Prosecutors say Ahmaud Arbery’s killers used racial slurs in social media posts

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (WSAV) — The federal hate crimes trial for the men convicted in Ahmaud Arbery’s murder is officially underway.

Monday the jury was seated and attorneys presented their opening arguments despite a late motion from the defense attempting to drop the charges.

Of the 12 jurors — eight are white, three are black and one is Hispanic. The alternate jurors consist of three white people and one pacific islander. In the state trial, there was one black juror — which was criticized by the Arbery family and their supporters.

The family said they’re feeling encouraged about this jury and the trial ahead.

FILE – This combo of booking photos provided by the Glynn County, Ga., Detention Center, shows from left, Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. Legal experts say federal hate crimes charges in the 2020 chase and killing of Ahmaud Arbery could prove more difficult to prosecute than the fall murder trial that ended in convictions of three white men. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday, Feb. 7, 2022 in US District Court in Brunswick, Georgia.(Glynn County Detention Center via AP, File)

“I’m just very pleased that you do see African-American people on the jury, more African-American people and you know it’s just showing that we’re moving in a good direction to bring equal justice to all the people,” Ahmaud’s father, Marcus Arbery said.

Just after the jury was sworn in, the defense filed a motion alleging prosecutors did not have proper certification from the Department of Justice, calling for the charges to be dropped.

US District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood denied the motion after prosecutors presented the necessary documents dated April 2021.

Each side then presented their opening statements, the US saying if Ahmaud was white he quote ‘would have gone on a jog, checked out a house under construction and made it home in time for Sunday supper.’

“When the case proceeds, when the trial proceeds it’s all about the evidence and about how the evidence is received. And her instructions at the end,” said Barbara Arnwine, Transformative Justice Coalition. “We are looking for the truth. I mean, there’s gonna be evidence finally introduced into the public arena that we’ve never heard.”

Some of that evidence from prosecutors involves social media posts from the defendants, where attorneys say they use racial slurs. Attorneys for all three tried to make it clear that they don’t condone their clients’ actions or their use of racially-insensitive language.

Greg McMichael’s attorney called Arbery’s death ‘an American tragedy that didn’t have to happen.’

But the defense’s main argument is that the men pursued Arbery because they had seen him in a house under construction, not because he was black.

Members of the Arbery family stepped out of the courtroom as attorneys detailed the last minutes of Ahmaud’s life but they continue to hope to get the justice they’re looking for.

“The same way we did with the state, put God first,” Ahmaud’s Aunt, Diane Jackson said. “We’re gonna put God over this too. And that’s how I know the family’s gonna be alright.

Court resumes Tuesday morning at 9, where we’ll hear from the prosecution’s first witnesses. Based on the list they read aloud during jury selection, they have nearly 40 ready to call.

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