Testimony to begin in hate crimes trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s death

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — Prosecutors were scheduled to begin calling witnesses Tuesday in the federal hate crimes trial of three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.

On Monday, the first day of trial in the port city of Brunswick, prosecutors told the jury they had evidence that each of the defendants had a habit of making racist comments. To secure hate crime convictions, they must prove to the jury that Arbery was prosecuted and shot because he was black.

In their opening statements, defense attorneys called their clients’ use of racial slurs offensive and indefensible. But they insisted their murderous pursuit of Arbery was motivated by a serious, albeit mistaken, suspicion that the 25-year-old black man had committed crimes – not racial hostility.

Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and used a pickup truck to chase Arbery after spotting him running in their coastal Georgia neighborhood on February 23, 2020. Neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan joined the chase in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun.

No arrests were made until the video leaked online two months later.

McMichaels and Bryan were both convicted of murder last fall in a Georgia state court and sentenced to life in prison.

All three are currently on trial in a separate case in U.S. District Court, where they are charged with violating Arbery’s civil rights and targeting him because he was black. They pleaded not guilty.

A jury of eight white, three black and one Hispanic member was sworn in Monday to hear the case.

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