Cases against 3 suspects in Arbery killing bound to Superior Court
GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - A Glynn County judge bound over to Superior Court cases against three suspects in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.
The preliminary hearing Thursday was the first time prosecutors and investigators laid out some of the evidence against the suspects.
Father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael, were video conferenced from the Glynn County jail. William Bryan’s attorney waived his client’s appearance.
All three are charged with felony murder in connection with the death of Arbery on Feb. 23.
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New evidence was presented in the case, including surveillance from Bryan’s home. The man investigators say blocked Arbery from escaping, and also recorded Arbery’s death.
A video clip seen around the world. We now know that video is longer and in the hands of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The investigator showed the path of Arbery trying to escape and the three men chasing him on a map of the Satilla Shores neighborhood.
Arbery lived near the area where he was killed. GBI measured the distance and Arbery lived 2.5 miles from the shooting scene. Arbery’s home was 1.8 miles from the home that was under construction.
Surveillance video showed Arbery entered the home that was under construction a couple times, but it never showed him taking anything. Video recorded over several months also showed other groups entering the house. The only 911 calls placed involving the home were for trespassing and never theft.
The investigator also talked about Bryan’s involvement in the pursuit, saying Bryan states he saw Travis McMichael following Arbery, and at one point said, "Do you got him” and then got in his truck.
The defense argued there were alleged break-ins and thefts in the neighborhood. The investigator says there was no evidence a burglary occurred at an unfinished home in the neighborhood.
Investigators testified the McMichaels admitted to chasing Arbery because they had a “gut feeling” he was a thief.
The attorneys also asked if there was racial bias involved. GBI said they have evidence that proves this.
Both sides brought up self-defense. This is what the McMichaels have argued as their reasoning behind shooting Arbery. The investigator said the GBI’s evidence shows a different story.
The state reiterated that the McMichaels and Bryan were aggressors in pursuing Arbery and had no right to do what they did.
An Arbery family attorney, Lee Merritt, said the defendants being video conferenced in made it a little easier for the family. However, the details really were tough to hear.
The GBI's agent in charge says racial bias played a role. He also said other witnesses confirm seeing Arbery jog through that neighborhood on earlier days. The family has maintained he was merely jogging and got killed because of his skin color.
The agent says Arbery ran as long as he could and fought as long as he could fight. The Glynn County Police Department and two local prosecutors originally cleared the men of any crime.
The GBI made it clear they have no doubt his death is murder. Those details elicited a lot of emotion from Arbery’s mother.
"He was afraid. The McMichaels put him in a position where I couldn’t protect him, and unfortunately he was not able to protect himself,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones said.
The family’s attorney responded to a question about how readily the GBI was to say it was a crime compared to the local law enforcement response.
"It shows the level of corruption in the local authorities and the prosecutorial pool that received and originally reviewed the case. It shows that those men and women who are responsible for covering up or disregarding this murder should also be criminally investigated and civilly investigated as a region,” Merrit said
The family is weighing filing a civil suit in Arbery's death.
Merritt says they’ll meet with the FBI in the coming days about the status on the federal investigation into the handling of the case.
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