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“ATLANTA — The killing of George Floyd catalyzed a period of national soul-searching about race and racism that has touched nearly every aspect of American life. But in a number of high-profile trials since then — including in the murder of Mr. Floyd and the killing of Ahmaud Arbery — prosecutors have carefully avoided putting racism itself on center stage.

That changes as soon as this week, as federal prosecutors try to prove that the white men who killed Mr. Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, committed a federal hate crime when they chased and killed him “because of Arbery’s race and color,” as their indictment puts it.

In the upcoming trial, prosecutors are almost certain to feature ugly evidence, culled from seized cellphones and other sources, seeking to prove that the three Georgia residents — Travis McMichael, 36, his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, and their neighbor William Bryan, 52 — harbored racist views before the afternoon in February 2020 when they gave chase to Mr. Arbery.”

“The jury may have to decide whether such assumptions amount to sufficient evidence to prove a racial motive for the crime.

If that is what the trial boils down to, it may prove difficult to secure convictions, said Arthur Ago, director of the Criminal Justice Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

But no matter the outcome, Mr. Ago said, the trial will send a signal from the federal government: “If you have biases, and you are acting on those biases in a way that might not be explicit, we will come after you. Because that is a hate crime.””

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