However, the murder convictions for the three white men who chased him may not have been as secured by their own words to investigators on the day of shooting.
Greg McMichael was riding in a pickup truck bed when his son murdered Arbery. He told police that the Black man was ''trapped like a rats'', and he said to Arbery: "Stop! Or I'll blow you f---ing head!"
These statements allowed prosecutors context for the video, which didn't show all of the shooting and only a fraction of the five minutes Arbery was chased by.
"It was those statements that more screwed up the defense than the video. Andrew Fleischman, an appellate attorney who was able to follow the trial from Atlanta, said that if they hadn't spoken to police and said they saw him running away from the property -- there's a good chance the jury would have acquitted them."
WHAT THEY SAY:
Travis McMichael was the shooter. His dad Greg McMichael and William Bryan were neighbors who spoke extensively with Glynn County investigators shortly after Arbery was shot to death in their Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood in February 2020.
They claimed they didn't know what Arbery did wrong. This would prove to be a huge blow to their defense, as they were making a citizen’s arrest.
The citizen's arrest law was largely repealed by legislators after Arbery’s death. It required that a person see or have immediate knowledge about a crime or have reasonable suspicion someone is fleeing from a felony to justify a citizen’s arrest.
"I don’t believe the guy stole anything from there. If he did, it was probably very early in the process." According to Greg McMichael's transcript of the interview, Glynn County police Sergeant. Roderic Nohilly was read in court
Bryan was sitting on his front porch and saw Arbery pass him with McMichaels' truck following close behind. Although he claimed he didn’t recognize them or the reason for the chase, a police officer joined him in calling out "Y’all got him?"
Bryan spoke with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and stated that he wanted to photograph Arbery for police. However, he couldn't identify any crimes Arbery has committed.
Bryan stated, "I thought he had done something wrong." "I wasn't sure."
These statements enabled Linda Dunikoski, the prosecutor, to analyze and dissect the defense's arguments.
"Nobody was referring to a citizen's arrested. "I don't mean to use the magic words "citizens' arrest." Page Pate, an Atlanta defense attorney, said that nobody was talking about a citizen's arrest.
The attorneys had to work hard to explain their statements.
"The evidence suggests Roddie Bryan legitimately struggles with finding the right words," Bryan’s lawyer, Kevin Gough told jurors Monday in his closing argument.
Travis McMichael testifying in his defence said that he was shocked when he first spoke with police and called the shooting the most traumatizing event in his life.
Greg McMichael's lawyer suggested that he may not have shouted at Arbery. "Stop, otherwise I'll blow you f---ing heads off," he said to police. The remark was not recorded on either the cellphone video of Arbery's shooting or the 911 call Greg McMichael made. These recordings only covered a fraction of the five-minute chase that led to Arbery's untimely death.
Pate stated, "You only have a few defenses to deal what is basically an confession."
Greg McMichael, a former investigator at the Glynn county district attorney's offices, may have believed he could handle trouble with his friends and acquaintances.
It worked for a while. After the video of the shooting was made public, the men were not charged for any more than two months. The case was then turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Two days later, the state agents arrested the men.
Fleischman stated that "This is just one case of a client talking himself out of trouble, and those statements later turned up to put him back in it."
According to phone records, Greg McMichael called Jackie Johnson, the District Attorney, shortly after the shooting. Johnson gave the case to an outside prosecutor who cited the law regarding citizen arrests and recommended no charges. The video was discovered by Johnson's third prosecutor, who reviewed the case and gave it to the state.
Johnsonwas charged with a felony count of violating her office oath and a misdemeanor count for obstructing police in her investigation. Johnson's actions have not been revealed by authorities. However, she did tell the second prosecutor that she requested advice from police during the immediate aftermath of Arbery’s death.