The three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery last year while the 25-year-old unarmed black man was jogging cannot claim self-defence because they initiated the incident while committing a series of felonies against him, a Georgia prosecutor told a jury.
Cobb County Assistant District Attorney Linda Dunikoski delivered her rebuttal on Tuesday after the defence made closing statements the previous day.
“You can’t claim self-defence if you are starting the confrontation,” Ms Dunikoski told the panel of 11 white jurors and one person of colour in Brunswick.
“This isn’t the Wild West.”
The defence argued Arbery was an intruder and a threat to the community of Satilla Shores, repeatedly trespassing on a home under construction, though he never stole or damaged anything.
Ms Dunikoski told the jury that the accused's decision to confront him with their trucks and a shotgun constituted a string of felonies that made a self-defence argument impossible.
“You can’t claim self-defence if you are the unjustified aggressor,” Ms Dunikoski said. “Who started this? It wasn’t Ahmaud Arbery.”
Ms Dunikoski, the lead prosecutor in the racially charged case, said the three white men could have simply followed Arbery and waited for the police to arrive if they wanted him to be questioned by law enforcement.
“Do you really believe he had no other choice but to use a shotgun?” she said of Travis McMichael, who fired three blasts from the weapon in a struggle with Arbery on February 23 of last year after chasing him for five minutes.
The prosecution had the final word in the trial because it carries the burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
After the prosecution wrapped up, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley gave instructions to the jury on how to apply the law before it begins deliberations at the Glynn County courthouse in the port city of Brunswick.
Greg McMichael and his son, Travis, grabbed guns and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after spotting him running through their subdivision. A neighbour, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase and recorded the video of the younger Mr McMichael opening fire as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for Mr McMichael’s shotgun.
Mr Bryan's mobile phone video of the killing sparked outrage when it emerged more than two months later and the public learnt that the men involved had not been arrested.
Mr McMichael said that he and his father thought Arbery might have been behind recent thefts in the neighbourhood.
“These are real experiences of real people who were very scared,” Mr Sheffield said of the McMichaels and their neighbours, who shared concerns about property crime in a community Facebook group.
No evidence has surfaced that Arbery took anything on his frequent runs through Satilla Shores.
The accused have argued that they had a right to try to detain Arbery under Georgia's citizen's arrest law, which was repealed following outrage over the killing.
Agencies contributed to this report