ByWTOC Staff|May 12, 2021 at 12:05 PM EDT - Updated May 12 at 1:20 PM
GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The three men charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery made another appearance in court Wednesday in Glynn County.
Wednesday’s pre-trail motion hearing was for the state-level charges against the suspects.
The defendants - Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan - face murder, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment charges.
Bryan’s attorney asked the judge to disqualify the Cobb County district attorney from prosecuting the Arbery case, saying former prosecutor Jesse Evans had an interaction with Greg McMichael during a trial for Justin Ross Harris. The judge denied that request.
The judge ordered the State to produce any communication between Greg McMichael and the Cobb Co. DA’s office within 10 days.
The defense attorney for Travis McMichael asked the judge to consider presenting evidence of Armbery’s mental health and previous run-ins with law enforcement. The claim was that Arbery had a pattern of theft or attempted burglary crimes.
One of the first witnesses called to the stand was Glynn County Schools Police Chief Rodney Ellis. The defense asked Chief Ellis about a prior arrest of Arbery at the high school.
Chief Ellis testified that Arbery was arrested for carrying a weapon on school property, causing a disruption at an event, unlawful resisting and obstruction. He said he was alerted over dispatch about a person with a gun in his waistband at a basketball game.
Chief Ellis testified that an officer at the game asked Arbery about the gun and stated that Arbery ran, and officers joined in the chase.
The prosecution argued that this incident is not relevant to why the suspects chased and killed Arbery seven years later.
The defense’s second witness was Officer Robert Mydell. Officer Mydell was asked about a shoplifting incident in December 2017 that involved Arbery.
Officer Mydell testified that Arbery was trying to steal a TV from the Walmart. He said he asked Arbery and other men to stop walking before Arbery became confrontational. Officer Mydell testified that Arbery was in an agitated state and did not want to comply.
Arbery was convicted for felony shoplifting for this incident.
The third witness called was Officer Michael Kanago. Officer Kanago was a Glynn County Police Department officer at the time of an incident with Arbery in November 2017.
Body camera video of the incident was played in court. Officer Kanago testified he saw a car parked in an unfrequented area at Townsend Park. He stated the area is known for illegal drug activity. On the body camera video, Officer Kanago is heard asking Arbery what he is doing in the car. Arbery responds he was rapping in the vehicle.
Officer Kanago then asks for ID, and Arbery is seen in the video showing his ID to the officer.
Arbery is heard asking the officer why is he being messed with. Arbery uses expletives in his questions to the officer. Officer Kanago testified that Arbery’s verbal escalation and body language is seen as threatening.
Officer Kanago testified that he was looking for any weapons or drugs in the vehicle. Arbery and the officer continue a verbal exchange in the video, with Arbery questioning the officer about why he was “bothering him.”
Officer Kanago said that Arbery approached him quickly and he felt like Arbery was going to assault him. The officer asked for backup. Another officer arrives at the scene and brings his Taser out. Arbery is asked to get on his knees, and he complies.
The officer concluded that there was no other escalation after this and Arbery was let go.
Jury selection for the state-level case will start on Oct. 18, 2021.
Thethree defendants made an appearance in federal court on Tuesdayas they are now facing federal hate crimes charges. All three pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.
Arbery was killed on Feb. 23, 2020. Three months after Arbery’s death, an attorney leaked the graphic video of Arbery’s killing. The video went viral and drew national attention.
All three suspects have pleaded not guilty in the state case and have said that they pursued Arbery because they thought he was a burglar.
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