The three Georgia men accused of chasing down and killing Ahmaud Arbery last year have been found guilty of murder.
Gregory McMichael, 65, and his son Travis McMichael, 35, along with their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, pursued Arbery, 25, as he ran through their Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, on Feb. 23, 2020 in a pair of pickup trucks. After the men boxed Arbery in, a struggle ensued and Travis McMichael fatally shot him in the chest with a shotgun. Bryan recorded the incident on video.
A jury on Wednesday found Travis McMichael guilty on all nine counts he faced, including malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count each of false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
His father, Gregory McMichael was found guilty on four felony murder counts, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count each of false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. He was found not guilty of malice murder.
Bryan was found guilty on three felony murder counts, and one count each of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony. He was found not guilty of malice murder, one count of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault.
The jurors deliberated for roughly 11 hours over the course of two days before they came to the decisions.
Months had gone by without any arrests in the case until the video of the shooting was leaked, sparking outrage across the country, in May, the same month that Black Lives Matter protests and unrest erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
The trio’s defense claimed that they had the right to pursue Arbery, pointing to the fact that he trespassed briefly at the site of a home under construction and believed him to be a burglary suspect. They argued they were trying to effect a citizen’s arrest and that Arbery was to blame as the aggressor during the encounter.
Prosecutors countered that notion, saying there was no evidence that Arbery was responsible for any crime in the neighborhood and hadn’t taken anything from the construction site. The McMichaels and Bryan only gave chase, they told the jury, “because he was a Black man running down their street.” Travis allegedly uttered a racial slur after killing Arbery, National Public Radio reported last year.
Following the verdict, Judge Timothy Walmsley thanked the jury for their service before dismissing them. He said follow-up proceedings to determine sentencing would be scheduled in the next several weeks. The McMichaels and Bryan could face a maximum of life in prison.
The jury was made up of 11 white people and only one Black person. Nine of the jurors are women. The make-up of the jury was challenged by the prosecution following the selection process; they claimed that defense attorneys disproportionately threw out qualified Black jurors. Judge Timothy Walmsley agreed that there appeared to be “intentional discrimination” but ruled that the case could go forward with the jury because the defense gave valid reasons for why Black prospective jurors had been dismissed, CNN notes.
The notion of self-defense lay at the heart of the case as the jury began deliberations.
“You can’t start something and claim self-defense,” Linda Dunikoski, the lead prosecutor, told jurors on Tuesday in a rebuttal to the defense’s closing arguments. “And they started this.”
Meanwhile, Laura Hogue — one of Gregory McMichael’s attorneys — received criticism this week for making disparaging remarks about Arbery’s body in her closing remarks.
“Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails,” she told jurors on Monday.
Hogue’s comment not only provoked audible gasps in the courtroom but it upset Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones so much she left the courtroom.
Charles Coleman Jr., a civil rights attorney and former prosecutor, told CNN that the Hogue was trying to invoke the image of a “runaway slave” and that it was an “attempt to sort of really trigger some of the racial tropes and stereotypes that may be deeply embedded in the psyche of some of the jurors.”
Arbery had recently enrolled at a technical college and was hoping to become an electrician when he was killed.
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