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Defense attorneys claim Ahmaud Arbery’s previous brushes with law justify defendant’s actions

A hearing in Glynn County on Wednesday addressed several motions in the state prosecution of the men charged with Ahmaud Arbery’s murder.

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — Attorneys for the men facing felony murder charges in a Brunswick man’s murder say the victim’s past played a role in his killing.

Those arguments were made Wednesday in a Glynn County courtroom where defense attorneys are asking a judge to allow evidence about 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery’s character.

Arbery’s family was in court as attorneys for the three men charged with his murder—Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and “Roddie” Bryan were asked to introduce evidence about Arbery’s mental health and prior brushes with the law.

Jason Sheffield, attorney for Greg McMichael, opened the hearing saying Arbery had a pattern of conduct and behavior including theft and crimes, and acted angry and aggressive when confronted by law enforcement.

“What I’m giving you is the acts that are inherently part of a trial to this case,” Sheffield said.

Sheffield says the evidence they presented on Wednesday will help a jury decide if the McMichaels’ actions are reasonable.

Cobb County’s newest lead prosecutor in the case, Linda Dunikoski, says the prior actions have nothing to do with Arbery’s murder.

“[The defense] have put us on notice this is a self-defense case, if you’re the aggressor, you cannot go ahead and murder somebody,” Dunikoski said.

Dunikoski says the McMichaels attempt to detain Arbery was not a citizen’s arrest but illegal detention and false imprisonment.

“What [Ahmaud] Arbery did was to flee because he was under no obligation to talk to men trying to hit him with their trucks and shoot him with their guns,” Dunikoski said.

Police officers and community members were called to testify about several interactions with Arbery. Some of the events include his arrest for bringing a gun to a Brunswick High School basketball game and an officer’s interaction with Arbery in a Brunswick park in 2017.

Lee Merritt, family attorney for Ahmaud Arbery’s mother says officers harassed Arbery in the 2017 incident, and does not buy the claims that this evidence justifies the charged killer’s actions.

Other motions discussed in the case include calls to disqualify the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office as the prosecutors in the case.

Kevin Gough, attorney for William “Roddie” Bryan asked the court if former ADA Jesse Evans, the lead prosecutor who stepped down last month, to testify against his own office.

Gough claims that current Cobb County DA Flynn Broady was using the Arbery case for political gain. Gough also claimed that Greg McMichael communicated with Evans on a 2015 case that was relocated to Glynn County as evidence there is a conflict of interest.

The district attorney’s office says that interaction doesn’t breach any threshold for disqualification in the case. Judge Timothy Walmsley of Chatham County struck down part of the motion but asked the DA’s office to produce any communication records with the defendant.

Defendants doubled down on their assertion that mental health played a role in Arbery’s death. A registered nurse from Gateway Behavioral Health Services was called to testify

The second day of hearings will start on Thursday at 10:00 a.m.