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'Trust the system. Trust the process.' | Prosecutors talk death of Ahmaud Arbery trial

After weeks of arguments, evidence, testimony, and hours of jury of deliberation, the prosecution is speaking out after a verdict has been made.

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — Prosecutors in the death of Ahmaud Arbery trial have spent months building a case against three white men accused of chasing, shooting and killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was jogging in a south Georgia neighborhood near Brunswick in Glynn County on Feb. 23, 2020. 

After weeks of arguments, evidence, testimony, and hours of jury deliberation, the jury found father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael guilty of the majority of the charges that they were facing. 

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said when the jury reached their verdict, it had been a day of adrenaline. 

"It's been very exciting and very intense to wait for the jury to come back with their verdict," Dunikoski said. "Then, of course, we received the verdict and we were very, very pleased for justice for Ahmaud and for his family." 

Dunikoski added she wasn't surprised that the defense tried to paint Arbery as a criminal– a burglary suspect.

"There was no evidence that he ever committed a burglary on February of 2020. But that was the strategy they were hoping to convince at least one juror or all the jurors of that," she said. 

The prosecution was also not surprised by defense comments about Black pastors, dirty toenails, motions for mistrial and striking most of the Black jurors. 

"The defense has a job to do and one of the things that they want to do is throw our team off its game," Dunikoski said. "That is why there are motions for mistrial. That is why they make some of the arguments that they make that may be offensive or unnecessary to be made, but they are just doing their job."

Assistant District Attorney Larissa Ollivierre said their job was to prove vigilante justice has no place in the world. 

"When we did our evidence list, we have over 400 exhibits, so we had quite a bit, the jury had quite a bit to review," she said.

Before jurors reviewed those 400 exhibits, Dunikoski laid out what some called a master class in closing arguments. 

"I can't tell you how many times I wrote that closing argument. As a team, we strategized about how to give the best closing argument possible. That wasn't just me up there, that was the entire team," she said.

The prosecution team also argued that the McMichaels and Bryan weren't using self-defense and weren't making a citizen's arrest. 

"Because as we all know, Ahmaud Arbery did not start this," Dunikoski added. 

Ollivierre said she hopes that this verdict will restore faith in the criminal justice system for those who have lost that. She added "don't take the law into your own hands. Trust the system. Trust the process." 

Meanwhile, Dunikoski explained that in the State of Georgia, if you are convicted of murder or felony murder, it is an automatic life sentence. The judge has no discretion except give you life with a "possibility sentence."

"So, both Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael are both looking at a minimum sentence of life with the possibility of parole. However, because of the other charges in the indictment, they're actually looking at a potential sentence of life without the possibility of parole plus 35 years," she said. 

Dunikoski said Bryan is looking at life with the possibility of parole sentence as the minimum but also a maximum without the possibility of parole plus 15 years. 

She also said their prosecution team looked at the charges from the bottom- up. First, they looked at the lesser charges, with Dunikoski adding in this case, they look at the criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment charge.

"It will lead you eventually to the heavier charges of felony murder and then of malice murder," she said.

All three of the accused men were found guilty on most of the charges they were facing. The McMichaels and Bryan will soon be sentenced. While a verdict has been reached for their murder trial charges, Bryan and the McMichaels are also facing federal charges, which include attempted kidnapping and interference with rights. 

A federal trial is set for 2022.  

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