for McMichael was "don't start this" altercation with Arbery.

She added, "I'm going to tell you this, my husband, he always tells this to his three nephews. He says, 'there are some rules for life. And you know what those rules are? Don't go looking for trouble then, because you will find it, and it is not going to turn out the way you think it is.'"

The state's rebuttal argument is ongoing.

8:47 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

NOW: Prosecution begins closing rebuttal

From CNN's Alta Spells, Devon M. Sayers and Travis Caldwell

Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski speaks on November 23.
Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski speaks on November 23. (Pool)

Prosecutors just began court proceedings in the trial over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery with a rebuttal to closing arguments made by the defense, which some legal experts felt were racially insensitive and led to Arbery's mother excusing herself from the courtroom.

Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski is speaking and is driving the theme that the case against the defendants is about "assumptions and driveway decisions."

"If you find they were not doing a citizen's arrest, under the legal standard, OK, the judge is going to give you, well, then, it takes it out of self-defense for the homicide, that means they're guilty on all the charges. It is as simple as that," she told the jury. 

What happens next: After the state is done, Judge Timothy Walmsley will charge the jury with instructions and deliberations will begin.

10:40 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

Arbery's family objected to comments from Gregory McMichael's defense attorney

From CNN's Alta Spells, Devon M. Sayers, Theresa Waldrop and Travis Caldwell

Defense attorney Laura Hogue speaks at the Glynn County courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, on November 19.
Defense attorney Laura Hogue speaks at the Glynn County courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, on November 19. (Octavio Jones/Pool/AP)

Laura Hogue, an attorney for defendant Gregory McMichael, on Monday claimed in court that Ahmaud Arbery was a "recurring intruder" who repeatedly trespassed when entering an open construction site in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia, where Arbery was shot and killed.

"Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails," Hogue said.

The autopsy report of Arbery noted the condition of his toenails. Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, left the courtroom after Hogue's remark, saying "I gotta get out of here."

She told reporters on the steps of the courthouse after proceedings, "Regardless of what kind of toenails he had, what size legs he had, that was still my son, and my son actually was running for his life in that description. I thought that was just flat out just rude."

Race has been a key focus during the trial, with Arbery being Black and the three defendants as well as 11 of the 12 jurors being White. Ben Crump, an attorney for Arbery's father, suggested race played a role in Arbery's death.

"They had dozens of other people who visited the home, nobody chased them, nobody said that they burglarized the home, why is that?" said Crump after court Monday, discussing the home under construction which the defendants believed Arbery had entered and robbed.

Cooper-Jones later told CNN's John Berman that the defense is just trying to deflect from the fact that they "don't have the proper evidence" to get a conviction.

"So they're actually going to any measure to get it, to get a conviction, which is not there for them," she said.

8:24 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

The prosecution and defense made their closing arguments on Monday. Here's a recap.

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

The prosecution and the defense delivered their closing arguments Monday in the trial of Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., the three men charged with malice and felony murder in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.

Here's what happened in court yesterday:

  • Prosecution delivers closing argument: Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski began her closing argument saying the defendants' actions were not a lawful citizen's arrest because they were "not present when any crime was committed." She accused the men of shooting and killing Arbery because he wouldn't stop and talk to them.
  • Prosecutor says the defendants "trapped" Arbery: Dunikoski argued the defendants had "trapped" Arbery "between two cars with no weapon, and no way for anyone to help him." 
  • Defense delivers closing argument: Defense attorney Jason Sheffield began his closing argument saying that before Travis McMichael shot Arbery, he believed "that he has committed the offense of burglary." 
  • Defense attorney argues defendants performed a citizen's arrest: Sheffield hit back at the prosecution's argument, saying McMichael had "the right to perform a citizen's arrest" and that McMichael viewed Arbery as a "recurring intruder" who might be armed.
  • Defense files for mistrial over protests outside courthouse: The defense filed another motion for a mistrial, after seeing a group of protesters with "large weapons" and a coffin containing the name of the defendants on the back of a truck outside the courthouse. Some demonstrators described themselves as members of the New Black Panther Party and the Lion of Judah Armed Forces and said they were exercising their Second Amendment rights.

What will happen today:

Prosecutors will begin court proceedings soon. Dunikoski is expected to drive the theme that the case against the defendants is about "assumptions and driveway decisions."

CNN's Alta Spells, Devon M. Sayers and Travis Caldwell contributed reporting to this post.  

8:04 a.m. ET, November 23, 2021

The prosecution's closing rebuttal is expected to take 2 hours

From CNN's Devon M. Sayers and Alta Spells

Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the judge that she expected to use two hours for her rebuttal Monday afternoon. 

The judge asked the jury if they wanted to continue Monday and the jury said they wanted to leave for the evening.

"Based on that, I'm going to go ahead and break for the day," the judge said.

Court will start today at 8:30 a.m. ET, a little earlier than the court's normal start time.