Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY
Published 5:30 p.m. ET June 24, 2020 | Updated 7:23 p.m. ET June 24, 2020
Some of the most high profile court cases started with a grand jury. Here’s how they work and why some have faced criticism.
Three men in Georgia have been indicted on murder charges in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a prosecutor announced Wednesday.
Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes said in a news conference outside the Glynn County Courthouse that a grand jury indicted Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. on charges that include felony murder and malice.
“This is another positive step, another great step for finding justice for Ahmaud, for finding justice for this family and the community beyond,” Holmes said.
The McMichaels and Bryan were each charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Arbery, who was a 25-year-old Black man, was shot and killed Feb. 23, about 2 miles from his home in a neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery had been jogging through the neighborhood when the McMichaels were armed in the middle of a street, looking for a suspected burglar.
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Surveillance video shows Arbery stopping at a house under construction before the McMichaels pursued him. However, the owner of the property said nothing was taken and video shows several people had entered the construction site over the course of several months.
The case went largely ignored for a couple of months, until video of the incident surfaced. On May 7, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations charged both McMichaels, a white father and son, with murder and aggravated assault.
A GBI agent testified earlier in June that Bryan, who lives in the neighborhood where Arbery was shot, saw the McMichaels in their pursuit of the suspected burglar and joined in the chase. It was Bryan’s May 5 leaked cellphone video of the incident that sparked outrage and criticism over the handling of the case.
Bryan was arrested weeks later and charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
“We welcome the action of the grand jury today,” said attorney Kevin Gough, who represents Bryan. “While we disagree with it, it’s an important step in the process to moving this case closer to the speedy trial that Roddie has demanded.”
Gough said his client has committed no crime and has cooperated with law enforcement officers from the beginning.
Bob Rubin, a lawyer for Travis McMichael, wrote in an email that the defense team has found other facts “that are an integral part of the case” and that Travis McMichael “will plead not guilty.”
An autopsy report released by the GBI showed that Arbery was shot twice in the chest and a third bullet grazed his right wrist.
Arbery’s death was another in a series of incidents nationwide that have led to massive protests against systemic racism and bias over the past two months.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed in Minneapolis on Memorial Day when former police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes and ignored Floyd’s pleas for help. Then, on June 12, a 27-year-old Black man in Atlanta, Rayshard Brooks, was shot and killed after he tried to flee from police officers, who had been responding to a call about Brooks sleeping in his car outside a Wendy’s restaurant.
Contributing: Nicquel Terry-Ellis; Associated Press
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