GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. - Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys for the men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery wrapped their closing remarks in the federal hate crimes trial on Monday in Brunswick, Georgia.
The jury received the case at about 3 p.m. on Monday and deliberated almost three hours before court went in recess for the day. Deliberations are set to restart at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.
Travis and Greg McMichael as well as William "Roddie" Bryan are accused of chasing Arbery through a Glynn County subdivision and shooting him because he was black. The defendants, who all pleaded not guilty, claim they suspected Arbery was behind a string of crimes and the shooting was out of self-defense.
Federal prosecutors ended their closing arguments just before 11 a.m. and gave the final say for the judge to hand the case to the jury for deliberation at around 2:30 p.m.
The jury of eight white people, three Black people and one Hispanic person must decide whether the men were motivated by racism.
Prosecutor Christopher Perras argued that Travis McMichael "was just looking for a reason" to hurt a Black person when the 25-year-old Arbery jogged past his home. Travis McMichael’s attorney, Amy Lee Copeland, told the jury her client never "spoke to anyone about Mr. Arbery’s death in racial terms."
The jury begins deliberating days before the two-year anniversary of Arbery's death. Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said on Monday she was confident in the way the Department of Justice handled the case.
Witness testimony concluded Friday. The defense rested after calling one witness, who suggested a suspicious person two of the defendants reported to police in 2019 was likely white.
Prosecutors revealed roughly two dozen racist text messages and social media posts by the McMichaels and Bryan.
FBI analyzes texts, posts sent by McMichaels, Bryan
FBI analyst Amy Vaughan testified that Travis McMichael, the man who shot Arbery, repeatedly used the N-word in text messages and social media posts prior to the killing. The FBI included posts describing violence against Black people.
His father, Greg McMichael, posted a Facebook meme stating "Irish slaves" in America were mistreated more than any group in the nation’s history. Investigators said they were unable to download evidence from his encrypted cellphone. The FBI showed Bryan also used slurs in a number of messages, including several sent on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that mocked the holiday devoted to the civil rights leader.
The jury heard from neighbors in the Glynn County subdivision who said the February 2020 shocked them.
The jury also saw cellphone video and crime scene photos of Arbery’s body before hearing excerpts of interviews the defendants gave to police.
Pete Theodocion, who represents Bryan, questioned witness Matt Albenze, who armed himself and called police when he saw Arbery enter the home under construction across the street.
"Nothing you did that day, none of the words or actions, were based on Mr. Arbery being African American, is that correct?" Theodocion asked.
"Correct," Albenze replied.
Prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein asked him if he ever drew his gun at Arbery.
"It’s not my job," Albenze said.
Opening statements in hate crimes trial
Prosecutors said the men being charged in the hate crime trial in the Ahmaud Arbery murder have been known to use racist slurs.
During opening statements in the case, prosecutors told the jury the men had histories of making racist comments or using slurs in text messages.
Defense attorneys said, while their clients had each expressed offensive opinions about Black people, their pursuit of Arbery stemmed from the suspicion that he had committed crimes, not because of his race.
"I’m not going to ask you to like Travis McMichael," Amy Lee Copeland, the defense attorney for the man who fatally shot Arbery, told the jury. "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."
Hate crimes trial jury selection
U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood swore in a jury of eight white people, three Black people and one Hispanic person was sworn in to hear the case Monday morning along with four alternate jurors.
They were all questioned about their opinions on hate crimes during the selection process.
Plea deal rejected
The Associated Press contributed to this report