Ahmaud Arbery Case: Seven Facts the Jury Will (Probably) Never Hear

Welcome to today’s Law of Self Defense Members-only content! I am, of course, Attorney Andrew Branca, for Law of Self Defense.

Today I’d like to share with you seven demonstrably true facts surrounding the Ahmaud Arbery case that would appear to provide considerable context around Arbery’s deadly charge at Travis McMichael on February 23, 2020, resulting in Arbery’s death—but which the jury in the trial of Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael, and neighbor (and amateur videographer) William “Roddy” Bryan will probably never hear before arriving at verdicts in this case.

Recall that Arbery charged Travis McMichael after Travis and his father Greg McMichael had stopped their pickup truck in the street some distance from Arbery, with Travis standing outside the truck’s driver’s side door.  The event was being filmed by neighbor William “Roddy” Bryan on his phone, as he followed some further distance behind in his own vehicle.  The reason for the pursuit of Arbery was the belief that Arbery might have just committed a felony burglary of a local home under construction located at 220 Satilla Drive.

All three men have been charged with various degrees of murder and other felony charges, and their trial begins tomorrow, October 18, 2021, in Glynn County GA. Although it is those three men, and obviously not the deceased Arbery, who are on trial, for purposes of convenience I refer to their trial as the “Arbery Trial.”

As a reminder, I will be closely following the proceedings of this trial in real time as it occurs, starting tomorrow morning, Monday, October 18, 2021, over at Legal Insurrection, and doing an end-of-day legal analysis in plain English of each day’s events for your reading and educational enjoyment, with that end-of-day analysis available right here on YouTube and elsewhere.

Also, you can find ALL our coverage of the Ahmaud Arbery case, past, present, and future, over at Law of Self Defense, by pointing your browser to: http://lawofselfdefense.com/arbery

So, let’s get back to the seven demonstrably true facts surrounding the Ahmaud Arbery case that the jury will probably never hear before arriving at verdicts in this case.

With respect to each of these seven pieces of evidence that I’ll share with you in a moment that the jury will almost certainly never see presented at trial, the defense is arguing that the evidence is relevant to understanding the totality of the circumstances that led to Arbery charging Travis McMichael on February 23, 2020 and fighting him for control of McMichael’s shotgun.

In opposition, the State is arguing to varying degrees either that the evidence offered is irrelevant to the legal issues around self-defense in the case, or if relevant are so prejudicial that they should nevertheless be inadmissible.

Technically speaking the State opposes the introduction of such evidence using what are called motions in limine, or motions asking the court to “limit” the admissibility of certain evidence.

Many of the relevant motions in limine by the State, and responding motions by the defense, are embedded throughout the text version of today’s content, available at http://lawofselfdefense.com/arbery.

1. Arbery Was a Convicted Thief

As one example of Arbery’s theft activities, on February 6, 2018, Arbery entered a guilty plea to the offense of felony shoplifting, in connection with his attempt to shoplift a television from a Walmart.  Police body camera video of Arbery’s arrest in this incident can be viewed here:

This theft conviction can be found referenced in the defense motion in response to 4.71, embedded below, under fact #3.

The trial judge has prohibited the defense from presenting this evidence at trial.

2. Arbery Was Convicted Felon, Sentenced to 5 Years for Unlawful Gun Possession at a School

In 2013 Arbery was found guilty of felony gun possession on school grounds, as well as three counts of felony obstruction of an officer for his violent non-compliance with arrest that resulted in injury to officers.

As a result of this conviction Arbery was sentenced to five years in prison, but permitted to serve that sentence on probation.

This theft conviction can be found referenced in the defense motion in response to 4.71, embedded below, under fact #3.

The trial judge has prohibited the defense from presenting this evidence at trial.

3. Arbery Was On Felony Probation on the Date He Died

“Unexpectedly,” Arbery’s shoplifting conviction described above would result on the revocation of his probation for the gun conviction, also described above.  Nevertheless, Arbery was back out on probation on February 23, 2020, the date on which he charged Travis McMichael and was shot dead in the physical struggle that followed.

The state has filed a motion in limine to prohibit the defense from presenting this evidence at trial, to which the defense has objected.

Here’s the State’s motion 4.71 in limine on evidence of Arbery’s probationary status:

Here’s the defense response to the State’s motion 4.71 in limine on this evidence:

Although I do not see documentation of the trial judge making a final ruling on the admissibility of this evidence as of the production of this content, based on prior rulings on similar evidentiary issues I expect that the trial judge will, indeed, prohibit the defense from presenting this evidence Arbery’s probationary status at trial.

