Defense prepares to call first witnesses

November 17, 2021
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BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Defense attorney Kevin Gough told jurors Wednesday that evidence will show his client did not intend to hurt Ahmaud Arbery the day he was killed as the defense prepared to call its first witnesses in the murder trial of the three men charged with killing Arbery.

In his opening statement, Gough said that while William “Roddie” Bryan has admitted to trying to block Arbery’s path, there is no physical evidence from the road in Satilla Shores where Arbery was killed on Feb. 23, 2020, to suggest Bryan was driving aggressively or attempting to assault him with his truck.

“The evidence will show Mr. Bryan did not intend to harm Mr. Arbery,” Gough said. “He regretted Mr. Arbery being injured.”

Gough began his opening statement by trying to separate his client from his co-defendants, father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael. All three defendants were arrested and charged with murder and other crimes two months after Arbery was killed when cellphone video of the shooting taken by Bryan was released.

He said that Arbery did not call out to Bryan for help as he was being chased by the McMichaels despite the fact that Bryan’s home looked like “something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.”

Gough also told the jury that Bryan did not arm himself before getting into his pickup truck and pursuing Arbery. He said Bryan followed Arbery to document his path for the police.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Jason Secrist testified Friday that Bryan “minimized” his involvement in the events leading up to Arbery’s death by changing “the descriptive words” he used between an initial interview with Glynn County Police and an interview with Secrist months later.

Gough said Wednesday that if Bryan wanted to minimize his involvement, he would have gotten rid of his cellphone and the video, which he called “key evidence in the case.” 

“Mr. Bryan is the reason we have that evidence,” he said.

The defense attorneys for the McMichaels are expected to call their first witnesses Wednesday. They argued in their opening statements on Nov. 5 that the McMichaels chased Arbery in their pickup truck to detain him for police and that Travis McMichael shot him in self-defense.

Gough’s opening statement came a day after the state rested its case. Prosecutors called 23 witnesses over eight days to support their argument that Arbery was attacked by men who had no way of knowing if he had committed a crime.

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