Defense lawyers are fighting to keep certain phone calls made in jail by Ahmaud Arbery‘s accused killer from being used as evidence in the upcoming murder trial in Brunswick, Georgia.
Gregory McMichael — who, along with his son, Travis, and friend William “Roddie” Bryan, are accused of murdering Arbery vigilante-style while he was out for a jog last year — reportedly downplayed the broad day killing as a virtue and not an immoral act during a phone call from jail to his brother.
“You’ve heard the saying that no good deed goes unpunished?” Gregory McMichael asked, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which reported there are “thousands of hours of jailhouse phone calls” his lawyer is trying to exclude from the case.
“Yeah, that’s the shining example right there,” Gregory McMichael’s brother affirms.
Gregory McMichael’s lawyer tried his best to spin the “good deed” comment while in court Thursday.
“The state believes he is saying the good deed was killing Ahmaud Arbery, but that is not what he meant,” attorney Franklin Hogue argued about Gregory McMichael’s words. “He meant the good deed was patrolling his neighborhood and the punishment is him now being in jail charged with his death.”
It was the latest attempt by the defense to reframe Arbery’s killing as a positive contribution to society that rid the area of a criminal. Defense lawyers are working hard to use Arbery’s criminal record as purported evidence that he somehow deserved to be killed by two civilians with ties to local law enforcement.
According to a report from the Marshall Project, a nonprofit journalism organization covering criminal justice, “In jail or prison, rules governing privacy tend to be suspended..”
Earlier this week, Travis McMichael’s lawyer said he wanted to enter Arbery’s criminal record and testimony about his alleged mental illness admitted as evidence in an effort to apparently justify the killing.
“What we have learned is that Mr. Arbery had a pattern of conduct and behavior, had a pattern of other acts that included theft crimes or attempted burglary crimes,” defense attorney Jason Sheffield said on Wednesday.
Defense lawyers also want to eliminate the factor that Arbery’s race played in the deadly encounter. The McMichaels and Bryan have been accused of racially profiling Arbery, suspecting him of a series of local burglaries based on his physical appearance as he jogged through their neighborhood on that fateful day of Feb. 23, 2020.
The McMichaels grabbed their guns, jumped in a pickup truck and drove after Arbery before pulling in front of him. Bryan trailed the McMichaels’ in his own vehicle and, while filming the whole thing, used his truck to trap Arbery in between the two vehicles. As Arbery tried to run past the McMichaels’ truck, Travis McMichael got out and shot him to death, purportedly after trying to initiate a citizen’s arrest.
Bryan later told investigators that Travis McMichael called Arbery a “f–king ni–er” after shooting the jogger three times at close range with a shotgun.
The McMichaels were finally arrested and charged with murder more than two months after Arbery was killed. Bryan met the same fate two weeks later.
Testimony from a bond hearing in November confirmed the three suspects frequently exchanged text messages replete with racist slurs. Citing phone records, a judge said Bryan also used the N-word and other racial slurs frequently.
It was announced last month that the three men would also be facing federal hate crime charges in addition to their murder charges.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Oct. 25, the same date that Arbery would have turned 27 years old.