4. Arbery Was High When He Charged Travis McMichael and Fought for Shotgun

A comprehensive and powerful chemical test of Arbery’s blood conducted on July 14, 2020 found the presence of 3.2 ng/mL of THC—the active ingredient of marijuana—in Arbery’s system.

Interestingly, a less comprehensive and less powerful blood test conducted shortly after Arbery’s death had mistakenly come back negative for the presence of “drugs of abuse.”

The State intends to introduce this first blood test at trial, as evidence that Arbery was not intoxicated with drugs commonly associated with aggressive behavior at the time of his death.

At the same time, the State has asked the trial court to prohibit the defense from introducing the results of the more comprehensive and powerful second blood test that came back positive for THC in Arbery’s system at the time of his death.

Here is the state’s motion in limine to exclude the second blood test results:

Here is the defense response to the State’s motion in limine on this evidence:

Although I do not see documentation of the trial judge making a final ruling on the admissibility of this evidence as of the production of this content, based on prior rulings on similar evidentiary issues I expect that the trial judge will, indeed, prohibit the defense from presenting this evidence of Arbery’s THC intoxication at trial.

5. Arbery Was Literally “Off His Meds” When He Charged Travis McMichael

People close to Arbery had been noting his deteriorating mental health condition in the weeks leading up to his death on February 23, 2020, including his probation officer, who in 2018 had ordered a mental health evaluation of Arbery as a result of such concerns.

There is evidence that Arbery described to his mental health evaluator that he had auditory delusions that compelled him to rob, steal, and hurt people, leading him into combative behavior, and anger that led to difficulty for him both inside and outside his home.

Arbery, as a result of this mental health evaluation, was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which is often characterized by uncontrolled violence, aggression, and poor impulse control.

Consistent with these violent characteristics of this disorder, in June 2018 Arbery’s own mother had called 911 to report that Arbery was withholding her car keys from her. She cautioned the 911 dispatcher that Arbery’s mental condition had worsened over time. She also cautioned the responding police officers that Arbery might get violent due to his mental illness if they tried to arrest him.

Arbery was subsequently prescribed psychiatric medication, specifically Zyprexa (olanzapine), in an effort to control his schizoaffective disorder.

Blood tests performed after Arbery’s death indicated absolutely no detectable Zyprexa in his system, meaning he was literally “off his meds” (non-compliant with prescribed psychiatric medication) on the date he charged Travis McMichael and fought for control of the shotgun.

The State has asked the court to prohibit the defense from introducing evidence of either Arbery’s psychiatric disorder as well as of his non-compliance with prescribed medication to control that disorder.

Here is the initial defense motion to have Arbery’s mental health status admitted as evidence:

Here’s the state’s objection to that motion:

Here is the state’s later motion in limine to exclude the psychiatric evidence:

Here is the defense response to the State’s motion in limine on this evidence:

Although I do not see documentation of the trial judge making a final ruling on the admissibility of this evidence as of the production of this content, based on prior rulings on similar evidentiary issues I expect that the trial judge will, indeed, prohibit the defense from presenting this evidence of Arbery’s non-compliance with his prescribed psychiatric disorder.

6. Arbery Frequently Used “Jogging” As a Cover To Facilitate/Excuse Theft Activities

On August 21, 2018 Arbery was observed, and body camera recorded, in a neighbor’s backyard looking into her car windows.  When police approached Arbery afterwards to give him a trespass warning he falsely claimed that he had simply been “running in the street.”  He then became aggressive and confrontational with the officers, threatening that he would “whip the officer’s ass” if they didn’t leave him alone.  He was not arrested.

On October 23, 2018 Arbery was confronted trespassing inside a mobile home by local Deputies.  Arbery fled when approached by police. When later caught, he falsely claimed that he “was just out running.”

In 2019 and 2020 Arbery was repeatedly seen attempting to enter neighboring homes through their windows. Whenever confronted in the act, Arbery would “take off running.”

Also in 2019 and 2020, local convenience store owners began to refer to Arbery as “the jogger” for his repeated conduct of running up in front of convenience stores, going through stretching motions, and then entering the convenience store to seize items and then running quickly back out to flee with the stolen merchandise.

Here’s the defense motion to admit evidence of Arbery’s “jogging” as cover and excuse for his theft activities:

Although I do not see documentation of the trial judge making a final ruling on the admissibility of this evidence as of the production of this content, based on prior rulings on similar evidentiary issues I expect that the trial judge will, indeed, prohibit the defense from presenting this evidence of Arbery’s modus operandi of using “jogging” as a cover to facilitate and excuse his theft activities.

