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travis mcmichael trial

PBS NewsHour Extra covers the Travis McMichael trial in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

November 19, 2021 | 0 comments

'Self-Defense' Laws and the Trial of the Men Who Killed Ahmaud Arbery


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One of three men on trial for fatally shooting Ahmaud Arbery — who was Black — took the stand on November 17 in his own defense. Travis McMichael — who is white — testified a day after the prosecution rested in a murder trial that is racially charged and being closely watched around the country. William Brangham reports.

Note: This story is about the trial of the men who killed Arbery but doesn’t provide full context about the incident itself. To better understand the events that led to Arbery’s killing, see this article as well as the supplementary information below.



Discussion Questions

  1. Who is Ahmaud Arbery and who is Travis McMichael?
  2. What did McMichael claim was the reason he killed Arbery?
  3. What Georgia state homicide laws are mentioned in this case?
  4. Where and When was Arbery shot and killed?
  5. How are prosecutors disputing McMichael’s legal claims to self-defense?


Focus Questions

Travis McMichael has said in court that he was under the “impression” that Ahmaud Arbery might be a threat, even though he’s acknowledged Arbery never threatened him or showed a weapon. McMichael claims “he was acting weird, he was acting funny…so I was on alert.” Regardless of Georgia law, what conditions do you think should be present before someone should be able to claim legal self-defense?

Media Literacy

What voices are left out from this story? Do you have a strong enough sense of the reported circumstances of the murder to understand the legal argument? If not, what would you like to know?

Additional Resources

To better understand why Ahmaud Arbery’s homicide has received intense national attention, as well as understand how it contributed to the wave of protests in the summer of 2020, watch below:



  • This story may also provide more context — it describes the indictment of a Georgia prosecutor who is accused of shielding the McMichaels from investigation, including directing police at the scene of the crime to not arrest Travis McMichael, who had killed Arbery. Travis’s father, also present at the killing, had worked for the prosecutor.
  • Find more resources on teaching about race and racism.


Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.