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At This Hour

Defense Begins Closing Arguments In Arbery Murder Trial. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 22, 2021 - 11:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Erica Hill. Stay tuned at this hour with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We begin with breaking news in the trial of three man accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery. We are moments away now from the defense beginning its closing arguments. The prosecution has just wrapped up its closing statements this morning, which last just -- lasted just over an hour. The jury could get the case and begin deliberating by the end of the day.

Over the last two weeks, jurors heard from more than 20 witnesses including the man who shot Arbery. Travis McMichael, he testified that he shot the 25-year-old black man who was jogging, he shot him in self-defense, he said, after he claimed that Arbery attacked him and grabbed his shotgun.

Now Travis McMichael, his father and a neighbor, they all face multiple felony counts, including murder. Let's head back into the courtroom now. The judge is getting just underway once again.

LINDA DUNIKOSKI, PROSECUTOR: Maybe on use of force continuum. And then here's the different levels because Travis testified to that, there appears to be some sort of use of force diagram that no one testified to or authenticated, there seems to be a picture of the entrance to Satilla Shores. And then there's a photograph of like U.S. Marine or, you know, the U.S. Coast Guard symbol, which is what I quickly saw.

So right now, Your Honor, I don't know what Mr. Sheffield, was putting up. But I have grave concerns that he's about to show the jury a whole bunch of stuff that they have never seen and no one's authenticated or testified during this trial at all.

JASON SHEFFIELD, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR TRAVIS MCMICHAEL: So these are demonstrative things, Judge, this is closing argument. We got a lot of testimony about the Law Enforcement Training Center so that is given the testimony about his training, and particularly the use of force. These are just demonstrative things in evidence. Either in evidence to the extent that the testified about.

JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, SUPERIOR COURT, STATE OF GEORGIA: The only thing that caught my eye there is the argument that this is what he received --

SHEFFIELD: It's what he testified.

WALMSLEY: It's what he testified.

SHEFFIELD: Right. These are just demonstrative.

WALMSLEY: And there's nothing on those that show the Coast Guard manual or anything like that, that would be, for example, I know that the state presented a few of the pages from the actual manuals themselves.

SHEFFIELD: Nothing from the manual. The only thing that I have is what I've created, that shows you testified about officer presence, verbal commands, control techniques, aggressive response tapings, intermediate weapons, and weapons retention.

WALMSLEY: OK. And this, what is that? Is that something you put together or is that actually --

SHEFFIELD: Yes. I've clipped it and cut it from things that I found.

DUNIKOSKI: Well, what's behind it is an orange thing that has physical fitness standards and search incident to arrest behind it. So and it says objectives completed, Travis McMichael never testified to any of those things.

SHEFFIELD: Yes, he did. That's why I chose training and that he did these things.

DUNIKOSKI: And what's the thing at the top, Your Honor? We have Maritime Law Enforcement Academy student profile report that wasn't as tendered in and then we've got that next to it.

WALMSLEY: Well, for official use only.

SHEFFIELD: I just intend to talk about the course that he took, the courses that he took that he testified to.

WALMSLEY: There's more to them that says it's a student profile report that was not testified to that was not tendered in Boston. I don't have any problems, no argument about what he testified to. But once we start getting into what the curriculum was or an individual report.

SHEFFIELD: All right, how is that?

WALMSLEY: That works all a lot.

SHEFFIELD: OK. And I just add this. This is --

WALMSLEY: Can you back --


DUNIKOSKI: The states objects to the heading on that since it attempts to have a photo of something that was never testified to. SHEFFIELD: What's the heading?

DUNIKOSKI: It has an image of some co-star thing.

SHEFFIELD: It's where he went to school. He testified to it. What is so objectionable about that? Mr. Rubin showed (INAUDIBLE).

WALMSLEY: He testified. Don't worry about school, he testified to what he did in the training and he testified to his rank which I think is actually the other thing that shown on there. We can get back to it. Yes, actually that, we're losing that part. OK, I don't -- the objection is, I just granted in part with that -- as that slide has been amended I don't have any issue with that.



WALMSLEY: The use of that --

SHEFFIELD: This is what he testified. Yes --


SHEFFIELD: And then there's the Satilla Shores now --

DUNIKOSKI: Please back up one more.

SHEFFIELD: This is his testimony at trial.

DUNIKOSKI: Well, wait a second, handwritten notes by the attorney as to his testimony at trial, we're going to show this to the jury?

SHEFFIELD: Of course we are, I wrote them right in front of him as he was testifying, this isn't appropriate to get this deep into my presentation. These are the notes that I took at trial, the same way that I can show this one. Yes.

