Testimony enters day 4 in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 3:45 PM EST
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GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Wednesday marked day four of testimony in the murder trial of three men charged in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.

Neighbors and police testified, while new support arrived for Arbery’s family in Brunswick.

Wednesday began with testimony from the detective who interviewed Travis McMichael.

Also taking the stand was Matthew Albenze, who called Glynn County Police Department’s non-emergency number to report a suspicious person when he saw Ahmaud Arbery in a house under construction in the Satilla Shores neighborhood. Albenze said he called the non-emergency number because he didn’t see an emergency, but believed Arbery could be the same person caught on surveillance video in the house under construction multiple times before.

The lead investigator in the case also took the stand. Arbery’s mother says what he said in court isn’t what he told her the day her son died.

“Again, every word that describes me right now is just disturbing. Ahmaud ran, Ahmaud was chased, Ahmaud was killed, and then Ahmaud was lied on. Very not acceptable,” Wanda Cooper-Jones said.

Stephan Lowrey, the lead Glynn County police investigator on the case, read a transcript in court from an interview with William “Roddie” Bryan. In it, Bryan says he used his truck several times to cut off Arbery.

Lowrey read to the court that Bryan said he didn’t hit Arbery. Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, asked Lowrey if he thought Bryan committed aggravated assault with his truck. Lowrey said no that was not what his interpretation at the time and agreed that Glynn County police considered Bryan a witness to the shooting.

Arbery’s mother spoke with WTOC after Lowrey’s testimony.

“Investigator Lowrey was the individual who called me on that Sunday afternoon. He told me that Ahmaud had did a burglary, he was confronted by the homeowner and Ahmaud was killed. He did not tell the courts that Ahmaud had committed a burglary. In fact, he said nothing about a crime that Ahmaud had committed. But instead he called me and told me that my son was deceased because he had committed a burglary,” Cooper-Jones said.

Glynn County police made no arrests in Arbery’s shooting. But Lowrey said he hadn’t closed the case when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took it over in May.

Bruton Rule

A decades-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling is affecting what evidence can, and cannot be presented. The Supreme Court ruling affecting this trial is known as the Bruton Rule, and comes into play when there are two or more defendants being tried together.

In the four days of testimony, we’ve gotten to hear at least portions of statements Greg McMichael and Roddie Bryan made to police following the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. Wednesday morning, the prosecution objected though when the defense asked a police detective about his interview with Travis McMichael after the shooting.

The judge sent the jury out of the courtroom and then lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski argued because of the Bruton Rule, Travis McMichael’s statements should not be allowed into court. She said having the jury hear her object over it could cause jurors to think prosecutors are hiding things.

“The state’s fear is that it appears to the jury that oh, there’s this statement of Travis McMichael out there. And I’ve been put in the position of having to object about the contents of it, and tell them we’re not rendering it. Which of course makes it look like the state’s hiding the statement from them when that’s not the intention. State’s been put in an awkward position,” said lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski.

Judge Walmsley said he’d allow the defense to ask if Travis McMichael cooperated and gave a statement, but wouldn’t allow any questions about how the detective thought McMichael was acting during the interview.

Wednesday attorneys Ben Crump and Lee Merritt, along with Marcus Arbery Sr. reacted to testimony given thus far in the trial outside the Glynn County Courthouse.

The Bruton Rule is one of many legal issues surrounding this case. WTOC spoke with veteran broadcaster and former criminal defense attorney Greta Van Susteren about the Bruton Rule and why it’s such a crucial part of this case.

Here’s how she explained it:

Reverend Al Sharpton later joined Ahmaud Arbery’s family outside the Glynn County Courthouse. Reverend Sharpton also joined the Arbery family inside the courthouse Wednesday afternoon to listen in on a portion of testimony.

Outside the courthouse during the lunch break, Sharpton delivered a rebuke of the makeup of the jury, saying it’s not only the three defendants on trial, but also Georgia law that allowed for all but one potential black juror to be removed from the jury pool.

Reverend Sharpton did say he was encouraged that some jurors did say during the selection process that they believe what happened to Ahmaud Arbery was wrong.

“This is about race, but it’s not limited to race. There are whites that see this as disgraceful that don’t want their town known for this. But when you have even the judge saying there seems to be some bias involved, but the Georgia law barred him, we need to look at the law and we need white and black to stand together against this kind of nonsense,” said Reverend Al Sharpton.

As he spoke to the crowd, Reverend Al Sharpton was flanked by Arbery’s mother and father, and their attorneys Lee Merritt and Ben Crump.

“What is haunting is what can we say or do to hold the mirror to America’s face to say you have to at least acknowledge the hypocrisy,” said attorney Ben Crump.

Crump says he believes if the race of the victim and defendants was reversed, the outcome would’ve been much different.

“In order to have a defense, you must have an offense. And what was Ahmaud’s offense? There was no robbery, there was no weapon. So what are you defending yourself against? Even though we feel the racial makeup of this jury is insulting, we call on them to do the right thing,” said Sharpton.

Federal civil rights lawsuit

As the Arbery family continues to call for justice inside the courtroom, a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Ahmaud’s mother continues to work it’s way through the legal system.

You may remember the lawsuit was filed on the one year anniversary of Arbery’s death. It alleges several Glynn County law enforcement members and prosecutors violated his civil rights by a delay in justice and cover up.

Family Attorney Lee Merritt drew new attention to that suit outside the courthouse Wednesday.

“In that lawsuit, we said that the behaviors of the McMichaels had been gratified by police officers, that they knew, well aware of the time that Ahmaud Arbery was murdered, that this conspiracy was unfolding and they participated in it. They helped it come into fruition and we’re learning about the details of that in open court today, and everything we allege in that lawsuit is being confirmed by the evidence,” Merritt said.

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