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Lawyers Say Father And Son Accused Of Killing Ahmaud Arbery Are Being Vilified


Lawyers for the white men charged with the murder of a black jogger in Georgia say their clients deserve due process and the presumption of innocence despite public outcry over the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Emily Jones reports.

EMILY JONES, BYLINE: Ahmaud Arbery, who was black, was jogging through a neighborhood outside Brunswick, Ga., in February when two white men, Gregory and Travis McMichael, confronted him. They told police they suspected Arbery of recent break-ins. In the ensuing struggle, Arbery was shot and killed.

That story and graphic video of the shooting have fueled outrage. They've also drawn comparisons to other killings of black men and boys for what defense attorney Frank Hogue calls, quote, "the innocent act of walking or jogging down an American street while being black."


FRANK HOGUE: But this case is not that story.

JONES: Hogue represents Gregory McMichael.


HOGUE: Greg McMichael is not a party to the crime of murder. This is not some sort of hate crime fueled by racism.

JONES: Hogue did not explain how this case is different. In a press conference today, he would only say the public does not yet have all the facts. His partner, attorney Laura Hogue, also said the now infamous cell phone video of the shooting is not the only recording of the incident. Lawyers for Travis McMichael had a similar message yesterday. Jason Sheffield said all the evidence and facts in the case would not be known until it goes to court.


JASON SHEFFIELD: Travis has a presumption of innocence. That presumption of innocence follows him from now throughout the course of this trial.

JONES: In a statement last night, lawyers for Arbery's family said, quote, "we only wish that their client had provided that same presumption of innocence to Ahmaud Arbery before chasing and killing him." Also today, the family's attorneys gave new details about the surveillance recording of Arbery inside a house under construction the day he died. They say the homeowner verified that Arbery took nothing while inside, except he did drink some water from a sink before continuing on his jog.

As of now, both McMichael's remain in jail. It's unclear when pre-trial hearings may happen because Georgia courts are mostly closed because of the coronavirus. For NPR News, I'm Emily Jones in Savannah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHALLOU SONG, "...LOVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.