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Ahmaud Arbery’s Alleged Killers Seek To Ban The Word 'Victim' In Court Case

“Use of terms such as 'victim' allows the focus to shift to the accused rather than remain on the proof of every element of the crimes charged," attorneys for Travis and Greg McMichael wrote in a Dec. 30 motion.

By Dorian Geiger
Father, Son Charged With Killing Black Jogger In Georgia

Attorneys for the father and son accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia last year have filed a motion attempting to block the use of the word “victim” in court while describing the gunned-down Black man

Travis and Greg McMichael’s attorneys have asked a county judge to ban the word from the courtroom and pending trial, according to court filings. The motion argues the word’s usage to describe Arbery would be prejudicial.   

"Due process requires minimal injection of error or prejudice into these proceedings,” the pair’s legal team wrote in a motion filed Dec. 30. “Use of terms such as 'victim' allows the focus to shift to the accused rather than remain on the proof of every element of the crimes charged.”

Arbery, 25, was shot to death near Brunswick, Georgia on Feb. 23 after the McMichaels chased him down in a truck while he was running through their neighborhood, and ultimately opened fire. The incident was caught on tape. The McMichaels claimed to have believed Arbery was suspicious; the men allegedly boxed Arbery in with their pickup truck and Travis McMichael is accused of firing the fatal shots with his shotgun.

Both McMichael men have pleaded not guilty in Arbery’s murder, claiming self-defense. They are also facing false imprisonment, criminal attempt, and aggravated assault charges

An additional motion requests that only one image of Arbery be admitted as evidence in the trial and that the image only include him. The motion also calls for a non-family member to identify Arbery in the picture "to avoid creating cumulative prejudicial error in the trial of this case."

The McMichaels’ lawyers previously disputed Arbery's family attorney’s decision to wear a face mask with the name "George Floyd" printed on it while in court. They’ve also filed separate motions demanding that court spectators be barred from wearing any clothing advocating “Black Lives Matter'' or that has “I Can’t Breathe” printed on it.

“It is the right of those supporters to wear whatever clothing they choose, to hold up any sign they wish, and to chant whatever slogan they like outside the courtroom,” lawyers for the two men argued. 

The word “outside” was bolded. 

“That is the beauty of our First Amendment. But once inside the courthouse, the sanctity of the defendants' right to a fair and impartial trial trumps the First Amendment,” the motion states.

The McMichaels also filed a separate motion demanding prosecutors release all of Arbery’s “disciplinary, criminal, and mental health records," as well as telephone records and social media profiles. They’ve asked their own recorded jailhouse calls be banned from evidence. 

William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., who filmed the deadly encounter, has also been charged with felony murder in Arbery’s death.

In early 2020, Arbery’s killing sparked nationwide protests demanding racial justice.