Travis and Gregory McMichael
Caption
Travis, left, and Gregory McMichael
Credit: Glynn County Sheriff's Office

LISTEN: GPB's Rickey Bevington and Emily Jones on the bond ruling

A judge has denied bond for Travis and Greg McMichael, two of the white men charged with the murder of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery. Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley said there was evidence of a significant risk of danger to the community if they were released from jail.

The judge previously denied bond for the third defendant, William “Roddie” Bryan.

Each man faces nine counts on charges including malice murder and felony murder in Arbery’s death. 

In February, the men allegedly pursued Arbery as he ran through their neighborhood. They’ve said they suspected him of recent break-ins. Video shows Travis McMichael confronting Arbery, who was shot in the ensuing struggle.

On the hearing’s second day, the lawyers for both sides presented their arguments for and against releasing the McMichaels on bond, coalescing the testimony and evidence presented during Thursday’s lengthy hearing.

Prosecutor Jesse Evans argued the McMichaels are a flight risk because of the serious charges and possible sentencing they face, which could include life in prison. Evans also argued they have attempted to obstruct justice.

Greg McMichael in particular, Evans argued, told police at the scene about his prior work as a Glynn County police officer and Brunswick Circuit District Attorney investigator, contacted the district attorney after the shooting and, once in jail, urged his wife to delete social media accounts that could be evidence in the case.

Risk of flight and the potential to obstruct justice or intimidate witnesses are two of the key factors in considering bond requests.

Evans also argued that Thursday’s hours of testimony to the McMichaels’ past good character were irrelevant. But defense attorneys disagreed.

“This is when past behavior matters,” said Robert Rubin, a lawyer for Travis, arguing it is the best predictor of future behavior.

Lawyers for Greg McMichael also stressed his past history and reputation, as well as his long history in Brunswick.

“History is the only reliable measure of a man’s character,” attorney Laura Hogue said, refuting the idea that Greg McMichael might commit a crime or be violent if released. “A man does not wake up one morning and become a violent, race-motivated killer.”

Both defense attorneys argued that the McMichaels posed no significant risk of flight, danger to others, intimidating witnesses, or committing new felonies if released on bond.

In denying bond, Walmsley cited concern with the consistency of the testimony among the different witnesses who spoke for Travis McMichael. He also specifically cited concern with one witness’s explanation for an allegation of bias.

Though Walmsley did not elaborate, on Thursday prosecutors also read aloud racist messages that McMichael exchanged with one of the witnesses, Zachary Langford. In one message, McMichael used a slur for Black people.

After reviewing the messages, Langford testified that McMichael “was referring to a raccoon, I believe.”

Referring to Greg McMichael, Walmsey said there was evidence he had attempted to take the law into his own hands and attempted to influence law enforcement. He said those efforts could be one reason for delays in the case.

Though Arbery was killed Feb. 23, the McMichaels were not arrested until more than two months later, when state investigators stepped in.

In addition to the requests for bond, the Friday hearing dealt with several other issues in the case.

The defense teams made formal requests to quash some of the charges.

Prosecutors had also requested a hearing to investigate alleged conflicts of interest on the defense team, contending the separate attorneys for Greg and Travis McMichael have worked together too closely.

Walmsley addressed that motion verbally, saying the lawyers involved are experienced and he trusted they understood their responsibility to their separate clients.

Finally, defense lawyers had requested a deposition of one witness on the concern that his health would deteriorate before the as-yet-unknown trial date. The attorneys agreed to continue their ongoing conversation on that issue.