At a pretrial hearing for the three white men charged with the killing of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery appeared in Georgia state court Wednesday, defense attorneys requested that Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley allow them to submit evidence of Arbery’s past actions, criminal history, and mental illness to help the jury determine what Arbery’s “intent and motive” was on the day of the shooting and argue that Arbery exhibited a pattern of aggression toward authority figures, reports the Courthouse News Service. Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski insisted that Arbery’s past is irrelevant because the defendants lacked any knowledge of his run-ins with the law when they allegedly chased him down and shot him last February. Attorneys for the defense have asked the judge to let them present evidence to the jury related to several incidents, including Arbery’s 2013 arrest and guilty plea to bringing a gun to a high school basketball game.
The defense also revealed Wednesday that Arbery had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and mood disorders, in 2018, arguing that Arbery’s mental illness “contributed in a significant way to his actions on that day, including engaging in hand-to-hand combat with [Travis McMichael]” and that Arbery suffered from auditory hallucinations which told him to “rob and steal and…hurt others.” Dunikoski said it was offensive to blame the shooting on Arbery’s mental health. Bryan and the McMichaels face murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment charges for fatally shooting Arbery. They pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges Tuesday. Walmsley said he would not rule on the evidence Wednesday and stopped arguments over whether Arbery’s medical records could be tendered into evidence, asking both sides to submit written briefs within 20 to 40 days instead.