A Georgia jury decided Wednesday to convict the three white men accused of murdering 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black jogger.
Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan each faced nine felony charges during the trial. All defendants face a minimum sentence of life in prison.
Travis McMichael, the only one found guilty of malice murder, was convicted on all nine counts, which included felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit felony.
Gregory McMichael was found not guilty of malice murder, but guilty on the other eight counts. Malice murder refers to when a person “unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either expressed or implied, causes the death of another human being.”
Bryan, the neighbor who took the video of the shooting and helped entrap Arbery, was found guilty of three counts of felony murder and one count each of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. He was acquitted on the other charges.
“Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. After nearly two years of pain, suffering, and wondering if Ahmaud's killers would be held to account, the Arbery family finally has some justice. Nothing will bring back Ahmaud, but his family will have some peace knowing the men who killed him will remain behind bars and can never inflict their brand of evil on another innocent soul,” civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, an attorney for the Arbery family, said in a statement.
“Today certainly indicates progress, but we are nowhere close to the finish line. America, you raised your voices for Ahmaud. Now is not the time to let them quiet. Keep marching. Keep fighting for what is right,” Crump continued.
The 12 jurors took more than 10 hours over two days to come up with their unanimous verdict. Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley thanked the jury for their service and said he will address logistical matters with them later.
The killing of Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020, initially fell under the radar but drew national attention after a video of the killing was released that May.
The McMichaels told police they thought Arbery was a fleeing burglar when they armed themselves and pursued him in a pickup truck. The defense said Travis McMichael, 35, had encountered someone in a similar circumstance and that he and his father, 65, were concerned about recent break-ins.
“On this night, Travis is driving out of the neighborhood to go get some gas,” defense attorney Jason Sheffield recalled in his closing arguments.
“And on his way out, as he is driving down the road, out of the neighborhood, he sees a man run across the street and duck into the shadows.”
The Feb. 23 video recorded by Bryan, 52, shows Arbery running between the vehicles operated by Bryan and the McMichaels and briefly disappearing from view. The roughly half-minute video then shows Arbery in a scuffle with Travis McMichael, who then fatally shoots him. Arbery collapses after trying to run a few more steps.
Although Arbery was killed in February, Bryan and the McMichaels were not arrested until May, after the video was posted online, sparking public outcry.
The actions of law enforcement and local prosecutors came under scrutiny in the aftermath of the video’s release. Gregory McMichael is a former Glynn County police officer, and two prosecutors recused themselves from the case due to conflicts of interest.
The makeup of the jury also caught heat during the selection process for its lack of diversity in a state still haunted by the memory of lynchings. Glynn County, where the trial took place in southeastern Georgia, is about a quarter Black, but only one Black juror was chosen. The state accused the defense of eliminating Black jurors based on race.
Walmsley said at the time that the “court has found that there appears to be intentional discrimination” in the jury selection process, but allowed the trial to move forward. He said the defense had met the legal standard necessary to dismiss the potential jurors, coming up with reasons beyond race for removing them.
The three men also face federal hate crime charges in a trial scheduled for February 2022.
In an interview with Yahoo News in early November, Ahmaud Arbery’s father, Marcus, said he hopes the verdict will alleviate some of their pain.
“We get justice and this is a lot of pain for us gone. We still struggling. And we still out here fighting for all our children. Not just mine. We don’t want nothing like this to happen to nobody else’s family.
“He died because of skin color. So that’s really, really hard for me and his mom and our family.”