Judge’s ruling in Ahmaud Arbery case a big blow to defense weeks before trial starts

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — It’s down to the final days before one of the biggest trials in recent Georgia memory. Jury selection in the Ahmaud Arbery case is set to begin in two weeks.

Channel 2′s Tony Thomas has learned that a recent ruling from a judge has thrown a big kink into the defense’s case.

The ruling came out late Friday saying Arbery’s mental health records cannot be used at trial. It’s something the defendants desperately wanted in as they try to say the victim was the aggressor.

Judge Timothy Wamsley ultimately ruled Arbery’s mental health diagnosis was “highly questionable to begin with and will not be allowed at the upcoming trial.”

“It is reckless to disregard the mental health illness that plagued him up to this moment in February 2020,” attorney Jason Sheffield said.


Sheffield is one of the defense attorneys for Greg and Travis McMichael. They wanted to use the mental health records to show jurors Arbery had a mental illness that affected his aggressiveness and could have meant he was the aggressor in the February 2020 incident in this neighborhood just outside of Brunswick.

Travis McMichaels, along with neighbor Roddy Bryan, is set to face trial later this month on charges they killed Arbery.

Video shows Travis McMichael shooting Arbery during a struggle. The defendants claim self-defense.

Prosecutors say Arbery was simply jogging and had nothing to do with a series of neighborhood break-ins the defendants accused him of.

“He could have been a Rhodes Scholar. He could have been clucking like a chicken in the middle of the road, but it’s irrelevant to this murder case,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said.

Prosecutors insist that especially since the defendants didn’t know Arbery or anything about him, his mental state shouldn’t be a factor. The judge agreed, and when the jury begins listening to testimony later this month, Arbery’s mental health won’t be mentioned.

“They try to make it like he is on trial, but he ain’t. He lost his life for nothing,” Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, said.

Friday’s ruling was one of the last expected before the trial begins Oct. 18.