Waiting on Verdict in McMichael/Bryan Trial

https://pagepate.wistia.com/medias/hre60yej89?embedType=async&videoFoam=true&videoWidth=640

Attorney Page Pate, who has been a criminal defense attorney for over 25 years, frequently serves as a legal analyst to several media outlets. When high profile cases or important legal issues appear in the news, the media will contact Page for his opinions and analysis. Of particular interest for the past year and half, has been the case involving the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia. Page has been contacted by the media numerous times throughout the various stages of the case to discuss the proceedings.

In this interview, Page was contacted by WJXT – News4Jax to discuss the jury deliberations at the conclusion of the trial of the three men charged in the death of Mr. Arbery. Midway through the first day of deliberations, the jury requested to re-review certain pieces of evidence that were presented during the trial. The jury requested to see the cell phone video of the shooting of Mr. Arbery and to hear the 911 call made by Greg McMichael regarding his report of “a black man running down the street.”

News4Jax asks Page what he thinks about the jury’s request to hear the 911 call. Page explains that the “911 call was critical to the prosecution in their closing argument. They basically said, look…they asked what the emergency was. And according to Greg McMichael, the emergency was that there’s a black man in the neighborhood. So that was critical to their argument that this was not a citizen’s arrest, it was not self-defense. This was murder.” Page further explains that “by the jury asking to hear that again, clearly, there are some people on the jury who think that’s critical, that evidence is important, but maybe there’s one or two people who aren’t so sure. And so the jury wanted to come back in and say, “Hey, listen to this tape again, you can hear what he’s saying. And that should show his intent.””

Regarding the cell phone video of the shooting of Mr. Arbery, Page says that the likely explanation for the jury requesting to see it again is probably due to “some disagreement,” and not because they are trying to figure out what happened. He also says that “we don’t know, at this point, whether half of the jury think it’s self-defense, half think it’s murder, or it’s just one or two people that the others are trying to convince. But when there’s disagreement, the only way to get past that is to look at the evidence again, so it makes sense to me.” Page explains that it is difficult to know whether these questions or possible disagreement are good for the defense or the prosecution because “What we don’t know is the breakdown. I mean, how many people see it differently? What is the disagreement? And sometimes, in state cases in Georgia, the judge will ask them. And they’ll say, “Well, we’re six-six,” you know, “We’re tired,” or, “We’re 11-1 not guilty,” or, “11-1 guilty.” We don’t know that breakdown.”

Lastly, Page is asked when he thinks a verdict will come. He explains that “it’s impossible to know what’s going on in that jury room,” and says that he does think that there will be a verdict today, “because they can be close and still have disagreement.” Page emphasizes that “if it’s just one or two, maybe they’re just trying to get past those two or convince those two and be done with the case. I still think it’ll happen today.”

TRANSCRIPT:

Announcer: Live from the local station, News4JAX starts now.

Bruce: Three men charged with murder and the death of the Ahmaud Arbery awaiting the jury’s decision. They are deciding their fate as deliberations stretch into day two. While the jury debates the case against these three men, Ahmaud Arbery’s family and a group of supporters gathered outside the courtroom. The case centers around the claim from Greg McMichael, his son Travis, and their neighbor William Roddie Bryan, that they shot Arbery in self-defense.

The local station is monitoring the situation inside the courtroom and out. We begin with News4JAX anchor Tarik Minor, who’s live. And Tarik, the jurors asked to see the video of Arbery’s shooting.

Tarik: Yeah, Bruce, the jury started deliberating right around 8:36 this morning. And this is a very significant development, the jurors asking to see the cell phone video that was shot by William Bryan, both the short version, the original version, and the enhanced video. And they wanted to see it three times. And they also requested to listen to the 911 call from Gregory McMichael, and a very important portion of this 911 call, the very beginning of it, where Gregory McMichael says, “There is a black man running down the street.”

Joining us now to talk about what this could mean for this case and where the verdict is, is local criminal attorney, Page Pate, who’s not associated with this case. Your take, let’s start with the 911 call. What is your take on what the jury could be considering and discussing at this point?

Page: Well, if you remember, that 911 call was critical to the prosecution in their closing argument. They basically said, look…they asked what the emergency was. And according to Greg McMichael, the emergency was that there’s a black man in the neighborhood. So that was critical to their argument that this was not a citizen’s arrest, it was not self-defense. This was murder. And so by the jury asking to hear that again, clearly, there are some people on the jury who think that’s critical, that evidence is important, but maybe there’s one or two people who aren’t so sure. And so the jury wanted to come back in and say, “Hey, listen to this tape again, you can hear what he’s saying. And that should show his intent.”

Tarik: And then the video, they saw the video many times throughout the trial. But to review that video again and watch it three times, what does that tell you?

Page: Well, same thing. They’re not trying to figure out what happened. I mean, like you said, they’ve seen the video, we’ve all seen the video by this point. But it’s probably some disagreement. And we don’t know, at this point, whether half of the jury think it’s self-defense, half think it’s murder, or it’s just one or two people that the others are trying to convince. But when there’s disagreement, the only way to get past that is to look at the evidence again, so it makes sense to me.

Tarik: And last night, it appeared as if they were close to a verdict. At 6:00, the judge came back and said, “Let’s break for the night.” And one of the jurors said, “We are working towards a verdict.” With that said, and then what’s happened today, do you think that a verdict will come today? Or perhaps they’ll come back after Thanksgiving?

Page: I mean, it’s impossible to know what’s going on in that jury room. But I still think we’ll get a verdict today because they can be close and still have disagreement. Again, if it’s just one or two, maybe they’re just trying to get past those two or convince those two and be done with the case. I still think it’ll happen today.

Tarik: These questions that they want to review the evidence, does it seem as if it’s working in the prosecution’s favor or the defense’s favor?

Page: What we don’t know is the breakdown. I mean, how many people see it differently? What is the disagreement? And sometimes, in state cases in Georgia, the judge will ask them. And they’ll say, “Well, we’re six-six,” you know, “We’re tired,” or, “We’re 11-1 not guilty,” or, “11-1 guilty.” We don’t know that breakdown. And that’s why it’s hard to tell whether this is good for the prosecution or good for the defense.

Tarik: Pretty intense and anxious moments for all those involved, not only the jurors but those defendants. In your experience, what do you think’s going on?

Page: And the lawyers too, don’t forget that. I mean, it’s the most stressful time for a lawyer. Obviously, you’re not the one who’s facing life in prison, so we understand for the defendants and for the family, for the Arbery family, of course. Anxious. Every time you hear from the judge, “The jury is coming in,” you don’t know whether it’s a verdict, a question, they want to see evidence. It’s a very stressful time.

Tarik: All right. Mr. Pate, we certainly do appreciate your insight.

Page: Thank you.

Tarik: There is a lot going on here at…

Awards