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Jury deliberations continue Tuesday in federal hate crime trial for Ahmaud Arbery's killers

The judge says the jury will continue deliberating until "dinner time" Monday evening and will continue tomorrow morning if a verdict isn't reach Monday.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — After hours of deliberation Monday in the federal hate crimes trial of the three men convicted last November of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, jurors have been dismissed for the evening.

They will return to continue deliberating Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.

The jury is tasked with determining if father and son: Gregory and Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan also violated Arbery's civil rights and killed him because of the color of his skin.

The three men were convicted of murdering Arbery last year in a state trial and each received life in prison as a result of Georgia minimum sentencing guidelines.

Federal prosecutor Chris Perry gave the first closing argument for the prosecution.

"There is a big difference between being vigilant and being a vigilante," he began. "He (Greg) didn’t call 911 he grabbed his son and he grabbed his gun...They were fueled by a mix of racial anger and pride."

Amy Copeland, Travis McMichael’s attorney, said that this incident was not race based

“Would they have grabbed their guns and done this to a white guy? The answer is yes," she said. 

She and the other attorneys questioned whether the street Ahmaud was on was actually a public street to qualify under the hate crime statute. 

They contend that the Satilla Shores roads were never accepted by the county.

Attorney AJ Balbo, attorney for Greg McMichael, reminded the court that "this is not a murder trial the responsibility of the death is not for you to decide. Whether he was justified in doing it is a question for a murder case."

During a lunch break, Ahmad Arbery’s mother took several questions from reporters.

“I think the timing is great,” said Wanda Cooper-Jones when asked about the possibility of the trial concluding near the anniversary of her son’s death. 

Following the lunch break, the court will hear the final closing argument from prosecutors.

The trial began with testimony from neighbors and investigators last week.

 Throughout the course of the trial, the prosecution has been trying to establish racial motivation in the chase and murder of Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020. 

Testimony presented last week included the viciously racist and at-times violent texts and social media posts of Travis McMichael, along with racist communications by Gregory McMichael and Bryan, and testimony from character witnesses. 

Some of the evidence, including racially-charged texts and social media posts, presented during the federal trial wasn't included in the state trial. 

The jury will also be looking at forensic evidence and autopsy photographs once deliberations begin. 

One of the character witnesses to take the stand last week was a co-worker of Travis McMichael. She said she had received racist comments by Travis McMichael over her relationship with a Black man. 

According to legal analyst Page Pate, the combination of these elements is enough evidence to find racial motivation for killing Arbery.  

"So if you have defendants who are publicly at least within their group, their friends, their neighbors, their co-workers expressing racial hatred in those conversations then it's not a long jump to them committing a crime motivated by race," Pate said.

The court indicated Friday that closing arguments could take all day.

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