Defense attorneys claim clients were acting in self-defense when Arbery was shot

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Defense attorney Bob Rubin speaks during a motion hearing at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. On November 4. (Stephen B. Morton / Pool / AP)

Defense attorney for one of the men accused of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder said his client acted in self-defense. He called Arbery’s death a “tragedy” during his opening remarks on Friday afternoon.

Bob Rubin, one of the attorneys representing the accused Travis McMichael, painted a picture of a neighborhood that feared break-ins and theft in his opening statements. He attempted to portray McMichael as someone who had a responsibility to protect the Satilla Shore neighborhood he lived in, saying, “This case is about duty and responsibility” in the opening lines of his jury speech.

To substantiate its claims, the defense presented a 911 call made by McMichael on February 11, 2020 – two weeks before Arbury was fatally sho – where the defendant told an operator: “We had a series of burglaries… i just caught a guy running around a house under construction two houses away from me, when i parked he ran into the house.

Based on this incident, Rubin said Travis McMichael had “probable reasons to believe Ahmaud Arbery was a burglar.”

Sitting in the courtroom in a gray suite, Travis McMichael listened to Rubin recount how he had enjoyed a beautiful Saturday, when his father, Gregory McMichael, saw Arbery at a neighbor’s house under construction. Rubin told the court that Gregory McMichael had rushed into the house and said to his son, “Travis, Travis, this guy is running down the street. Rubin continued to detail the exchange between the two men, with the elder McMichael telling his son that Arbery was fleeing the neighborhood.

The couple got into their truck to follow Arbery, armed with their guns, according to Rubin, who said the guns were “for their protection.” The defendants intended to detain Arbery for police, the lawyer said. Rubin suggested that the gunshot death was not murder because “Before the first shot was fired they called the police.”

“It’s not murder proof,” Rubin said.

When the men caught up with Arbery, the lawyer claimed Travis McMichael showed his gun in an attempt to “defuse” the situation, but Arbery didn’t say anything to them and didn’t stop moving. Rubin said Arbery was out of sight and then reappeared. Travis was unsure if Arbery was armed, and at the time “fired his gun in self-defense,” Rubin said.

“It is tragic that Ahmaud Arbery lost his life, but Travis McMichael acted in self-defense,” the defense lawyer said.

A reporter from the pool in the room said Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones sighed heavily as it was said in court.

Gregory McMichael’s attorney, Frank Hogue, was next to make his opening statement.

According to Hogue, the facts of the case will be for the most part “without dispute”.

“The reason why this happened is the subject of this case,” Hogue said.

The lawyer told the jury a similar version of some of the events leading up to the day of the shooting, as the previous defense lawyer had done.

Hogue said Gregory McMichael told him that when he and his son caught up with Arbery, “he was in an abject fear of being about to see his only son possibly being shot before his eyes.”

Gregory McMichael told investigators after the shooting that “my intention was to arrest this guy so he can be arrested or at the very least identified,” Hogue said.


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