EXPLAINER: What the defense in Arbery’s killing is arguing

ATLANTA , Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael claimed they armed and sped after Ahmaud arbery because they believed he was a criminal and wanted to capture him and keep him until the police arrived.

EXPLAINER: What the defense in Arbery’s killing is arguing

ATLANTA , Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael claimed they armed and sped after Ahmaud arbery because they believed he was a criminal and wanted to capture him and keep him until the police arrived.

They said that Travis McMichael had shot the Black man in self-defense when he saw the 25-year old Black man turn and fight during the chase.

This is what the defense claims in the trial against three white men charged with the murder of Arbery. He was shot three times near Brunswick, Georgia, in February 2020. McMichaels, a father-son duo, and William "Roddie Bryan, are both charged with murder and other offenses.

Georgia's citizens must be arrested and obey the self-defense laws to ensure that defense strategies work.


Greg McMichael (65) told police that he saw Arbery "hauling ans" past his home and thought he had committed burglaries. McMichael, 65, ran in his home, grabbed a gun and shouted at his son who returned with a shotgun.

They jumped into a pickup truck to follow Arbery through their subdivision. Arbery was walking.

Bryan saw the chase was progressing and climbed into his pickup to record video on his phone as he joined it.

Bryan, 52 years old, said to an investigator that he used his truck multiple times to stop Arbery from crossing the road and edge him off. Greg McMichael said that he called for Arbery's attention and demanded his arrest.

Bryan's video ends with Greg McMichael riding in his pickup truck bed with a handgun, and Travis McMichael (35), outside the truck with an assault rifle.

Defense attorneys claim that Arbery lunged at Travis McMichael with his gun and that's when Travis McMichael fired on him.


Greg McMichael said that they chased Arbery in an effort to stop him leaving the subdivision. He stated that they wanted to "hold him" until the police could "come, and you know, check his out."

The state law at the time stated that a private person could arrest an offender if the offense was committed in his presence or with his immediate knowledge. Private persons may arrest an offender if the offense is a felony and he is trying to escape or is fleeing.

The statute didn't contain the actual words "citizens' arrest", and it was not required that anyone who wanted to detain someone declare their intention. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation mostly abrogating the law in May.

Arbery was seen several times on security camera inside a McMichaels house that was under construction.

Travis McMichael saw him outside his house two weeks prior and was concerned that Arbery would reach for a gun when he reached towards his pocket. Robert Rubin, McMichael's attorney, stated in his opening statements.

Rubin stated that Arbery's actions at the unfinished house would lead anyone to believe that a crime was committed. He also said that this is why McMichaels felt the need to arm themselves.

Linda Dunikoski, the prosecutor, stated that Arbery was not armed and gave no reason for them to suspect him. She said that they assumed he was guilty of a crime.

Melissa Redmon, who was a prosecutor before becoming a law professor at Georgia, stated that it can be difficult to convince jurors there is probable cause to arrest a citizen.

She stated, "That's based upon what it appears they knew at that moment they confronted him. Or, rather, the insufficient information they had at that moment."


In 1863, the citizen's arrest law was passed to capture escaped slaves. It was later used to justify the lynchings of Blacks.

It had been long a goal to repeal it. Arbery's shooting triggered a national outcry about racial injustices and spurred state legislators to take action.

This repeal legislation states that witnesses and bystanders cannot detain individuals. Employees of restaurants and shops can still hold people who believe they stole something or leave without payment. Private detectives and licensed security guards are also available to detain individuals.

If someone is in self-protection or protecting their home, then it can't be used to hold them.

Although the repeal law is now in effect, the defense can still cite the old law as it was at the time Arbery was killed.


Rubin stated that it was tragic that Arbery had died. "But Travis McMichael was acting in self-defense at that moment. He didn't want to face Ahmaud Abery physically. Rubin stated that he was trying to stop Ahmaud Arbery for police purposes.

Georgia law permits the use of deadly force when a person believes that another person is about kill him or her. Georgia recognizes that a person can "stand your ground" and does not require them to retreat.

Georgia law doesn't allow anyone to use force if they are the aggressor. Unless he withdraws and effectively communicates this, the other person can continue to use or threaten force against him.

Travis McMichael raised the shotgun in an attempt to "de-escalate" the situation. But Arbery turned towards McMichael, "swinging aggressively with his fists," Rubin stated. Rubin stated that McMichael shot him because he was afraid Arbery would take the gun and shoot his father or him.

Redmon stated that Arbery was permitted to defend himself against an attacker who was following him and pointed a gun at his face. A Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent stated that Arbery acted in self defense during a June hearing.

Redmon stated that ultimately, the jury will need to look at the events before the shots rang out, and determine which man was aggressor.

You need to login to comment.

Please register or login.