A judge ruled on Sept. 1 that he will not allow Ahmaud Arbery’s character to be dragged in court as his alleged killers await trial.
In a written order, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley ruled that Arbery’s past criminal history cannot be used and is not relevant to the actions that led to his death.
The judge ruled that Arbery’s past run-ins with the law could unfairly “lead the jury to believe that although Arbery did not apparently commit any felony that day, he may pose future dangerousness in that he would eventually commit more alleged crimes, and therefore, the Defendants’ actions were somehow justified. The character of victim is neither relevant nor admissible in murder trial,” the judge wrote in his ruling.
Three White men are accused of killing Arbery, a Black man, as he ran through a Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. Gregory and Travis McMichael, a father and son, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., are awaiting trial this fall for chasing and killing 25-year-old Arbery.
The McMichaels pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after they spotted him running in their neighborhood. Bryan joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun. Defense attorneys argue the three men committed no crimes and that the McMichaels suspected Arbery was a burglar after he was recorded by video cameras inside a home under construction. Travis McMichael’s lawyers say he shot Arbery, who was unarmed, in self-defense.
According to the Associated Press, Arbery pleaded guilty to charges he carried a gun onto a high school campus in 2013, a year after he graduated. Rodney Ellis, police chief for the Glynn County school system, testified that Arbery tried to evade officers on foot and stopped only when two of them pointed guns at him.
He was also arrested in 2017 on charges that he tried to steal a TV from a Walmart store. Court records show he pleaded guilty to shoplifting. Arbery was on probation at the time of his death.
Defense attorneys have also asked the judge to let them introduce evidence Arbery suffered from a mental illness. Judge Walmsley has not ruled on that request.
Jury selection is scheduled to start on Oct. 18.