Ahmaud Arbery’s autopsy photos were shown to jurors on Tuesday at the murder trial of three White men who chased him down before he was fatally shot in their neighborhood last year. Prosecutors called Dr. Edmund Donoghue, who examined Arbery’s body on February 24, 2020 — the day after he was slain — as a witness.
Arbery was hit by two of the three shotgun rounds fired at him, Donoghue said, adding that those blasts punched a gaping hole in his chest and unleashed massive bleeding. He said both gunshots caused such severe bleeding that either blast alone would have killed the 25-year-old Black man.
The jury saw close-up photos of his injuries, which included several large abrasions to Arbery’s face from when he fell facedown in the street following the third gunshot. Photos of his clothing showed his T-shirt stained entirely red. Cellphone video of the shooting shows it had been white.
The first shot at close range tore through an artery in Arbery’s right wrist and punched a big hole in the center of his chest, breaking several ribs and causing heavy internal bleeding, said Donoghue, a medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The second shot missed entirely, while the third shot fired at point-blank range ripped through a major artery and vein near his left armpit and fractured bones in his shoulder and upper arm, he said.
“Is there anything law enforcement or EMS could have done to save his life at the scene?” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked the medical examiner.
“I don’t think so. No,” Donoghue replied.
Asked by Dunikoski how Arbery was able to fight back after sustaining such a severe chest wound from the first gunshot, the medical examiner called it a “fight or flight reaction” that raised his heart rate and blood pressure while sending adrenaline coursing through his body. He said ultimately Arbery would have bled to death from the initial chest wound alone.
Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood on February 23, 2020. Their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery.
Defense attorneys say the men had a right to make a citizens arrest of someone they suspected of stealing from the neighborhood, and that the younger McMichael fired the gun in self-defense after Arbery tried to take it from him.
Robert Rubin, one of Travis McMichael’s attorneys, noted that the medical examiner wrote in his report that Arbery died from wounds “sustained during a struggle for a shotgun.”
“Were you aware that Mr. Arbery had his hand on the gun?” Rubin asked Donogue, who answered that he was.
Despite the gunshot to his right wrist, Rubin said, “nothing prevented Mr. Arbery from holding the gun with one hand and swinging and punching with the other hand.”
Tuesday’s testimony followed the judge’s refusal to declare a mistrial over defense claims that jurors were tainted when Arbery’s mother wept over evidence photos, calling attention to the presence of the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who was sitting beside her in the courtroom’s public gallery.
Defense attorney Kevin Gough on Monday asked the judge to make the civil rights leader leave to avoid unfairly influencing the jury, all but one of whom are White.
Rejecting the defense’s complaints about Black pastors at the trial as “reprehensible,” Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley said no group would be excluded from his courtroom.
Jackson acknowledged Monday that Arbery’s mother wept “very quietly” in the courtroom after prosecutors showed a photo of her son to a witness.
“As the judge said, it was my constitutional right to be there,” Jackson said later outside the courthouse. “It’s my moral obligation to be there.”
The Reverend Al Sharpton sat last week with the victim’s parents, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery Sr., inside the Glynn County courtroom. He pledged to return to the courthouse, and activists said 100 Black pastors will join him.
Sharpton has criticized the disproportionately White makeup of the jury. He said last week his attendance was “not disruptive in any way” and was “at the invitation of the family.”
Cooper-Jones was emotional Monday during testimony from the state’s 18th witness, Georgia Bureau of Investigations special agent Lawrence Kelly. According to the courtroom pool reporter, she bowed her head and held Reverend Jackson’s hand when prosecutors and Kelly reviewed frame-by-frame cell phone footage of the shooting. She also closed her eyes when high-contrast versions of the footage slowed and regular speeds were admitted into evidence.
Bryan and the McMichaels are charged with murder and other crimes. Prosecutors say they chased Arbery for five minutes to keep him from exiting the Satilla Shores subdivision outside the port city of Brunswick. The chase ended when Arbery, trailed by Bryan’s truck, tried to run around the McMichaels’ truck as it idled in the road ahead. The video shows Travis McMichael confronting Arbery and then shooting him as he throws punches and grapples for the gun.
The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a burglar after security cameras recorded him several times inside a home under construction, five houses away.