The three men accused of hunting down and killing a Black man running through a Georgia neighborhood have pleaded not guilty to murder charges.
Gregory McMichael, 64, his son Travis, 34, and family friend William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., 50 appeared in court Friday to enter not guilty pleas, CBS News reported. The men are charged with chasing down and killing 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who was running through their Brunswick neighborhood in February.
The case saw little momentum until video of Arbery's death — filmed by Bryan — was released in May and immediately caused national outrage. The men, who were not charged until after the video was released, had told authorities they believed Arbery was a robbery suspect and were attempting to perform a citizen's arrest — acting in self-defense when they killed Arbery.
That defense seemed to strain as more evidence in the case was released: the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has alleged that the men used their vehicles to box in Arbery and prevent him from escaping and that Travis McMichael shouted a racial slur at a dying Arbery after shooting him.
Special prosecutor Jesse Evans previously said Arbery “was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed.”
Last month, the McMichaels and Bryan were formally indicted with nine counts: malice murder; four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault; false imprisonment; and a count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
During Bryan's appearance in court Friday, his lawyer objected to Arbery family attorney S. Lee Merritt wearing a face mask with the name "George Floyd." Floyd's May death in Minneapolis was also captured on video, like Arbery's, and kicked off a wave of far-reaching protests and a national reckoning on race and justice in the U.S.
"If we are permitted to wear masks making political statements, then Mr. Evans and I and his office should be free to wear 'MAGA' masks if we wanted to in the courtroom," Bryan's attorney, Kevin Gough, told the court, according to NBC News.
"Whatever people (wear), this is not the place for political statements."
The judge overruled the request but reserved the right to intervene if any such apparent demonstrations disrupted proceedings.
A court date for the three has not been set.
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