BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Closing arguments in the trial of Ahmaud Arbery's death kicked off Monday morning. Criminal defense attorney Darryl Cohen has come forward to offer a few choice words on how he believes the trial is developing so far. To Cohen, it is about far more than just what goes on inside the courtroom.
Ahmaud Arbery was killed in Glynn County near Brunswick. On Feb. 23, 2020, father and son Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael confronted Arbery as he ran through Glynn County's Satilla Shores neighborhood. The two claimed they were attempting a citizen's arrest. Travis McMichael shot Ahmaud Arbery following a struggle, killing him. The father, son and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan have since been charged, accused of murder.
Attorney Darryl Cohen joined 11 Alive Morning News to speak with Aisha Howard about the trial on Monday. Cohen's advice is to be prepared for anything.
"I think, a case like this, you expect the unexpected." Cohen said. "As you know, closing arguments are what the lawyers say the evidence was. And those lawyers, on both the prosecution and the defense side, are going to do everything they can to convince that jury that these men are guilty or these men are not guilty or these men are innocent. And don't be surprised, at all, as to what any of the lawyers have to say."
There is another trial that has also ensnared the country's attention. On its fourth day of deliberation, the jury reached a verdict in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse - the 18-year-old involved in the deadly Kenosha shootings. Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges after pleading self-defense, avoiding conviction on homicide, attempted homicide and reckless endangering.
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When Travis McMichael took the stand in the trial of Ahmaud Arbery's death on Wednesday, he also claimed self-defense. However, Cohen, said that the defense that worked in Rittenhouse's trial may not necessarily be as effective in the trial of Ahmaud Arbery's death, though it is too soon to tell.
"Well when you are using self-defense as a defense, you have to show that you were in fear, reasonable fear, of being hurt, murdered, damaged physically. I don't think he showed that." Darryl Cohen said. "But, what they were trying to do is liken him; make him more likeable. (They are trying) to take him and put him in the heads of the 12 people in the jury and trying to make them like him, because juries can do crazy things at crazy times. They can convict him because the evidence is there. They can find him not guilty in spite of the evidence, if they like him. There's all sorts of things that juries do."
Yet, Cohen does believe that the defense in the trial of Ahmaud Arbery's death is possibly using a similar tactic to the defense in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse.
"I don't see self-defense here, but I understand that it is one of the defenses being used. If it works one place, it may or may not work in another." Cohen continued. "The jurors in Wisconsin and in South Georgia are very different people. They come from different backgrounds. They think differently. They say things differently. I don't know how it is going to play. But, again, what did the defense do for Kyle Rittenhouse? They made him look like a boy. They didn't have him look like this tough guy carrying around an automatic weapon. They made him look like a boy. They cleaned him up."
"I think the jury looked at him as a boy, rather than as a man." Cohen said, discussing Kyle Rittenhouse's not guilty verdict . "Here, in my view, they are trying to make these three defendants look nicer, look more cleaned up, as if they are doing a favor for the neighborhood. That's what they are trying to do. Will it work? I don't know. We'll have to wait and see."
A defendant taking the stand is also sometimes a risky move for a trial. Cohen added that Travis McMichael taking the stand may have backfired when the defendant was later cross-examined. But, he also admits that it is never quite clear how a jury will react.
"It's interesting, because juries love to hear a defendant take the stand. But, the problem is - when you take the stand - you open yourself up to cross-examination where you don't look so good," Cohen explained. "I thought he looked fine on direct examination. I thought he didn't look so fine on cross-examination. And again, we'll see what the jury believes he did or whether or not they like him."
"There's more to it than just what goes on in a courtroom," Cohen finished. "It's psychological."
Closing arguments in the trial of Ahmaud Arbery's death took place on Monday, five full weeks after the first pool of jurors reported for selection in the trial.