Three Georgia men pleaded not guilty on Tuesday of the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was followed and shot while jogging near his home, according to online court documents.

Greg McMichael, a 65-year-old former police officer; Travis McMichael, the 35-year-old son of Greg McMichael; and William “Roddie” Bryan appeared before US Judge Benjamin Cheesbro on their first trial since her indictment.

They are charged with violating Arbery’s civil rights and attempted kidnapping. The father and son were also charged with using firearms in the commission of a crime.

Members of Arbery’s family thanked their supporters and the federal government outside the courthouse on Tuesday.

“This is a very emotional day for the family,” family lawyer S. Lee Merritt told reporters. “This is the first time you have shared a courtroom with these three killers.”

On February 23, 2020, the McMichaels armed themselves, got into a truck, and chased Arbery as he walked on a public street in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, according to court documents. Bryan, her neighbor, joined the chase, used his truck to cut off Arbery, and filmed on his cell phone Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun.

Arbery’s death, along with the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who were killed by police, sparked months of protests against racial justice across the country.

The McMichaels and Bryan, all white, were arrested last May – more than two months after the fatal shooting – after a storm of public outcry after the video of Arbery’s death was released. You were also charged with murder and aggravated assault in Georgia; she pleaded not guilty on these charges either.

You were not charged with hate crime by state charges because Georgia was one of the few states that did not have laws against hate crimes. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill in June, weeks after Arbery was shot, providing additional penalties for biased crimes.

On April 28, the Justice Department accused the trio of targeting and threatening Arbery because of his race.

More:Georgia governor signs hate crime law following the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery

More:Ahmaud Arbery murder suspects charged with hate crimes by the Justice Department

The indictment stated that the defendants had “Arbery’s right to use violence and threats to intimidate and harm Arbery’s right to use a public road because of his race.” If convicted of interfering with Arbery’s rights, they face life imprisonment.

Arbery’s family lawyers say he was a victim of racial profiling and labeled the murder a lynching.

Ahmaud Arbery was killed outside Brunswick, Georgia, in Glynn County on February 23.

The McMichaels and Bryan defenders insist that their clients have not committed any crimes.

Gregory McMichael told police he and his son believed Arbery matched the description of a burglar who was tracked by security camera during a recent break-in in the neighborhood. Glynn County Police Department told USA TODAY that they had no records of home break-ins or break-ins in that neighborhood between January 1 and February 23. Local media reported a car break-in.

A surveillance video shows Arbery stopping at a house under construction before the McMichaels chased him. However, the property owner said nothing had been done and a video shows that several people had entered the site over the course of several months.

Lawyer:Safety video from the construction site could show Ahmaud Arbery was getting water

In response to Arbery’s death, Kemp signed a law Monday stating that bystanders in Georgia cannot make arrests if a crime is committed in their presence.

This week, a Georgia judge will determine whether the judicial jury can hear evidence of racist messages and social media posts by the defendants and evidence of incidents from Arbery’s past in the state’s case. The selection of the jury for the state case is scheduled to begin on October 18.

The McMichaels defenders want the jury to hear 10 incidents from Arbery’s past. Lawyers say these incidents support the argument that Arbery “would use running or jogging as a cover for crime,” and the McMichaels had reason to believe he was a burglar.

Prosecutors say Arbery’s past is irrelevant as none of the defendants knew Arbery or the incidents prior to the shooting.

“The only purpose of bringing Mr Arbery’s ‘other acts’ before a jury is to slander Mr Arbery’s character and suggest that his murder was deserved,” the prosecutors wrote in a court record.

Judge finds probable cause of indictment:Georgia investigator alleges racist libel

Prosecutors have also asked the judge to display text messages and social media posts to the jury that they say show a lack of “racial benevolence” from all three of the defendants.

Richard Dial, a special agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the lead investigator on the Arbery case, told investigators in June that Travis McMichael had used a racist slur “multiple times” on social media and in the news, and that Bryan had multiple messages on his phone referring to the breed, which Dial described as “very worrying”.

Dial also said McMichael called Arbery the same slander he put on the ground after the shooting and before the police arrived. Jason Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael, said his client denied the comment.

Featuring: Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; Nicquel Terry Ellis, The Associated Press