7. Arbery Had Repeatedly Cased the 220 Satilla Drive Property For Weeks Prior to His Death

On October 25, 2019, surveillance video at 220 Satilla Drive captured Arbery at night and in the dark inside the property, presumably canvassing the property for valuables.

On November 18, 2019, surveillance video again captured Arbery at night and in the dark canvassing the 220 Satilla Drive property, presumably for the same unlawful purpose.

On February 11, 2020, surveillance video, this time accompanied by eye witness accounts and 911 recordings, once again captured Arbery at night inside the 220 Satilla Drive property.

And, of course, on February 23, 2020, the date that Arbery would be killed fighting Travis McMichael for control of McMichael’s shotgun, Arbery was in flight from having again trespassed into the 220 Satilla Drive property, again as captured on surveillance video, and presumably observed by others thus initiating the pursuit of the fleeing Arbery, and again presumably for unlawful purposes, constituting felony burglary under Georgia law.

(To touch back on the “jogging” modus operandi of Arbery, his family has characterized his flight from this presumptive felony burglary as mere recreational jogging.)

Each of the trespassing/burglary incidents just mentioned can be found referenced in the “1.14” motion embedded immediately above.

Although I do not see documentation of the trial judge making a final ruling on the admissibility of this evidence as of the production of this content, based on prior rulings on similar evidentiary issues I expect that the trial judge will, indeed, prohibit the defense from presenting this evidence of Arbery’s prior trespasses into 220 Satilla Drive, presumptively for unlawful purposes and thus constituting repeated acts of felony burglary under Georgia law.

Wrap-Up

So, those are seven demonstrably true facts surrounding the Ahmaud Arbery case that would appear to provide considerable context around Arbery’s deadly charge at Travis McMichael on February 23, 2020, resulting in Arbery’s death—but which the jury in the trial of Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael, and neighbor (and amateur videographer) William “Roddy” Bryan will probably never hear before arriving at verdicts in this case.

And remember: I will be closely following the proceedings of this trial in real time as it occurs, starting tomorrow morning, Monday, October 18, 2021, over at Legal Insurrection, and doing an end-of-day legal analysis in plain English of each day’s events for your reading and educational enjoyment, with that end-of-day analysis available right here on YouTube and elsewhere.

Also, you can find ALL our coverage of the Ahmaud Arbery case, past, present, and future, over at Law of Self Defense, by pointing your browser to: http://lawofselfdefense.com/arbery

OK, folks, that’s all I have for you on this topic.

Until next time:

Remember

You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill.

Know the law so you’re hard to convict.

Stay safe!

–Andrew

Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC

Law of Self Defense Platinum Protection Program

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24 thoughts on “Ahmaud Arbery Case: Seven Facts the Jury Will (Probably) Never Hear”

  1. My prediction for this case: On the legal merits of the case it should be an acquittal.
    In reality because of political pressure, media propaganda that this was a racially motivated case, and because Arbery did not remove any items from the construction house, the defendants will likely be convicted. Unfortunately juries are often made up of emotionally driven people and I think they will stay away from a strict legal analysis and instead become convinced by an emotional based argument just like what happened in the Derek Chauvin Trial.

  2. On the legal merits of the case, I remain uncertain if this case is as solid for the defendants as one might suppose.

    1. Did the defendants have “direct knowledge” of his committing a felony crime to justify their attempt to seemingly detain him for questioning?
    2. Absent direct knowledge, did anyone in Georgia have the right to obstruct a public road, and seemingly attempt to trap him?
    3. I’ve carefully reviewed the tape, and at one moment the driver who exited the pickup stood at his car door and, seemingly fearing that Arbury was closing on him, pointed his rifle at Arbury as he closed on the driver (causing Arbury to veer to the right, crossing the passengers side in a wide arc.

    As open carry is legal, but pointing a weapon at another person is not, I wonder how this might effect the verdict? Can one use a deadly weapon brandishing as a means of warding off an advancing person if one reasonably fears great harm?

    1. Attorney Andrew Branca

      I’ve watched the video many times, and am unable to detect any particular moment at which I could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Travis McMichael actually pointed his shotgun at Arbery PRIOR to Arbery charging him. If you have such evidence, please share it with us.

      1. Are you saying that you don’t see any evidence Travis raised and pointed the shotgun at Arbery as he was approaching the rear of the truck, or are you saying that Arbery was charging Travis at the rear of the trunck when (before) Travis raised and possibly pointed the shotgun at Arbery?

