A judge will decide if Ahmaud Arbery's mental health can be presented at trial. The prosecutor said that should terrify anyone seeing a professional.

A judge will decide if Ahmaud Arbery's mental health can be presented at trial. The prosecutor said that should terrify anyone seeing a professional.
·3 min read
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A painting of Ahmaud Arbery is displayed during a vigil at New Springfield Baptist Church on February 23, 2021 in Waynesboro, Georgia. Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images
  • A lawyer for one of Ahmaud Arbery's accused killers wants to introduce his mental health at trial.

  • A prosecutor said Arbery's mental health is irrelevant and introducing it would be "offensive."

  • The defense argued Arbery's mental health explains his actions when he died and in past police encounters.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Defense attorneys for the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery argued in court Wednesday that Arbery's past encounters with law enforcement and his mental health conditions should be introduced at trial.

A Georgia state prosecutor said Arbery's past run-ins with law enforcement are irrelevant, and argued that introducing them is an attempt to attack the victim's character. The prosecutor, Linda Dunikoski, also called the motion seeking to include Arbery's mental health at trial "offensive."

"Everyone in America should be terrified right now if they're seeing a mental health professional," she said.

Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley is hearing 11 motions related to the Arbery killing on Wednesday and Thursday. A registered nurse who the defense called to testify about Arbery's mental health will be recalled on Thursday.

Arbery, a Black man, was shot dead on February 23, 2020 after a run-in with Gregory and Travis McMichael, who are white. Gregory McMichael, who is a former police officer himself, told police that he and his son believed Arbery looked like a burglary suspect. They pursued Arbery in a truck while carrying guns in order to make a citizens arrest, McMichael has said.

A neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, joined the chase and recorded the close-range shooting. Prosecutors allege Bryan also struck Arbery with a truck.

All three men pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal civil rights charges.

On Wednesday, Travis McMichael's attorney, Jason Sheffield, called several law enforcement witnesses who testified that Arbery had acted irrationally and aggressively when confronted by officers about suspicious activity in the past.

Rodney Ellis, police chief for the Glynn County school system, testified that in 2013 Arbery ran from law enforcement when he was seen at a high school basketball with a gun in his waistband. Arbery didn't stop running until he had guns pointed at him, Ellis said.

Two other officers testified about Arbery's demeanor when they approached him about a trespassing allegation and a report of suspicious behavior when he was sitting alone in his car, respectively. Arbery was not charged with crimes in either of those incidents.

The manager of a convenience store also testified that Arbery was a "regular shoplifter" there.

Sheffield told the court that he wasn't asking to introduce these past encounters as character assassination, or to blame Arbery's death on his behavior. He argued Arbery's "motivation" and behavior when he was approached by the McMichaels will be an issue at trial.

Dunikoski said that Arbery's motivation would be at issue if this was a self-defense case, but the defense is arguing that the McMichaels approached Arbery to make a citizen's arrest - which Dunikoski said was an illegal detention and "false imprisonment."

"They started this when Greg McMichael saw Ahmaud Arbery running down the street," Dunikoski said. "He's in a neighborhood he didn't live. Last time I checked, this was the United States of America and you can go anywhere you want to."

The judge asked the prosecution and defense to submit written legal briefs about why Arbery's past actions should or shouldn't be considered in the next 20 to 40 days.

A motion from the prosecution to introduce racist text messages and social media posts from the three defendants was set aside until the October trial. Dunikoski told the judge she only plans to introduce that evidence if it becomes relevant at trial based on the case the defense makes.

Jury selection in the trial is scheduled to begin on October 18 in Brunswick, Georgia.

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