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District attorney Linda Dunikoski makes her opening statement in the trial of three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery. Photo: Octavio Jones-Pool/Getty Images

The opening arguments and first presentations of evidence began Friday in the trial of the three white men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, on a coastal Georgia street.

Details: Travis McMichael, who shot Arbery, his father, Gregory McMichael, who was also pursuing Arbery with a gun, and their neighbor William Bryan, who joined in the chase and took the video of Arbery’s death, face nine criminal counts individually and together, including malice and felony murder charges.

  • All three have pleaded not guilty.
  • The 12-person jury includes 11 white people and 1 Black person, a makeup that Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley said might have been “intentional discrimination” on the part of defense attorneys but that he could not change due to limitations under state law.
  • Glynn County, Georgia, where the crime took place, is 27% Black and 69% white.

Senior assistant district attorney Linda Dunikoski told jurors on Friday that the defendants “assumed the worst about Ahmaud Arbery” and “trapped him like a rat between two pickup trucks.”

  • “The evidence the state expects to show at trial is that this was an attack on Mr. Arbery … and the only thing that Mr. Arbery did was to run away,” Dunikoski said.
“In this case, all three defendants did what they did based on assumptions. Not on facts, not on evidence, but assumptions."
— Linda Dunikoski, senior assistant district attorney, Cobb County DA's office

The defense argued that the McMichaels' believed they had “probable cause” to conduct a “citizen’s arrest” of Arbery for a suspected burglary in a nearby house.

  • Arbery’s death was a result of “self-defense” on the part of Travis McMichael, according to his lawyer:
"This case is about duty and responsibility," the defense attorney said. "It's about Travis McMichael's duty and responsibility to himself, to his family, and to his neighborhood."
— Robert Rubin, defense attorney for Travis McMichael

A former Georgia law allowed one citizen to arrest another if a crime was committed “in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.”

  • The law was repealed in Arbery’s name earlier this year, but it was on the books at the time of Arbery’s death.

Of note: Arbery’s parents, Marcus Arbery and Wanda Cooper-Jones, attended Friday's proceedings. When the state showed jurors the video of their son’s death, Marcus Arbery left the courtroom, saying, “I don’t want to see this.” Cooper-Jones sobbed while remaining seated, according to pool reports.

Go deeper

Politicians, activists react to guilty verdicts in Ahmaud Arbery murder

Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Politicians and prominent activists on Wednesday praised the guilty verdict in the trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, but said more needed to be done to fix the nation's judicial system.

Driving the news: All three suspects, who are white, were found guilty in the murder of Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was chased and shot while running in February 2020.

Nov 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Why the Ahmaud Arbery verdict matters

Wanda Cooper-Jones (striped scarf), mother of Ahmaud Arbery, toasts with family and friends on St. Simons Island, Ga., after the verdict. Photo: Lewis Levine/AP

During NBC's live coverage, Paul Butler, a Georgetown Law scholar of race and criminal justice, had this insight on the murder conviction of three white men for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Ga.:

  • The tape that the jurors wanted to hear today is the 911 call to the dispatcher: "What's your emergency?" The answer was: "There's a Black man running down the street." Lester [Holt], there's a lot of historical resonance in those words.

Jack Dorsey stepping down as Twitter CEO

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Jack Dorsey is stepping down as CEO of Twitter, the company announced Monday. He will be succeeded by CTO Parag Agrawal, effective immediately.

The big picture: Dorsey is also the CEO of financial payments company Square, which he co-founded in 2009, and has become a crypto evangelist in recent years.