Ahmaud Arbery case: Accused killers want jail phone calls record excluded, here's why

Father-son duo Greg and Travis McMichaels attorneys' request to exclude hours of jailhouse phone calls in the trial is declined. Here's what was said


                            Ahmaud Arbery case: Accused killers want jail phone calls record excluded, here's why
(L- R) Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, William 'Roddie' Bryan were arrested in Ahmaud Arbery's death case (Glynn County Detention Center)

GLYNN COUNTY, GEORGIA: Father-son duo Greg and Travis McMichaels and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan are about to stand trial for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in February 2021. More than 1,000 people were sent jury notices by court officials on October 18 and selecting the final 12 jurors and four alternatives will take over two weeks following which the trial will begin. In a blow to the defense for the men accused of killing the 25-year-old Black man who was jogging in their neighborhood in February 2020, a Georgia court ruled that the thousands of hours of jailhouse call recordings of all three men will not be excluded at trial and prosecution could use them as evidence if they want to. 

The prosecution is maintaining that Arbery was a victim of a racially motivated crime. The defense said the men shot Arbery in self-defense. The defense was hoping for a court ruling that would exclude using these calls during the trial. Multiple arguments were used to plead their case: violation of an expectation of privacy under the fourth amendment, violation of their clients' right to due process, spousal privilege attached to conversations between Greg and his wife Leigh stating it was a violation of equal protection because there was no way the McMichaels could have known these calls could be used in court to prosecute them. 

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What was said in the jailhouse calls?

In the ruling, the judge said, "The defendants received repeated warnings that the calls would be monitored and recorded. They have a logically lowered expectation of privacy in prison. And the Defendants consented to the Detention Center’s policy by using the phone system accordingly, there is no reason to think the phone calls could not be used at trial just like any other lawfully discovered evidence.” The judge added, Greg's “decision to proceed with the conversations, despite notification that the conversations were being recorded and were subject to monitoring, is no different from Defendant electing to proceed with conversations notwithstanding the known presence of a third party within earshot of a conversation with his wife. Consequently, Defendant waived the spousal privilege.”

A mural of Ahmaud Arbery (Getty Images)

According to a report, Greg tells his brother during one of the calls, "I have been filleted and laid out as a sacrificial lamb. It’s… it’s all political.” Greg asks his brother, “You’ve heard the old saying that no good deed goes unpunished?” to which his brother replies, "That’s a shining example right there.” In one of the calls between the McMichaels couple Leigh and Greg, the latter becomes angry while discussing his daughter's social media posts - one of which had a photo of Arbery's dead body lying on the street.

In one of the calls made by Travis to his best friend Zack Langford, the former spoke about wanting to be released on bond so he could be present for raising his young son.  Langford testified on behalf of Travis during their bond hearing. In one of the calls between Travis and his mother Leigh, the latter was heard preparing her son for the high-profile case, at one time likening it to the media coverage that O.J Simpson's case received. “Oh my God,” Travis said to which his mother replied, "but that's a good thing because they're gonna see facts that's not there that they haven't seen." In another call, Greg said he did a "good deed". The defense said the prosecution will argue that the good deed his client had on mind was killing Arbery. The defense added, Greg referred to his "attempt to conduct a private person's arrest" of Arbery as a good deed.

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