The defense team of the three white men accused of killing jogger Ahmaud Arbery was denied a motion to have the unarmed Black man’s mental records used as trial evidence. The decision by Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley also limits defense attorneys’ efforts to portray Arbery as an aggressive young man with a troubled past when the case goes to trial soon, with jury selection scheduled to start Oct. 18.
The Associated Press reports that the judge ruled that Arbery’s medical privacy, even in death, trumped the right of the men standing trial to a robust defense. The judge also concluded that a registered nurse’s “highly questionable diagnosis” in 2018 that Arbery suffered from mental illness could unfairly prejudice the jury.
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.
Walmsley previously ruled in September that he wouldn’t allow Ahmaud Arbery’s character to be dragged in court as his alleged killers await trial. In the written order, the judge declared that Arbery’s past criminal history cannot be used and is not relevant to the actions that led to his death.