Lawyers say public shouldn’t rush to judge men charged in Arbery shooting

    Macon attorneys Laura and Franklin Hogue said Friday that the depiction of Greg McMichael, charged with murder for the death of Ahmaud Arbery, as a racist vigilante is inaccurate. Greg and his son Travis McMichael are charged with the Feb. 23 killing of Arbery, who was shot in a suburban neighborhood in coastal Georgia. Screen grab from WSB-TV Atlanta

    The attorneys representing the father and son charged in the shooting death of an unarmed black man in southeast Georgia are asking people to not rush to judgment, as emotions run high in a case that’s sparking national outrage.

    Separate sets of attorneys for Greg McMichael, 64 and his son Travis McMichael, 34, held press conferences this week to say the portrayal of their clients as two white men out for racially-charged vigilante justice is inaccurate. 

    The 25-year-old Arbery died Feb. 23 while jogging in the Glynn County neighborhood of Satilla Shores after the gun-wielding McMichaels confronted him.

    The McMichaels are charged with murder and aggravated assault after being arrested once a viral video released May 6 focused attention on the killing and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation got involved.

    Attorney Franklin Hogue said from his Macon office Friday this is not an instance of a black man senselessly killed by someone white.

    Hogue and wife Laura Hogue are representing the elder McMichael.  

    “This case is not that story,” he said during the news conference. “And when we bring it out in the proper venue in a court of law at the proper time, the truth will reveal that this is not just another act of violence, racism, Greg McMichael did not commit murder.”

    Greg McMichael, a former police officer and investigator with the Glynn County District Attorney’s Office, did not shoot Arbery but faces the same charges as his son because he is considered a party to the crime, his attorneys said.

    Laura Hogue said more video footage exists the day of the shooting than the viral version that depicts the McMichaels confronting Arbery. At least one other video from that afternoon is already public that shows a man who appears to be Arbery walking in and out of a Satilla Drive house under construction.

    “We know several other critically important facts,” she said. “Those facts point to a very different narrative than the one that brings you all here today.”

    In the viral video, a neighbor traveling in a different vehicle than the McMichaels filmed the confrontation with Arbery, who staggers and falls after encountering McMichaels as Arbery ran down the street.

    WSB-TV Atlanta reported Friday that Alan David Tucker, a Brunswick attorney and friend of the McMichaels, said Greg McMichael wanted the video released to a local radio station because he felt it not only proves he did not shoot Arbery, but that he also thought it would dispel some of the racial tension in the community.

    The McMicahels told authorities after the shooting that Arbery fit the description of someone they suspected of burglary and that they intended to force him to stop and hold him under citizen’s arrest until law enforcement arrived.

    A bipartisan group of Georgia legislators is calling the killing a prime example of why Georgia lawmakers should pass a hate crime law when they resume the 2020 legislative session next month.

    Up next, for the McMichaels is a yet-to-be-scheduled bond hearing, after they were initially denied bond.

    Travis McMichael’s attorneys Jason Sheffield and Robert Rubin said at a press conference from their Decatur office the hearing will likely be held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic concerns.

    A statewide judicial emergency declaration recommends videoconferencing whenever possible because of COVID-19 public health safety concerns.  

    The McMichaels’ attorneys said they have confidence that the case will be handled fairly by Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes, the fourth prosecutor to handle the case. Two other southeast Georgia prosecutors recused themselves and declined to bring charges before a third district attorney leveled aggravated assault and murder charges against the McMichaels.

    “I am so saddened at where we are in this matter,” Rubin said outside his Decatur office. 

    “People who know better than to rush to judgment, people who know better than to engage in stereotyping are rushing to judgment, are stereotyping.”

    Sheffield said he understands why there is so much outrage but he promises “not to inject more volatility into this process as best we can control.”

    “What’s very unique about this case is usually you have a district attorney’s office and an investigating agency who is doing the investigation and producing the evidence to hand over to us, but in this case the entire nation is investigating,” Sheffield said.

    Stanley Dunlap
    Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.