Judge to decide on racial slur reportedly uttered by murder suspect in Arbery case

As evidence continues, prosecutors say they may ask suspect about 'racial animus' against black people

A Georgia judge will decide on Thursday whether a jury can hear from Travis McMichael about a racial slur officials say he uttered as Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, lay dying from shotgun wounds suffered when Mr McMichael shot him.

The accused began speaking in his own defence on Wednesday, taking the stand even though it opened him up to questioning by prosecutors who have said they might ask him about evidence he had “racial animus” against black people.

Mr McMichael, 35, his father, Greg McMichael, 65, and their neighbour, William “Roddie” Bryan, 52 — all white men — have been charged with murder along with other crimes in the February 23, 2020, killing of Arbery in their mostly white neighbourhood outside coastal Brunswick.

The McMichaels told police that they chased Arbery in a pickup truck because they thought he looked like a burglar and Mr Bryan joined the chase after they passed his driveway.

Defence lawyers said the men were trying to stop Arbery under a now-repealed Georgia citizen's arrest law, and the younger McMichael shot him in self defence. The McMichaels and Mr Bryan face life in prison if convicted of murder.

Mobile phone video of the shooting taken by Mr Bryan was widely seen on the internet about two months after Arbery's death and caused a national uproar before charges were ultimately brought.

Speaking on the stand on Wednesday, the younger Mr McMichael said Arbery tried to take his weapon.

“I shot him. He had my gun,” he said. “It was a life or death situation.”

In a court hearing in June 2020, a special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that Mr Bryan had claimed in an interview that the younger Mr McMichael had uttered a racial slur as Arbery lay dying.

On Wednesday, Mr McMichael's attorney, Jason Sheffield, asked the court to prevent prosecutors from asking about the reported slur unless they could give a “good faith” reason why it was relevant.

Updated: November 19th 2021, 3:48 AM