Jurors see graphic photos of Ahmaud Arbery’s gaping gunshot wounds and white t-shirt stained red with blood

·5 min read

Jurors in the trial of the three white men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery have been shown graphic photos of the gaping gunshot wounds in the Black 25-year-old’s body and his white t-shirt stained entirely red with blood after he was shot dead in a neighbourhood in Georgia last year.

Photos from Mr Arbery’s autopsy were shown to the courtroom on Tuesday morning as prosecutors called medical examiner Dr Edmund Donoghue to the stand to testify how he died from “multiple gunshot wounds”.

The images showed a gaping hole in the center of Mr Arbery’s chest, a second gunshot wound in his left armpit and his right wrist partly torn off by bullets from Travis McMichaels’ shotgun.

The Black jogger’s t-shirt was unrecognisable from the white colour seen in the smartphone footage filmed by suspect William “Roddie” Bryan Jr, dyed entirely red with blood, while Mr Arbery’s shorts and a sheet used to cover his body were also covered in bloodstains.

Mr Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones hung her head as the images of her son’s corpse were shown before she got up and left the courtroom.

Dr Donoghue, who examined Mr Arbery’s body on February 24 2020 – the day after he was slain – at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab in coastal Georgia, told the court: “His cause of death was multiple shotgun wounds.”

The medical examiner testified that three gunshots were fired at close range, two of them striking Mr Arbery and a third missing him entirely.

The first shot struck Mr Arbery’s right wrist first – tearing through an artery – before striking him in the centre of his chest, Dr Donoghue said.

The second gunshot missed Mr Arbery before the third struck him near his left armpit, hitting a major artery and vein and fracturing bones.

The medical examiner said that the chest wound and the armpit wound were each lethal enough to have killed Mr Arbery on their own.

When asked if there was anything that could have been done to save Mr Arbery’s life, Dr Donoghue said: “No, I don’t think so.”

Under cross-examination, Travis McMichael’s attorney Bob Rubin questioned whether the first shot to Mr Arbery’s wrist would have stopped him fighting back against the white man.

Dr Donoghue said the first shot had paralysed Mr Arbery’s arm but that he was likely in a “flight or fight” response.

“He’s paralyzed now, can’t use that arm,” he said.

“When you run into a situation that is stressful or that you are afraid of, or is going to cause anxiety, your body – the amygdala in the brain – will correlate a flight or fight response sending adrenaline and cortisol through him.

“As soon as he realized there was a threatening situation, that response would start.”

Ahmaud Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones hangs her head as her son’s autopsy photos are shown to the court on Tuesday (REUTERS)
Ahmaud Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones hangs her head as her son’s autopsy photos are shown to the court on Tuesday (REUTERS)

Mr Rubin questioned whether the adrenaline and cortisol running through Mr Arbery could have been caused by anger and fear of being caught – rather than fear of being shot by the three white men chasing him in his cars.

“The basis for the adrenaline dump and cortisol running through his veins as caused by stress -” said Mr Rubin.

“Or fear,” said Dr Donoghue.

Mr Rubin replied: “Fear? Anger too?

“You have no idea what he was afraid of what he was afraid of at that point in time.”

Dr Donoghue said:​​ “Well, there was a man holding a shotgun.”

“So could’ve been afraid of being shot?” asked Mr Rubin.

“And there was a man following him in a pickup truck,” replied Dr Donoghue.

Mr Rubin said Mr Arbery “could have been afraid of him being caught” and asked the medical examiner: “Do you know if Mr Arbery was afraid of being caught?”

He added: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

The testimony followed the judge's refusal to declare a mistrial over defence claims that jurors were tainted when Mr Arbery's mother wept over evidence photos, claiming it drew attention to the presence of the Rev. Jesse Jackson sitting beside her in the courtroom's public gallery.

Mr Bryan’s attorney Kevin Gough has sparked outrage after repeatedly complaining about the presence of “Black pastors” in the courtroom.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley said no group would be excluded from his courtroom and rejected Mr Gough’s latest attempt to remove Rev. Jackson, calling the complaints “reprehensible”.

Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead on 23 February 2020 near Brunswick, Georgia (Marcus Abery via Reuters)
Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead on 23 February 2020 near Brunswick, Georgia (Marcus Abery via Reuters)

Rev. Jackson said outside the courthouse: “As the judge said, it was my constitutional right to be there. It’s my moral obligation to be there.”

Rev. Jackson acknowledged that Mr Arbery’s mother wept “very quietly” in the courtroom after prosecutors showed a photo of her son to a witness.

The Rev. Al Sharpton previously sat with the victim’s parents, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery Sr., inside the Glynn County courtroom. He pledged to return to the courthouse, and activists said 100 Black pastors will join him.

Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and pursued Mr Arbery in a pickup truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood on February 23 2020.

Their neighbor Mr Bryan joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Mr Arbery three times with a shotgun.

Bryan and the McMichaels are charged with murder and other crimes. Prosecutors say they chased Mr Arbery for five minutes to keep him from exiting the Satilla Shores subdivision outside the port city of Brunswick.

The chase ended when Mr Arbery, trailed by Mr Bryan's truck, tried to run around the McMichaels' truck as it idled in the road ahead.

The video shows Travis McMichael confronting Mr Arbery and then shooting him as he throws punches and grapples for the gun.

The McMichaels told police they suspected Mr Arbery was a burglar after security cameras recorded him several times inside a home under construction, five houses away. Defence attorneys say Travis McMichael opened fire in self-defense.

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