WALMSLEY: Well, those are your notes.

SHEFFIELD: Yes. Based on his testimony, I did it in front of the jury, just like I did this one. I can put my notes up.

WALMSLEY: They're just for your referring to.

SHEFFIELD: Yes. I'm saying you saw him testify.

WALMSLEY: So the unfortunate thing is when everyone is just talking, I'm working through things I can't think through. So when you are using the slide, to show his what his testimony was at time.

SHEFFIELD: This data chosen to type it up. They decided to type up what was said, you heard Greg McMichael say, you heard Travis McMichael say. This is my notes, as I was writing, as he was talking in front of the jury with the state present during trial. I do this because it captures what said on the stand in the visual way and the jury can understand it. I don't see what the objection is the state can talk about and type up. But I can't show what I wrote down during the testimony. That doesn't make any sense.

DUNIKOSKI: I understand now what that was. I did not -- and I agree Mr. Sheffield did write those things down on the big piece of paper. And he chooses now to show it this way, the states OK with that.


DUNIKOSKI: The problem becomes the next photo of Satilla Shores, no one testified to that photo.

SHEFFIELD: You're objecting the Satilla Shores is a neighborhood with a neighborhood sign up for it. What's so objectionable about? It's just a chapter heading of what I'm going to be presenting.

DUNIKOSKI: Judge my fear here is just that, I'm going to have to object to every single slide when it comes up where no one's testified to it or contains information no one testified to.

WALMSLEY: Well, and I think we've just seen a number of thing. The state has a continuing objection to the Satilla Shores sign. I understand that's not an evidence, but it's the sign itself. And if it's simply being used as indicated as sort of a chapter marker, than a permit the defense to use that, what the changes that have been made now to the slide that showed the training, what I understand now is limited to what was actually testified to and it will be referred to that way as opposed to here's the manual, here's what the Coast Guard instructed him.

I won't limit you and exactly how you can present that. But as long as it's not a presentation, as if it was evidence, separate from testimony that was provided by Mr. McMichael from the witness stand. And the use of force continuum is just your, what you're using to demonstrate the argument, as opposed to relying on that as a training device or something that was actually presented in training. OK.

DUNIKOSKI: So judge I was just asking for a little direction from the court. These are just the first couple. So if there's some photos that no one's ever testified to that are in this, I'm going to object, if there are other things like for instance, there's a picture of the neighborhood.

And somehow, they've marked every time a 911 call came in, no one testify to all the 911 calls in the neighborhood. But there may be a graphic that shows all of that, if such graphic exists, I'm not saying he does, I don't know what kind of graphic Mr. Sheffield is going to be. I'm going to object.

And if this happens more than twice within this PowerPoint, I'm going to ask that we stop. Unfortunately, I can't go through every single slide because at that point, I'm going to be up here objecting constantly to his closing, because it contains things that were never testified to and no evidence was presented at trial because of it. That is my concern. SHEFFIELD: I have a slide of the neighborhood that I've created, that I put little circles on and I put things on it that are representative of the testimony of Officer Rash and then GBI and going door to door, and neighbors who have been complaining about things. I'm not going to say the neighbor at this address called 911 on this day, or that day, it's argument. It's demonstrated my argument. I don't see any basis for the state to object and I don't have anything else in here that's a photograph so.

WALMSLEY: I understand the issue, and we'll see where it goes.

DUNIKOSKI: Thank you Judge.


SHEFFIELD: OK, the state wants to object and that's fine. We'll just do it as it comes. I don't think it's objectionable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- flash drive of TikTok videos, Juror 219.

WALMSLEY: Well, can we -- let's take care of that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can do that later. I just want you to let -- it's available.

WALMSLEY: OK. Let's go get the panel.


SHEFFIELD: Is it on?


WALMSLEY: It's like courtrooms in Chatham County, we will all be frozen by the time we get to about 3 o'clock this afternoon. But I guess we'll wait and see.


WALMSLEY: Yes. Let's if you get what you wish for. All right.

BOLDUAN: All right, right now we are clearly waiting for the jury to make it back into the courtroom for the defense to begin. Closing arguments after we had about an hour of closing arguments from the prosecution and what we just listening in, but what we had seen playing out just now was attorney --

WALMSLEY: Without further ado, let's go ahead and get the panel.

