Lawyers for the two Georgia men accused of gunning down Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black jogger, will have to wait another day to find out if they will be allowed to leave lockup and prepare for their murder trials at home.
Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, appeared before Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley in a daylong hearing. No decision was made about their release, and the hearing has been continued.
The McMichaels’ attorneys also asked Walmsley to drop two of the counts against them, including malicious murder, and argued that they were charged in a legally flawed indictment.
The McMichaels have been behind bars since May, more than two months after Travis McMichael fatally shot Arbery.
Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones testified that “given the opportunity, both men would do the same again.”
“These men are proud of what they’ve done, and they want to go home because in their selfish minds, they’re the good guys,” she said.
From almost the beginning, race played a role in the events that unfolded in February, prosecutors said.
Questions about racism sharpened during a previous hearing when it was revealed that a third defendant, William “Roddie” Bryan, took a cellphone video of the shooting in which Travis McMichael is allegedly heard uttering a racial slur after he shot Arbery three times.
During Thursday’s hearing, Robert Rubin, Travis McMichael’s attorney, asked six people who testified on McMichael’s behalf if he ever displayed any racism toward anyone. They all said no.
Zachary Langford, Travis McMichael’s childhood friend, testified that McMichael was a good-natured man who had at least one black friend.
When prosecutor Jesse Evans asked Langford about a text message in which Travis McMichael used a slur for black people when referring to a “crackhead … with gold teeth,” Langford at first said he didn’t recall receiving the message but then after being shown a transcript of the exchange said, “He was referring to a raccoon, I believe.”
Evans also brought up a Facebook photo Langford posted last year to which Travis McMichael replied, “Sayonara,” along with an offensive term for Asians followed by an expletive. Langford testified he did not recall that either.
Langford’s wife, Ashley, testified that Travis McMichael told her, “He wished it never happened like that. He prayed for Ahmaud’s mother and his family daily.”
Cooper-Jones doubted whether either McMichael regretted his actions.
“Nobody reached out to say, ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ I don’t think they are remorseful at all,” she said, adding that she hoped the McMichaels would remain behind bars until their trial.
On Feb. 23, the McMichaels cornered Arbery while Bryan recorded the killing. The McMichaels have been charged with felony malice murder and aggravated assault charges.
Their attorneys said the McMichaels believed that Arbery had burglarized a neighboring house under construction. Prosecutors claimed Arbery was jogging and stole nothing.
Early on, Bryan claimed he had only recorded the scene because he was a good Samaritan. Bryan was charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. The McMichaels and Bryan have all pleaded not guilty.
Initially, no one was charged in Arbery’s death for more than 10 weeks. The investigation idled as the Glynn County Police Department largely looked the other way.
Calls for justice intensified after a recording of the incident was leaked and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation got involved. The GBI arrested the McMichaels within 48 hours.
Three prior district attorneys assigned to the case had either done nothing to advance it or had conflicts of interest.
Gregory McMichael was a retired investigator who had worked in former District Attorney Jackie Johnson’s office.
Johnson, a Republican who lost her reelection bid two weeks ago, put much of the blame on the case.