(NEW YORK) — The three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery have filed appeals against their hate crime convictions.
According to court documents filed on March 3, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan argue that race did not factor into their decisions to chase and shoot Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, on Feb. 23, 2020.
Travis McMichael’s appeal focuses on whether the streets where Arbery was shot were controlled by the county.
Arbery was killed in Brunswick, Georgia, after Travis and Gregory McMichael saw Arbery jogging in their neighborhood and chased after him.
The McMichaels say they believed Arbery had been responsible for several trespassing incidents in the neighborhood.
Bryan joined the chase in his own truck, blocking Arbery from escaping, and recorded video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery after a brief struggle.
Travis McMichael and his father Gregory were sentenced to life in prison on the federal hate crime charges.
Bryan was sentenced to 35 years.
After Travis McMichael shot Arbery, Bryan told investigators he heard Travis yell a racist epithet as Arbery lay dying on the pavement. While it is not illegal to use racial slurs, “these slurs can provide you with evidence as to why a defendant did what he did,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Bobbi Bernstein said in court.
FBI analyst Amy Vaughn also testified that she found a digital onslaught of messages and online posts from the three men in which they allegedly routinely used racial slurs to describe Black people and advocated violence against them.
Gregory McMichael’s legal team has argued that McMichael chased Arbery because he believed Arbery was the person seen in security footage trespassing on properties in the neighborhood.
“The fact that Mr. Arbery was Black was merely a characteristic shared with the person seen on the security footage, a fact of no greater import to Gregory McMichael’s calculus than Mr. Arbery’s biological sex, the shorts he was wearing, his hairstyle, or his tattoos,” the appeal read. “Mr. Arbery’s race was only relevant because it matched the race of the man on the home security footage.”
During the trial, evidence from Bryan’s alleged Facebook posts and past texts also presented a repeated history of racist, demeaning comments against the Black community and use of racial slurs.
Bryan and his legal team argue that’s not enough to convict him under hate crime charges.
“Evidence that a criminal defendant has previously espoused racist views is the most prejudicial evidence imaginable, and for good reason is almost never allowed in criminal trials,” Bryan’s appeal read. “There was no evidence presented that Bryan intended to deprive Arbery of his right to use a public roadway, and none that he acted with conscious intent because of Arbery’s race or color.”
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