BOLDUAN: OK. We're continue to wait for the jury to come in. What was happening is an objection over some of the presentation that the defense was going to be using in making closing arguments. And these attorneys fighting over what could be included. And you'd heard you saw the judge kind of making his way through that, as the panel is being brought in right now. Let me just bring in let me just bring in Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst, just as we're waiting for the panel to be brought in, as well as Julie Rendelman, defense attorney and former prosecutor. Paul, we're waiting for the -- I'm going to cut you off in just a second. But just your thoughts is we're waiting for the defense to come in do to begin this closing arguments.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I thought the prosecutor gave a very highly workman like prosecution summation. And I think she was very, very effective. It wasn't particularly emotional, but it was factual. And a lot of times you want to see that from a prosecutor more than anything else in a jury trial.

And after, by the way, this little argument we've witnessed a few moments ago, very common before opening statements about, you know, what multimedia presentations are proper or not proper in a closing argument.

BOLDUAN: Julie, just your take on the prosecution's closing argument before we're set to hear from the defense.

JULIE RENDELMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Sure. Look, I think within the first five minutes of her getting up before that jury, she absolutely 100 percent debunked, destroyed the citizen's arrest and self-defense. That's what she needed to do. And she did it so quickly so clearly. And so quite frankly, that's why she didn't need to be up there that long. I thought she was brilliant.

BOLDUAN: Julie standby, Paul standby. Let's head back into the courtroom now.

WALMSLEY: We're going to be using this large screen for the defense's closing arguments. I just want to make sure because we've had a little bit of movement around in the jury box that everybody can see and then everybody's comfortable where they are if you need to move there's at least one seat in the jury box, we can move folks over if they want. But if you're comfortable where you are, that's fine too. With that, Mr. Sheffield.

SHEFFIELD: Duty and responsibility and following the law will always be intertwined with heartache and tragedy. This case is about three things. It's about watching. It's about waiting. It's about believing.


Travis McMichael spent almost a decade of his life, learning about duty and responsibility. He received extensive training on how to make decisions that would ultimately impact his beliefs, as a petty officer in the Coast Guard, as a boarding officer in the Coast Guard, into some of the most treacherous waters, extending some 200 miles off the coast, in the United States.

He trained relentlessly about his duty and his responsibility, even after active service, and then coming into smaller communities and working in the Coast Guard, he trained weekly, sometimes daily on what the law provided that he do, what his responsibilities were, how he would make decisions and critical moments of policing and then critical moments of rescue. These teachings were burned within his brain to the point of muscle memory so that he could perform his duty and his responsibility to his country in his community.

He talked to you about officer presence and how he trained for officer presence. He talked with you about verbal commands and how he would use verbal commands to try to police or to try to calm or to try to deescalate situations. He talked with you about control techniques.

And the things that he would have to use to get control from those persons who he was investigating, aggressive response techniques, something that he never had to use on his job, but something that he trained weekly, every Friday with the red man suit.

And he talked with you also about intermediate weapons, weapons retention, and the use of deadly force. Travis spent a long time going through these things in his testimony. If you recall, I was writing feverishly as he was testifying so that I could capture what it was that he had to share with us about these things.

And it includes what gave him the right to search, examine, arrest, seize, inspect, inquire. He talked with you about the level of suspicion by a reasonable and prudent person given the overall circumstances to believe that crime has been committed probable cause.

He spoke with you about the use of force continuum. He talked with you about de-escalation and how de-escalation was always the goal. He talked with you about leaps, listen, empathize, ask questions, paraphrase, summarize, why, so that you could gain understanding so that you could continue to investigate, de-escalate, learn what's going on and figure it out. And he talked also about weapon retention in using a weapon if it had to come to that to de-escalate a situation.

When Travis moved back home to Satilla Shores, he did so with his three-year-old son Everett. He moved in with his mother and his father, and then eventually his sister, join them in the home. You've heard about Satilla Shores from several witnesses who came to talk to you about what they were experiencing in this once idyllic neighborhood. Neighborhood that was once a place where elderly would walk at night, kids would play after dark.

But over time, how that began to lessen. And Travis began to notice it, among others, about how things in the neighborhood started to change. From learning that the GBI went around to learning that Officer Rash went around, to what was being posted on Facebook to hearing from witnesses on the stand, to hearing Rash talk about driving through the neighborhood. Witnesses talking about police cars going through the neighborhood at night, shining flashlights.


This neighborhood was being covered in suspicious persons, in extra watches, and neighborhood patrols and concerned citizens, it was everywhere. It was on Facebook. An account created some neighbors could help each other. And the types of things that these neighbors would talk about to each other was about the crime that was being committed to them, to their neighbors, crime that they had seen happening across the street from them, crime that some was reported, but not all.

