After the killers of Arbery dropped their guilty pleas, the hate crimes trial will go on.
Gregory and Travis McMichael had already agreed to plead guilty, but a federal judge turned down the deal, which would have given them 30-year sentences. There are going to be a lot of jury selections on Monday.
Those two men, Travis and Gregory McMichael, are two of the three men who were convicted in state court of shooting and killing Ahmaud Arbery two years ago. They have now withdrawn their guilty pleas in their federal hate crimes case, which means that a new trial will be held that will look back at the day two years ago when they chased Mr. Arbery through their South Georgia neighborhood with three shotgun blasts and Mr. Arbery was killed.
If the second trial is as dramatic as the first, the McMichaels and a third man could both be sentenced to life in prison.
It's also possible that it will look even worse.
Because they had agreed to plead guilty in exchange for 30-year prison sentences, the McMichaels did not have to pay for their crimes again. But this week, a judge threw out the deal the government had made with Travis McMichael, 36, which wiped out the same deal made with his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, as well.
The judge made his decision after Mr. Arbery's family members were very angry about the deals in court.
On Thursday night, Gregory McMichael's lawyer, A.J. Balbo, and the Justice Department told the court that McMichael's plea deal had been canceled and that the two sides were ready to go to court.
Travis McMichael told the judge on Friday that he, too, wanted to go to trial. He told the judge that he wanted to change his earlier decision to plead guilty.
The federal government plans to put the alleged racist motives of the people who killed Mr. Arbery at the top of the list. It says that the McMichaels and their next-door neighbor are each charged with "interference with rights," which says that they chased and hurt Mr. Arbery because of his race and color.
Prosecutors are expected to show that the three men used racist language and had racist ideas that many, if not most, Americans find disgusting.
A lawyer in Georgia, Robert G. Rubin, said that the murder trial for Travis McMichael would be "ugly" and that he was going to fight for him. "There's no doubt about it," he says.
Court documents and hearings over the past two years have hinted at some of the things that the federal jury might hear. This is because the jury could hear about some of these things. An F.B.I. agent said this week that Travis McMichael's cell phone was full of racist messages that called Black people "monkeys" and other things. This is how it looks like in 2020, when the state prosecutors are going to be filing their case. Gregory McMichael made a Facebook post that was called "Identity Dixie" and "Racial Johnny Rebel." A federal filing by Mr. Bryan's lawyer in December describes "racially insensitive language" that Mr. Bryan used in text messages, as well as witness testimony that "would suggest that Bryan did not like his daughter dating an African American man."
After jury selection, which is set to start on Monday morning in Brunswick, Ga., issues of race could come up.
It took two and a half weeks to pick a jury for the state trial. In that case, only people who lived in Glynn County, Ga., could be on the jury. That's where the defendants and Mr. Arbery lived. It was one of the most talked about and disturbing stories in the area for a long time. It was almost impossible to find jurors who hadn't heard about the case or had already formed their own opinions about it.
There was a jury in the end, but it was made up of 11 white people and one black person, which raised concerns that the defendants would get more than they should.
For the federal case, Judge Wood wanted to get more people on the jury, so he sent out summonses to about 1,000 people in 43 of Georgia's 159 counties.
There may have been a new problem because the McMichaels didn't accept plea deals that they should have. They may have seen news coverage of the hearing Monday, when Judge Wood made it clear that the two men were ready to plead guilty to hate crime charges.
Page Pate, a legal analyst and veteran trial lawyer in Atlanta, says that could make it more difficult to find an impartial jury. But it's not impossible. To get a hate crimes conviction, prosecutors may need to show that not only did the men have racist views, but that racism was a factor in why they went after Mr. Arbery in the first place.
There will be a lot of detailed information about Mr. Arbery's visits to this neighborhood before he was killed that will be brought up by his defense lawyers. During this case, the defense will try to show that the men were not trying to arrest a random African-American for questioning, but rather Mr. Arbery, who was the only person they wanted to question.
One charge of attempted kidnapping is added to the hate crime charges for each man. A charge of having a firearm during a crime of violence has been filed against each of the McMichaels.
Before the trial, the state's lead investigator said that Bryan told authorities that he heard Travis McMichael use a racist slur shortly after shooting Mr. Arbery. This is one of the most explosive claims that have come out since the killing. This is what you need to know:
Lawyers for Mr. McMichael say they don't believe that. When it comes to presenting the information to the jury, it isn't clear whether they will be able to because it is a constitutional issue. In other words, if Mr. Bryan refuses to testify, Travis McMichael would not be able to use his Sixth Amendment right to speak with his accuser.