Two of the Georgia men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery are having difficulty finding attorneys to help them appeal their state charges.
According to reports, Travis and Gregory McMichaels and William “Roddie” Bryan couldn’t afford to hire lawyers on their own and were declared indigent. The state must assign public defenders to represent them, and trial lawyers usually do not handle appeals. It is stalling the appeals process.
The Georgia Public Defender Council has agreed to represent Travis McMichael, the trigger man in Arbery’s killing, because he has the most evidence against him, but taking on his father and Bryan as clients would be a conflict of interest, an official said.
“We can’t represent all three,” GPDC attorney Kenneth Sheppard told Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley at an Aug. 17 status hearing. “We are in the process of trying to find private attorneys who will contract with the GPDC to represent Greg McMichael and the third co-defendant, which is not as easy as it sounds.”
The trio was charged with one count of malice, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony last fall. The three white men chased and cornered Arbery as he jogged through a neighborhood near the coastal Georgia town of Brunswick. Travis and Gregory McMichaels had suspected Arbery of burglary and armed themselves with rifles before following him.
However, even if their state life sentences are overturned, the father and son also face federal life sentences for hate crime and weapons charges. Bryan was sentenced to 35 years for a federal hate crime charge because of the deadly chase. Bryan followed McMichael as they pursued the Black man and recorded the incident.
Sheppard told the judge that GPDC’s deputy director Katherine Mason is “working to find counsel willing to take on this case, which is a larger case than a normal appeal, at the amount of funding that the GPDC has to do these types of appeals.” Taxpayers’ money supports public defenders and their work.
Bryan’s trial lawyer, Kevin Gough, urged Walmsley to issue an order or compel a status report to appoint him and his co-counsel to the appellate case temporarily.
“They’ve apparently run out of lawyers or something,” Gough said.
“There are plenty of fine attorneys available in Atlanta for $1,000 an hour,” he added.
Walmsley did not issue any orders and said he expects the issue to be resolved by the next hearing.