You heard a lot of people talk about, I ain't call the police, because what's the point? Crime is over and the people are gone. But they told you that what was happening in their neighborhood scared them, cost them concern, it was unsettling to imagine people lurking and sneaking around your property at night, so that your campers are going off, your doorbell cameras going off.

That's frightening. One of our witnesses testified about how emotional she got, because she had to tell her children, you can't go out at night anymore. And the steps that they took to protect each other using Facebook. Hey, be on the lookout.

You heard Cindy Clark testify about how she offered to go get license plates on two separate occasions for cars coming in the neighborhood or how she called the police on a bunch of people that were walking into the neighborhood after their car had supposedly broken down, but it was really stolen. These are real experiences of real people who were very scared. And so they took it upon themselves to do something about it. Got cameras, call the police, notify each other, citizens watch, neighborhood watch.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Even Travis himself had taken it upon himself to try to investigate one particular person that had been identified as possibly being homeless and living under the bridge. Travis explained to you that he had learned about a neighbor having her purse stolen.

Of course, there were other complaints of crime in the neighborhood as well. And he thought after boating home one afternoon and seeing what he thought was a homeless encampment under the bridge that this could be the guy.

So we finished going home. He got his dad, who is a lifetime law enforcement officer and investigator. And they went over and they drove and they walked down under the bridge. And instantly when Travis did this, you saw evidence of his muscle memory. He talked about walking down, not holding a weapon out not armed with the gun out he had his gun with him just in case you needed it for protection. But he walked down to do what use leaps to listen to have a conversation.

And as he walked down under the bridge, he saw a bunch of trash and a bunch of items and a machete and a man fishing. So he followed his training. He politely stepped in between the machete and the man. He said, hey, bud, you live down here, everything OK? As he's doing that, he's looking around, looking to see if that purse is there. He's looking to see if any of those other stolen items may be there. The man responded no, just fishing. When they left they call the police.

You have evidence of that. You heard Greg McMichael on the call with the police non-emergency line just saying hey, we want you to go check out this guy under the bridge that we've called you about. State asked you, asked Travis, well, why don't you describe this fella for us? White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, he's a white guy, called the police. He was gone by the time the police got there. And that was the end of it.

But the man under the bridge for the idea that there could be a man living under the bridge did not go away. That theme and that person comes back during 2019. The real problem as the neighbors and neighborhood of Satilla Shores were trying to figure out what was going on and who may be responsible for it, was that 220 Satilla Drive Residence, a residence that had a unique type of crime going on in it, one much different from what they had been experiencing. It's so dark you can't even see the photograph of it. But it was the photograph of 220 Satilla Shores at night, along with the dock down by the water at night.


And what all of these neighbors are going to soon become aware of is that there is a repeat offender who is coming at a time when he has absolutely no lawful reason for being there. Just to start with. On October 25th Larry English calls the police. And we learn from Larry English that there is a man plundering around. Larry English at this time only has two cameras, one on the dock and one behind the house looking out in the backyard of the house.

Larry English says he looks drunk or on drugs. That's concerning. Larry English identifies to the police, I have a lot of valuables in my house, tools, equipment, things of that nature. Never seen this gentleman before and it doesn't look good. Police come but there is no person that is found. What you need to understand about burglary is burglary includes any house building or structure which is designed or intended for occupancy for residential use. This unoccupied unsecure construction site which could be anything is not the same thing as Larry English's residence that's being built.

That's a term that the state continues to use the unoccupied unsecured construction site, which doesn't even begin to tell the story of what this is. On 11/17/2019, two people are seen on the video. It's a white couple that goes in and comes out. What's significant about Larry English's report though, on 11/17 is not that the two people that I saw on the video tonight have stolen something, he says, we had stuff stolen about a week and a half two weeks ago.

He's now telling the police he had stuff stolen from his home. The next night, Mr. Arbery returns, at night pitch black dark, no lights on in the house whatsoever. In this time, Larry English has put cameras inside the residence. Now, he sees and reports that Mr. Arbery is looking inside a boat, the same boat? No. No, that boat. He got there on the morning of the 18th and he took it back to Douglas Georgia with him. It's what he says right there at the bottom, brought the boat back to keep from stealing electronics off of it.

He is communicating this to 911. This is official. He is reporting again. We had a situation with the same guy a week and a half ago, this is right there. He was on about three people's cameras. And just to emphasize on 12/1/19 English calls the police again, he talks about somebody might be living under the bridge. That idea is still floating out there, still considering it. But again, he says I had a bunch of stuff stolen out of the boat which

again confirms what we're talking about. And on two of these occasions, we have video of Mr. Arbery inside the residence the first on the dock and the second inside the house looking into the boat the video ends right there.