Defense attorneys rested their case after the prosecution’s cross-examination of Travis McMichael as well as testimony from several residents of the neighborhood where the shooting took place. Among them, Cindy Clark, who testified that she has lived in the Satilla Shores neighborhood since 2004 and has been aware of “petty crime” since 2006.
Another resident, Sube Lawrence, said she was the administrator of a Facebook page in the neighborhood where she would follow what people were saying about crime in the area, and she was in touch with a neighbor who would warn her, if there was a “suspicious person lurking” in a nearby home under construction so Lawrence could get his children inside. After Arbery’s shooting, she testified, Travis McMichael asked her to accept him into the Facebook group with a different last name because his account had been hacked so he could look at what people were saying.
The closing arguments in the trial begin Monday morning.
Standing outside the courthouse doors Thursday night, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said she was “very confident we will get a guilty verdict.”
“Very confident,” she repeated.
“Our agenda is that the God we serve will give strength to this woman and this man and this family and an agenda that God will give us justice in this courtroom,” Pastor Al Sharpton said during the outdoor gathering. “We did not come from an afterthought.”
Defendants pressed for differences in accounts
She also examined him in the last moments of Arbery’s life – including asking why McMichael ever raised his shotgun.
“You are not letting him run away – you are pointing (the shotgun) at him,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said of the meeting during the cross-examination.
“I will not let him run to me, directly to me,” McMichael replied, talking about raising his weapon.
On Thursday, Dunikoski challenged McMichael over what she said were discrepancies in his accounts. It did not include telling police in the first place that he and his father were trying to make a citizen arrest, even though that is what the defense has since claimed. She also covered differences in his accounts of when and where he told Arbery certain things, such as stopping.
McMichael responded that he was “scattered” and “mixed up” in the hours after the shooting because “this is the most traumatic event I’ve ever been through in my life.”
McMichael also admitted several times, during Dunikoski’s interrogation, that he never saw Arbery armed during the persecution, never heard Arbery threaten him verbally, and that Arbery never responded or showed any interest in talking to McMichael while trying to ask what he was doing. .
She also pressured him on what he chose not to do.
“You could have driven backwards (Arbery) and not talked to him at all,” and “you could have stayed in your truck” instead of getting out and eventually pulling a gun, Dunikoski said.
McMichael answered “yes” to both statements.
Cross-examination focuses on the final meeting
On Thursday, Dunikoski also challenged Travis McMichael on why he now claims Arbery grabbed his gun at the last meeting, when he initially told police he did not know if that was what happened.
“It’s clear he had the gun … I obviously missed every detail,” as he spoke to police that day under stress, McMichael testified.
When McMichael described the meeting on Wednesday, he said that after he and his father chased Arbery in a pickup, he had parked his vehicle and saw Arbery coming in their direction. He shouted to the Arbery to “stop where you are” and went to grab his shotgun. Arbery turned and ran before finally coming back again, Travis McMichael said.
As Arbery got closer, Travis McMichael pulled his weapon against Arbery, McMichael said Wednesday. Arbery jumped to the right and “later starts running back directly to the truck where my dad is standing in the back of it.” The younger McMichael testified that he came to the front of the vehicle, and Arbery “turns and is on me, is on me in a flash.”
“He grabs the shotgun, and I think I was hit in the first case where we made contact,” Travis McMichael testified.
McMichael said that “if he would have gotten the shotgun from me, then this was a life-or-death situation. And I’ll have to stop him from doing this, so I shot.”
Dunikoski asked him Thursday what she called his “attitudes to … vigilance.” She asked about a Facebook exchange in January 2019 with a person where he felt that examples should be made of someone if they steal things.
“You (replied), ‘That’s right. Hope you all catch the vermin,'” Dunikoski said.
“That’s correct,” McMichael said.
Travis McMichael describes days and moments that lead to persecution
“I was under the assumption that it was the same person I saw (in the unfinished home) on the 11th,” and he had previously heard that things had been stolen from the place, Travis McMichael testified.
“(We decided) let’s try to hold him so the police can talk to him,” Travis McMichael testified. He said his father told him he had called the police and then assumed the police were on their way – but it turned out the father did not have his phone.
The son testified that he tried to ask Arbery while he was still in his truck what was going on, and “tried to de-escalate” the situation. He said Arbery did not respond and continued to run. He testified that he tried to talk to Arbery another time, where Arbery stopped, said nothing, but picked up speed again after Travis McMichael said police were on their way.
Only late in the sequence, shortly before the shooting, did Travis McMichael realize that his father had not called police. Travis McMichael called 911 and gave the phone to his father, he testified.
Arbery had no weapon when he was killed, authorities said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Linda Dunikoski’s last name.
CNN’s Travis Caldwell and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.