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'We're halfway done' | Ahmaud Arbery's mother says she's anxious, eager to hear defense's arguments

The state rested its case Tuesday after eight days of testimony and more than 20 witnesses.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Tuesday, the state rested its case after eight days of testimony and more than 20 witnesses in the murder trial in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.

"We are halfway done," Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said. "It's now time to hear what the defense has, and I'm very eager, very anxious to see what they have as a defense because clearly Ahmaud was murdered for no apparent reason."

Cooper-Jones said she wants all three defendants to take the stand to "know their mindsets on how they were thinking that day." She said there's nothing they could say to her personally that would make her feel better.

"It was a senseless murder," Cooper-Jones said.

One of the prosecution's last witnesses was the medical examiner who conducted Ahmaud Arbery's autopsy, Dr. Edmond Donoghue. Prosecutors had Donoghue describe extremely graphic pictures of Arbery's fatal gunshot wounds and blood-soaked clothing. 

Cooper-Jones, rocked back and forth with her hands clasped together, looking down as the graphic autopsy pictures were shown. She left the courtroom when prosecutors showed pictures of the Nike shoes her son was wearing the day he was killed.

Jurors were very attentive during Donoghue's testimony. He said two of the three gunshot blasts hit Arbery, one in his torso and wrist, the other in his armpit. The second shot missed, he said.

According to Donoghue, one gunshot blast shattered Arbery's right ribs and instantly paralyzed his left arm. Donoghue testified that either gunshot injury, either the wound to Arbery's armpit, or to his torso and wrist, would have been fatal.

"They could put a dressing on the large defect, but you would still have the exit defects in the back of the chest and they couldn't do anything about the bleeding as long as the heart is beating," he told lead prosecutor Linda Dunikowski.

"So, in other words, is there anything they could've done on scene to save his life?" Dunikowski asked Donoghue. 

"No," he replied.

Donoghue said Arbery also had several cuts and scratches on his face and wrist from an "unguarded fall" after he was shot. He also testified that Arbery was "essentially dead before he hit the ground."

Prosecutors tried to introduce Arbery's sneakers he was wearing the day of the shooting to the courtroom. The defense objected to the physical shoes being shown in court based on relevance. 

They said if the shoes were shown, they wanted to be able to introduce other reasons why Arbery may have been running that day, like running because he was scared of being arrested. Prosecutors withdrew introducing the shoes.

Donoghue said he originally estimated Arbery was two to three feet from the gun when he was shot. After seeing the video of the shooting, Donoghue changed his estimation to two to three inches. 

Travis McMichael's attorney, Bob Rubin, pointed out that large change in distance in Donoghue's estimation during cross examination. 

Rubin also noted that Donoghue's own report said despite his injuries, Arbery "could still swing punches" and hit Travis. Rubin also said the report said Arbery had one hand on the shotgun during the encounter. Donoghue also wrote in the report Arbery "died of multiple shotgun wounds sustained during a struggle for a shotgun," Rubin noted and Donoghue confirmed.

Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery Sr., said the graphic pictures in court were too much to bear. 

“If y’all looked at the shotgun these guys used to kill my son with, the gun was used to take a big elephant down with, so we have to think where their minds were at when they grabbed those guns," Arbery Sr. said.

"The daddy grabbed a 357 Magnum, a bullet in the 357 magnum. Where is your midframe when you say, 'Hey, there you go. Let’s go get him?' Where was their mind frame at when they grabbed on to that kind of power for a 25-year-old kid, so your intent is to kill when you grab a gun like that. When you grab a gun, you didn’t give him a chance," Arbery Sr. said.

Assistant Special Agent in Charge with the GBI, David Bryan Smith, also testified Tuesday. He came to Satilla Shores to create digital maps and take drone footage in May of 2020.

Jessica Hamilton, a crime scene specialist with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, also testified Tuesday. She took pictures of Travis McMichael's truck and William Roddie Bryan's truck, and searched their homes. Hamilton said she took electronics from Bryan's home for examination, and took aerial photos of Satilla Shores. 

Special Agent Richard Dial with the GBI, the lead investigator on the case, was the state's last witness. Dial decided on May 7, 2020 there was enough evidence to arrest Greg and Travis McMichael. He executed a search warrant on the McMichael home. Photos from the search were shown in court, including Gregory McMichael's revolver. 

On May 21, 2020, he took out an arrest warrant for William Roddie Bryan and searched his home. Dial took the hard drive that had Bryan's surveillance video on it, he said.

Dial testified the Glynn County Police Department didn't pat down Bryan or search him the day of the shooting. 

Dial walked the court through drone videos showing the defendants' path that day. Jurors were seen looking around, one struggling to keep their eyes open. 

The pool reporter noted defense attorney Jason Sheffield was checking Facebook, but wasn't sure if it was related to the trial. Someone sitting next to Gregory McMichael's wife, Travis' mother, in the gallery handed Travis a note over the rail. Travis looked at it, handed it to Rubin, who handed it to Sheffield.

During cross examination of Dial, Bryan's attorney, Kevin Gough, asked Dial whether Arbery saw Bryan on his front porch when Arbery ran by. Dial said he doesn't know. 

Gough tells Dial the day of the shooting, Bryan's garage door was open and music was playing. He asks if there's anything "that a reasonable person walking down the street would find threatening or menacing?" Dial tells Gough it depends on whether they had prior contact with Bryan. 

Gough also said Arbery chases Bryan for a second. Dial said no he doesn't, and that Bryan backed up his truck to chase Arbery. 

Gough also tried to argue Bryan might have been trying to go home when Bryan puts his phone down in the video. Dial looked confused and almost in disbelief during parts of Gough's questioning.

After the state rested its case, the court heard from Bryan. Gough had him briefly testify about his time in jail in support of a motion arguing a violation of his right to a speedy trial. Like all cases, Bryan's was delayed by COVID-19. 

Gough argued the delay has kept Bryan unfairly confined in a tiny jail cell. He asked Bryan if he had any in-person visits with family, friends or ministers as a pre-trial detainee. Bryan said no. 

Gough also asked Bryan if he could shower whenever he wanted. Bryan said no. 

Prosecutors said these are normal conditions everyone is experiencing at the Glynn County Jail. The judge denied Gough's motion and said it was "untimely." 

"It was difficult, but at the same time, Mr. Bryan is still alive," Cooper-Jones said listening to Bryan testify. "He has a chance to sit in a cell and be alive. Ahmaud didn’t get that chance. Ahmaud is deceased,” she said.

Wednesday, Gough will present his opening statement, the timing of which he specifically requested at the start of the trial. Then, the defense will start to question its witnesses.

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