Judge in Arbery death hate crimes case hears racial evidence

Jan 20, 2022, 11:59 PM | Updated: Jan 21, 2022, 2:00 pm
This photo combo shows, from left, Travis McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan, and Gregory McMichael ...

This photo combo shows, from left, Travis McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan, and Gregory McMichael during their trial at at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. The men were convicted of murder in November 2021 for chasing Ahmaud Arbery in pickup trucks when he was out for a jog, cutting off the Black man's escape and fatally blasting him with a shotgun. (Pool, file)

(Pool, file)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — A federal judge closed his courtroom to the public Friday to hear attorneys debate whether “racially insensitive” text messages should be allowed as evidence in the hate crimes trial of three white men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Benjamin Cheesbro spent more than two hours hearing arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys behind closed doors, as evidence of racist actions or attitudes by the defendants had been ordered sealed from public view.

In November, a Georgia state court convicted father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, of murder in Arbery’s death. All three were sentenced Jan. 7 to life in prison, with the McMichaels receiving life without the possibility of parole.

The McMichaels and Bryan face a second trial in U.S. District Court, where a federal grand jury indicted them on hate crimes charges that allege they violated the 25-year-old Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because he was Black. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Feb. 7.

The McMichaels armed themselves and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020. Bryan joined the chase in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun. The graphic video sparked a national outcry over Arbery’s killing when it leaked online two months later.

The judge Friday cleared the courtroom of reporters and other spectators before hearing a legal motion by Bryan’s attorney, Pete Theodocion, asking that prosecutors be prohibited from showing a jury several text messages between Bryan and others containing “racially insensitive language.”

Theodocion didn’t quote those text messages in his written motion filed Dec. 30 but said they included messages regarding the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. He said others included Bryan saying a thief who stole a friend’s bike was likely Black and Bryan expressing “disapproval of his adopted daughter dating an African American.”

“The evidence Defendant Bryan seeks to exclude is of a highly inflammatory nature and would significantly limit his ability to be fairly tried by an impartial jury,” Theodocion wrote. “An African American juror would be particularly and rightfully angered at such language and would naturally be hyper-inclined to make a decision on an improper basis.”

The judge granted Theodocion’s request Friday to hear arguments on his motion behind closed doors, along with other legal motions already under seal, so attorneys could discuss the messages in detail without making their contents public before the case goes to trial.

Theodocion told reporters outside the courtroom that the judge adjourned without ruling on whether any of the messages could be shown to a jury.

Prosecutors said in a court filing that their sealed legal motions detailed “racial-animus evidence” they planned to use against the McMichaels and Bryan.

That likely includes Bryan’s statement to Georgia investigators that Travis McMichael uttered a racist slur while standing over a fatally wounded Arbery as he lay in the street.

At a June 2020 pretrial hearing in the state’s murder case, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Richard Dial testified that Bryan said he heard Travis McMichael use the words: “f—-ing n—er.”

Attorneys for Travis McMichael denied that he made the statement. State prosecutors never mentioned the slur during the murder trial last fall.

During the trial in Glynn County Superior Court, defense attorneys argued the McMichaels and Bryan had a reasonable suspicion that Arbery was a burglar. Travis McMichael testified he opened fire in self-defense after Arbery attacked him with fists and tried to grab his shotgun.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

White House: 78,000 pounds of infant formula heading to US

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Enough specialty infant formula for more than half a million baby bottles is expected to arrive Sunday in Indianapolis, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. The formula, weighing 78,000 pounds (35,380 kilograms), is being transported by military plane, Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Joe Biden flew from […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Turkey summons US ambassador over warning on police methods

ISTANBUL (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to Ankara has been summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry over a warning to U.S. citizens in Turkey about attending a political rally that referred to police crowd control methods, state-run media said Sunday. The embassy posted a message on its website on May 18 ahead of an Istanbul […]
1 day ago
FILE - Tom Cruise departs after the premiere of the film 'Top Gun: Maverick' at the 75th internatio...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: From Tom to Julia, star power is back at Cannes

CANNES, France (AP) — Star power has been out in force at the 75th Cannes Film Festival. After a 2021 edition muted by the pandemic, this year’s French Riviera spectacular has again seen throngs of onlookers screaming out “Tom!” “Julia!” and “Viola!” The wattage on display on Cannes has been brighter this year thanks the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Pakistan’s defiant ex-premier calls for march on Islamabad

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s defiant former Prime Minister Imran Khan called on Sunday for his supporters to march peacefully on Islamabad on May 25th, to press for fresh elections. Khan, who served as prime minister for over three and half years, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament by an alliance of all […]
1 day ago
Residents travel on a motorbike as they flee their home to avoid clashes between armed gangs, in th...
Associated Press

Gangs strangle Haiti’s capital as deaths, kidnappings soar

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — It was about 6 a.m. when Venique Moïse flung open the door of her house and saw dozens of people running — their children in one hand and scant belongings in the other — as gunfire intensified. Minutes later, she joined the crowd with her three kids and fled their neighborhood […]
1 day ago
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks on a screen inside a so-called Russian War Crimes Ho...
Associated Press

Climate to conflict, Davos’ post-COVID return has full plate

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Davos — the hub of an elite annual gathering in the Swiss Alps — is back, more than two years after the coronavirus pandemic kept its business gurus, political leaders and high-minded activists away. There’s no shortage of urgent issues for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting to tackle. With their […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Judge in Arbery death hate crimes case hears racial evidence