Ahmaud Arbery's Criminal Record Cannot Be Used By Defense in Murder Trial, Judge Rules

The criminal record of Ahmaud Arbery, the Black man killed by three white men while jogging in a Georgia suburb, can't be used as evidence during trial, a judge ruled.

Jury selection for the trial is slated to start October 18. Gregory and Travis McMichael, who are father and son, and their neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., are accused of pursuing and killing Arbery, 25.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley ordered that Arbery's history with the law could "lead the jury to believe that although Arbery did not apparently commit any felony that day, he might pose future dangerousness in that he would eventually commit more alleged crimes, and therefore, the Defendants' actions were somehow justified."

The McMichaels' defense attorneys wanted to use Arbery's criminal history, which included two arrests, hoping it would help prove that the men had good reason to believe Arbery committed a crime before his death.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Ahmad Arbery Trial
A Georgia judge said he won't allow attorneys for the men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery to use evidence of the slain Black man's past when they stand trial for murder. Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley said in a written order that the victim's character isn't relevant or admissible in a murder case. Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, face trial this fall in the February 2020. Above, this combination of booking photos provided by the Glynn County, Georgia, Detention Center shows (from left) Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and Bryan. Glynn County Detention Center/AP, File

Prosecutors argued that Arbery's criminal record and other prior problems should be kept out of the trial, saying they are irrelevant to the defendants' decision to arm themselves and ultimately shoot a man who was trying to run away. None of them knew Arbery, or anything about his past, prior to the shooting.

"The character of victim is neither relevant nor admissible in murder trial," the judge wrote in his ruling Monday.

The McMichaels pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after they spotted him running in their neighborhood on February 23, 2020. Bryan joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun.

Defense attorneys argued that the three men committed no crimes. They said the McMichaels suspected that Arbery was a burglar after he was recorded by video cameras inside a home under construction. Travis McMichael's lawyers said he shot Arbery in self-defense.

Arbery was unarmed when he was killed. Prosecutors have said nothing was stolen from the construction site and Arbery was merely jogging.

Defense attorneys have also asked the judge to let them introduce evidence that Arbery suffered from a mental illness. Walmsley has not ruled on that request.

Arbery pleaded guilty to charges that he carried a gun onto a high school campus in 2013, a year after he graduated. Rodney Ellis, police chief for the Glynn County school system, testified at Wednesday's hearing that Arbery tried to evade officers on foot and stopped only when two of them pointed guns at him.

He was also arrested in 2017 on charges that he tried to steal a TV from a Walmart. Court records show he pleaded guilty to shoplifting. Arbery was on probation at the time of his death.