        1. Attorney Andrew Branca

          I don’t actually see any pointing of the weapon at all–but every pic that folks show me with that claim of the shotgun having been pointed also happens to have occurred after Arbery was charging Travis McMichael. So, from my perspective, either it didn’t happen, or if it happened it was justified by Arbery’s charging.

          If someone can show me an incontrovertible photo of Travis pointing his shotgun at Arbery prior to Arbery presenting as a deadly force threat, I’d be awfully interested in seeing that.

          1. I do see some movement that indicates to me that Travis may have shouldered the shotgun, but I don’t consider that movement enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he pointed it at Arbery. Other than that, I agree with you analysis completely, if there was a pointing it was after Arbery committed a reasonable apprehension type of assault.

    2. Mark: A person is justified in all 50 states in displaying a deadly weapon in a threatening manner to ward off an advancing person if one reasonably fears great bodil harm. Of course if one does not reasonably fear great bodily harm, the display may or may not be lawful. A small minority of states consider the display an “actual use of deadly force” and you must reasonably apprehend an imminent use of deadly force. The large majority of states consider the display an actual use of “non-deadly force,” Blacks Legal Dictionary defines it as a use of non-deadly force, and in those states you only need to reasonably apprehend a use of non-dead;y force.

      Under Georgia law (the Arbery case), it is only a misdemeanor offense to point a rifle at someone. It becomes a felon offense if the person you pointed the rifle at reasonably apprehends an immediate physical injury and the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonaboe doubt that the person reasonably apprehended an immediate physical injury. The circumstancial evidence in this case proves that Arbery did not reasonably apprehend an immediate physical injury, so even if the pointing wasn’t justified it was only a misdemeanor offense and that won’t support a felony murder charge. Besides that, even if it was a felony offense, Travis was not committing this offense or attempting to escape after committing this offense when Arbery was killed, so it won’t support a felony murder charge.

    3. Yeronimus Pretorius

      1. They had direct, immediate knowledge that Arbery trespassing inside a house, and was fleeing the scene. They had direct knowledge, from surveillance video, that Arbery had trespassed inside the house twice before. Gregory McMichael claims to have had a personal encounter with Arbery in which he was threatened by him.

      2. They weren’t obstructing the road. Unless Arbery was 30 yards wide, he could have easily gone around the truck, which was parked on the side of the road, which he obviously did.

  3. I would think that most of this evidence you are talking about would be admissible circumstantial evidence on the issue of who was, as a matter of fact, the initial aggressor.

  4. John, KTL KNOW THE LAW, MASS

    They went after Arbery with a gun in hand. I suspect if they could do it again they would have dialed 9-1-1 and avoided what turned out to be a deadly force encounter. Their choice to go after Arbery resulted in a greater than zero chance of being injured and a greater than zero chance of being unlawful. Now, the court will decide.

  5. As you’ve noted in prior commentaries, character evidence against a victim is rarely allowed to be introduced, so while his criminal past is true, how could they be relevant unless you could show that the defendants knew of his prior criminal acts? Were they explicitly warned by LE that Arbery was casing that property?
    Won’t the defense claim that the videos of “someone” trespassing previously establish that both police and the defendants were on alert and Arbery triggered their response?
    Will the defense not be allowed to argue that Arbery charged them? And does that not lead to his mental state and thus the drug issue – both THC and anti-psychotics?

    1. They are relevant on who was the initial aggressor. If the da wants to concede that Arbery was the initial aggressor, then they wouldn’t be material. However, if the da wants to paint Arbery as nothing more than an innocent jogger who “didn’t do nuffin” then the evidence is relevant.

  6. What I see in the video is Arbery going around the right hand side of the McMichaels’ truck and then turning sharply to the left at the front of the truck to charge straight at Travis McMichael. Until Andrew listed deteriorating mental illness, off his medication and high on other drugs, I could not understand why Arbery would do this. If he was afraid of the McMichaels and in his right mind, he had ample opportunity to escape into the bush on the right side of the road. If I were a juror, that video would leave no room for anything but a verdict of not guilty. Arbery went out of his way to attack a man armed with a shotgun. He died when his attack failed to go as he expected.

    1. I don’t know if Andrew mentioned what the mental illness was, but it was anger. Arbery had a history of flying off the handle in a fit of rage if anone attempted to tell him anything. I don’t know if it was just limited to white men telling him anything or not. I believe he had been sentenced to anger management classes and prescribed medicaton as part of his probation on the two felony convictions and prison sentenses that were hanging over his head. I would imagine the thought of getting arrested and having his probation revolked threw him into a fit of uncontrollable rage. He had a lot to lose if he didn’t make good his escape that day.

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