In the end, the jury will have to decide between two versions. Did the three white Americans on trial for the murder of jogger Ahmaud Arbery “attack” him “because he was black” or did they “take responsibility” in the face of a potential burglar? The two theses clashed Monday at the end of a very sensitive trial: the victim’s mother left the courtroom for the first time, while a defense lawyer implied that he did not jog because he did not wear socks “to hide his long and dirty fingernails”.

In a sharp indictment, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski addressed for the first time head-on the racial dimension of the tragedy that occurred on February 23, 2020 in Brunswick, a coastal town in the south of the United States. That day Gregory McMichael, 65, his son Travis, 35, and their neighbor, William Bryan, 52, made the decision to hunt Ahmaud Arbery “on a whim” “because he was black. and he was running in the street, ”she said.

“They scared him” by chasing him in pickups and with guns. He had no weapons and did nothing other than “run to escape for five minutes” before being shot, she continued. It was an “attack on Ahmaud Arbery”.

The prosecutor echoed the parents of the jogger, who assure that their 25-year-old son was targeted because of the color of his skin. Since the start of the trial, they have received support from prominent members of the African American community, including dozens of black pastors.

On Monday, armed black protesters were seen near the court, according to a defense lawyer who unsuccessfully asked the judge to cancel the trial.

“Dirty nails”

To the jurors, the defendants’ lawyers asked to acquit their clients. When Travis McMichael, the author of the fatal shots, chased Ahmaud Arbery with a gun, “it was not about taking someone’s life”, but about his “sense of duty and responsibility”, said his lawyer, Jason Sheffield.

“Travis thought he had committed a burglary” and wanted to arrest him under a Georgia state law that allowed ordinary citizens to carry out arrests, he explained. “He never thought it would end like this. “

In the months preceding the tragedy, Ahmaud Arbery had indeed been filmed, on several occasions, on the site of a house under construction, but “entering private land is not a crime” and there is no evidence that there is never stole anything, said the prosecutor. This did not prevent Father McMichael’s lawyer, Me Laura Hogue, from attacking the deceased, a “handsome teenager” who “went badly” and was not, according to her, in this residential area to do so. a jogging. Otherwise, “why didn’t he wear socks to hide the long, dirty nails on his toes?” She said. Her tirade prompted Ahmaud Arbery’s mother to leave the room and was denounced on Twitter by the powerful civil rights organization NAACP, which deemed her “shameful and disgusting”.

“Who pointed his gun? “

The defendants also pleaded self-defense. Last week, Travis McMichael assured jurors that Ahmaud Arbery had refused to cooperate. The young man “seemed crazy” and had tried to grab his weapon, he said again: “It was a life or death situation”.

“We have the right to defend ourselves, to use force capable of causing death (…) if we believe it is necessary and, at the time, Travis deemed it necessary”, added his lawyer Monday.

Going even further, Me Laura Hogue assured that Ahmaud Arbery was “not a victim”: “he died (…) because he chose to fight”. “Who pointed his gun? “, Replied Linda Dunikoski:” You cannot invoke self-defense when you are the author of the initial and unjustified aggression. The prosecutor will have the floor for the last time on Tuesday morning. It will then be up to the twelve jurors, including one black man, to decide unanimously whether each of the accused is guilty or innocent.


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