BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The three Georgia men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery were back in court Friday -- this time for a hearing ahead of their federal hate crimes trial.
A judge has already sentenced Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan to life in prison for their roles in Arbery’s death in 2020.
In the federal trial, jurors will have to decide whether Arbery’s murder was motivated by racism.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: The Ahmaud Arbery case | VIEW: Sketches from court hearing ahead of federal hate crimes trial in Ahmaud Arbery killing
Friday’s hearing was on a motion filed by Bryan’s attorneys asking that certain evidence be excluded from the case. It did not specify what that evidence was. Those arguments were moved behind closed doors with everyone in the gallery, including media and family members being asked to leave.
Cameras are not permitted in federal court.
In the end, the judge made no rulings about the evidence on Friday, but a defense attorney told News4JAX specific evidence will not be heard before the trial starts next month. The judge did agree Friday to a request to ensure the outcome of the state criminal case is not discussed during the federal trial.
Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., said his pursuit for justice isn’t over, but he is doing better since the three men who killed his son were sentenced in superior court two weeks ago.
“Better, better! Sleep, better in my sleep. I’m still mad as I don’t know what,” Marcus Arbery said.
Arbery’s family members said they’re confident they’ll get the outcome they desire.
“I know God is in control,” Diane Jackson said. “Just got to stay prayed up. God will make them wait.”
Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, was briefly at the federal courthouse but did not make any statements.
The final pretrial conference is set for Jan. 31. Jury selection in the federal hate crimes trial is scheduled to start on Feb. 7 at 10 a.m. in federal court.
All three defendants were convicted of killing Arbery in superior court in November. Bryan was the only defendant given the chance at parole in his sentence.
The men now face hate crime charges in federal court with prosecutors saying they violated Arbery’s civil rights, unjustly pursuing and threatening him on a public street because he was Black. Evidence of racism that state prosecutors chose not to share with jurors at the murder trial last year is expected to be front and center in this trial.
Last month, ahead of the three defendants’ sentencing hearing, Arbery’s aunt was asked about the upcoming federal trial and how the family is preparing mentally and emotionally to go through it all again.
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“We are actually going to be opening up things that we were trying to start healing from,” Thea Brooks said. “We will, of course, be reliving Feb. 23 (2020) all over again. But this case will be different because we will get to hear some of the things we heard in the preliminary hearing that was actually exempt from being in the actual hearing of the trial.”
During one of the earliest pretrial hearings, an investigator testified that Bryan overhead Travis McMichael utter a racial slur seconds after he shot Arbery. Just days ago, Travis McMichael’s attorneys filed a motion asking for a new trial saying state prosecutors failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
A judge already said the jury pool for the federal trial can be expanded to included people in more than 40 Georgia counties.
The trial with jury selection is expected to last three weeks.