Murder trial in Ahmaud Arbery case is not about Arbery’s past, judge rules in vital decision

Murder trial in Ahmaud Arbery case is not about Arbery’s past, judge rules in vital decision

While a white murder suspect recorded, Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, was hunted down and shot to death on Feb. 23, 2020 after a white former cop and his son accused the jogger of trespassing onto a home under construction in South Georgia. In a rare ruling against the three men accused of murdering Arbery, a Georgia judge determined on Monday that Arbery’s past, which consists of two arrests, cannot be used in the murder trial. Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley wrote in an order ABC News obtained that evidence of Arbery’s past legal troubles could unfairly “lead the jury to believe that although Arbery did not apparently commit any felony that day, he may pose future dangerousness in that he would eventually commit more alleged crimes, and therefore, the Defendants’ actions were somehow justified.”

“The character of victim is neither relevant nor admissible in murder trial,” the judge wrote.

NEW: Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley rules Ahmaud Arbery’s prior run-ins with police cannot be used as evidence at trial by defense attorneys representing the three men charged with Arbery’s murder @FCN2go

— Kailey Tracy (@KaileyTracy) September 1, 2021

A Glynn County grand jury indicted former Georgia cop Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and William Bryan, who filmed parts of the deadly encounter, in June. The McMichaels submitted a notice to introduce “certain other” acts of evidence last December, according to journalist Kailey Tracy. Arbery was on probation at the time of his killing, having pleaded guilty after facing charges related to trying to steal a TV from Walmart in 2017, ABC News reported.

Arbery’s family attorney, Lee Merritt, said the 25-year-old was unarmed at the time of the shooting in coastal Georgia’s Satilla Shores community. The McMichaels “saw him, got their guns, got in a truck, chased him down, pulled up next to him, shot him at least two times, and killed him right there on the spot,” according to a petition to get the men arrested. 

“When Gregory saw Ahmaud running in his neighborhood, Satilla Shores, a predominately white community, he and his son immediately armed themselves with a shotgun and a 357 magnum, hopped into their pickup truck, chased him down and shot him,” petitioners said on the website. The petition was needed because it took a full 74 days after Arbery’s death, which was ruled a homicide, for an arrest to be made. Two different Georgia district attorney offices are being investigated for “possible prosecutorial misconduct” in the case.

Ignoring completely just what his client is accused of, Jason Sheffield, the attorney for Travis McMichael, issued the kind of statement that sums up nearly everything wrong with trials in America while, oddly enough, advocating for continued adherence to the wrongdoing.  Sheffield reportedly wrote:

“Judge Walmsley’s decision will most likely survive appellate scrutiny, however, it is the wrong decision. In just about every criminal case against the defendants who has a past, where that defendant has committed other crimes that are similar in nature to the one he’s been tried for, judges liberally allow the jury to be informed about the past. The jury is then instructed that they can consider the past evidence that demonstrates the defendant’s motive and intent at the time he committed those past crimes when considering whether he committed the crime for which he is currently being tried. The rules have always allowed for this. But here’s the judge is using the rules liberal interpretation to deny charges, running from police, running from the other citizens, entering into homes, entering into businesses, stealing – all of which we contend are connected to his mental illness – but these are the acts of Mr. Arbery. There can be no question that he has done these things. Why the judge would now decide that all of Mr. Arbery’s prior motives, his intent, his plan to do these things are note relevant in this case will result in the truth being hidden from the jury. The jury hast to try to understand what Mr. Arbery was doing in the neighborhood that day, why he was in the home that day, and why he was running from two individuals who told him without any show of force or threat “we want to know what you’re doing in the neighborhood, please stop we’ve called the police.” Now they will be denied the truth.”

Attorney Kevin Gough, who’s representing Bryan, similarly wrote in a statement Tracy obtained: 

“The 404(b) ruling comes as a mild disappointment for Roddie, and the Bryan defense team, but — as any trial lawyer worth his salt will tell you — the truth has a funny way of coming out. Time will tell but we believe the State’s “victory” as to the 404(b) evidence will be short lived. The judge will ultimately admit into evidence much if not most of the 404(b) material.”

Former Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, who isn’t working the case, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the judge’s decision is “a good ruling for the prosecution” but not a necessary one for the state to prove its case. “If that evidence had come in, it would have been damaging but not fatal to the state’s case,” Porter said. “But since it doesn’t come in, it means the prosecution won’t have to play defense.”

RELATED: 3 men accused of hunting down, killing Ahmaud Arbery are indicted on murder charges

RELATED: ‘It was a lynching’: Ex-Georgia cop and son accused of tracking down and killing Black jogger

RELATED: ‘Killed in cold blood’: Joe Biden advocates for justice in death of unarmed Black man in Georgia

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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