Defense wants to use Ahmaud Arbery’s past in trial of men accused of killing him

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Lawyers for the men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery want to make the dead man’s past a part of any trial.

Channel 2′s Tony Thomas traveled to Brunswick for the hearing.

Wednesday was the first time in this case the three defendants were actually in the courtroom listening to testimony.

“They then cornered him like a rat and hit him. So how does his reasoning fit into this?” asked prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said.

Prosecutors insist Arbery’s confrontational record with police has nothing to do with his 2020 killing, and any future jury shouldn’t hear about any of it.

But attorneys for defendant Travis McMichael insist Arbery’s past has everything to do with this videotaped confrontation.

“His intent and his motive is central to the case,” defense attorney Jason Sheffield said.

Travis McMichael, along with his father Greg McMichael and neighbor Roddie Bryan, say they wanted to stop Arbery when they saw him running down their street because they thought he’d just broken into a construction site.

Arbery didn’t stop, and Travis McMichael wound up shooting and killing him.

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Lawyers want to tell jurors about the time in 2013 when Arbery, who was in high school at the time, had a gun in his waistband and ran from police.

“What were your thoughts?” defense attorneys asked Glynn County School Police Chief Rodney Ellis.

“Lord, please don’t let me have to shoot this man,” Ellis said.

And then in 2017, Arbery and others were accused of shoplifting.

“I didn’t steal no TV. Where’s the TV?” Abery can be heard saying on body cam video. “I’m not going in your car. Don’t touch me, bro. You can’t touch me, bro, or touch my car, and don’t touch me.”

There was another heated exchange in 2017 between Brunswick police and Arbery in a park.

“What happened in 2017 has nothing to do with what happened in 2020,” Dunikoski said.

Afterwards, one of defense attorneys said he wants the appointed prosecutors from Cobb County kicked off the case.

“There’s all sorts of things happening in Cobb County that we can’t verify,” defense attorney Kevin Gough said.

Gough, who represents Bryan, wants to dig into just how close Cobb County prosecutors and District Attorney Flynn Broady are to the Arbery family and why they were chosen to handle this high profile case.

“It makes you wonder if the relationship between Brunswick and Cobb County circuits was because it was acceptable to the Arbery family,” Gough said.

Among several pretrial motions considered by the judge Wednesday was whether Cobb’s district attorney should be forced to testify and whether Cobb prosecutors should be booted from the case.

“If there was a reason for us to be disqualified, we would provide that to the court. There is no reason for DA Brody to be disqualified,” Dunikoski said. “He is the elected DA of Cobb County and the manager of this case.”

The judge denied making the Cobb DA testify but did order the state to hand over any emails and texts between the office and former Glynn County DA’s investigator and now-defendant Greg McMichael.

The judge is also considering how much of Arbery’s past can be brought up at trial.