(CN) — After eight days of testimony from 23 witnesses, the prosecution in the Georgia trial over Ahmaud Arbery’s killing rested its case Tuesday evening.
Three white men — Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan — stand accused of murder, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment for chasing Arbery, who was Black, in their pick-up trucks as he jogged through their coastal Georgia neighborhood last February.
Bryan filmed the chase on his phone, capturing the moment Travis McMichael fired three shotgun blasts at Arbery as the two men fought for control of the weapon.
The panel of jurors — 11 white and one Black — has so far watched multiple body cam videos from officers at the crime scene, heard hours of readings from interview transcripts with the three defendants, and seen frame-by-frame breakdowns of the video of the shooting.
On Tuesday, jurors were shown a series of photos taken during Arbery’s autopsy, including close-up images of the gaping shotgun wounds in the 25-year-old’s chest and armpit.
Photos of Arbery’s body laying inside an open black body bag were also shown.
The images accompanied testimony from Dr. Edmund Donoghue, a forensic pathologist and medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. Donoghue confirmed that Arbery died from multiple gunshot wounds.
The first shot grazed Arbery’s wrist, hitting an artery and slamming into his chest where it broke multiple ribs and caused heavy internal bleeding into the chest cavity, Donoghue said.
The second shot missed Arbery. But the third struck him in the left armpit, fracturing bones and causing nerve damage, which immediately paralyzed his arm.
Donoghue estimated in his initial report that the muzzle of the shotgun was between three and four feet away from Arbery’s body when he was shot. Brian Leppard, a firearms examiner for the GBI, testified Monday that the gun was fired while in “contact or near contact” with Arbery’s clothing.
The medical examiner said Arbery could have died from any one of the wounds.
Asked by prosecutor Linda Dunikoski whether EMS or first responders could have done anything to save Arbery’s life at the scene, Donoghue said, “I don’t think so.”
He later said Arbery was “dead before he hit the ground.”
Asked by Dunikoski why Arbery was able to keep running and fighting back after he had been shot in the chest, Donoghue said Arbery would have been in “fight or flight” mode with an elevated heart rate and adrenaline pumping through his body.
“If Mr. Arbery had been under a very stressful situation for five minutes … has he already got that adrenaline going in his system then?” Dunikoski asked, referring to the McMichaels’ five-minute pursuit of Arbery through the neighborhood.
“As soon as he realized it was a threatening situation it would start,” the medical examiner said.
Bob Rubin, one of the attorneys representing Travis McMichael, asked Donoghue why Arbery’s wounds did not stop him from continuing to struggle with McMichael for control of the gun.
“He’s still able to punch and grab the gun … Nothing prevented Mr. Arbery from holding the gun with one hand and swinging and hitting Mr. McMichael with the other,” Rubin said.
Donoghue said, “That’s correct.”
Attorneys for McMichael have argued that he shot Arbery in self-defense.
Jurors also heard testimony from GBI agent Richard Dial, who was the lead agent on the case after it was taken up by state investigators in May 2020.
Dial showed maps and drone footage of the neighborhood where the shooting occurred. He also testified that he took out arrest warrants for all three defendants and got warrants to search their homes.
Asked by Bryan’s attorney Kevin Gough whether he thought the video of Arbery’s death created by Bryan “was consistent with someone who was simply trying to be a witness” to the shooting, Dial appeared confused.
“No. He wasn’t a witness,” Dial said. “It would be consistent with the fact that he was still pursuing Mr. Arbery, trying to box him in between two different vehicles.”
According to testimony earlier in the trial, Bryan told at least two Glynn County police officers that he was trying to use his truck to “block in” and “corner” Arbery.
Dial also said Glynn County police never searched Bryan’s vehicle, never impounded the vehicle, and never patted Bryan down on the day of the shooting. Bryan was allowed to drive his truck home alone before going to the police department to give a statement.
Court will resume Wednesday morning with the presentation of the defense’s case, beginning with an opening statement from Gough. The attorney made the unusual decision to hold off on making opening remarks until the close of the state’s case.