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‘Why did Ahmaud Arbery run?’ Defense attorneys say his past explains, should be allowed into evidence

The new defense brief says Arbery’s decision to flee and “attack” when caught was based on prior run-ins with the law.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — (Note: The video above was originally published with a previous report.)

Ahmaud Arbery was “not running for pleasure or health” and did not act in self-defense but was an “attacker,” according to a new defense brief filed in his murder case.

Attorneys for Greg and Travis McMichael, who along with William “Roddie” Bryan are charged with Arbery’s 2020 murder in Brunswick, Ga., filed the brief in support of an earlier motion to introduce Arbery’s past conduct into evidence.

The motion was the subject of a May hearing at which a series of law enforcement officials testified that Arbery was confrontational and erratic during incidents of alleged shoplifting and trespassing. In court, defense attorney Jason Sheffield said Arbery demonstrated a “pattern of conduct and [criminal] behavior,” and that his reaction to being confronted was to “get angry and aggressive, physically and verbally.”

Defense lawyers also hope to introduce information about Arbery’s mental health and treatment.

Prosecutors labeled the effort to introduce Arbery’s prior brushes with the law a “smear” and said his past is irrelevant to the murder case. At the hearing, Cobb County senior assistant district attorney Linda Dunikoski said the defense wants to show “‘[Arbery] didn’t respond appropriately or correctly to the defendants, and therefore it’s his fault they had to kill him,’ and that’s offensive.”

She noted the McMichaels were unaware of Arbery’s past and were in no position to anticipate or judge his reactions.

Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy R. Walmsley asked both sides to detail their arguments in a written brief, which is the reason for the new filing. In the document, defense lawyers say the information they want to introduce is relevant to the following questions:

a. Why was Ahmaud Arbery in Satilla Shores, specifically in

220 Satilla Drive, a vacant house under construction?

b. Why did Ahmaud Arbery run after having been spotted

inside 220 Satilla Drive?

c. Why did Ahmaud Arbery continue to run when the

McMichaels caught up to him to tell him to stop running and

talk to them?

d. Why did Ahmaud Arbery turn toward Travis McMichael to

attack him instead of continuing to run away from him and

out of the neighborhood?

The McMichaels’ lawyers say their defense to the murder charge will focus on:

(1) The McMichaels’ belief about Ahmaud Arbery’s intent and

motive behind entering the vacant house;

(2) the McMichaels’ intent and motive behind Chasing Ahmaud

Arbery; and

(3) Travis McMichael’s use of deadly force after Ahmaud Arbery

turned toward him at the front of Travis McMichael’s truck.

They argue Arbery’s past acts show his intent was not to flee but to “evade capture” for trespassing and that his motive for being in the neighborhood was “a nefarious one.”

Prosecutors have not yet filed their response brief, and the judge has not yet ruled on the matter.