Jurors in the United States have convicted three white men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, the black man who was chased and fatally shot while running through their neighbourhood.
The attack, and its initial handling by police, became part of the larger national reckoning on racial injustice in the country and sparked huge protests and public outcry after video emerged of the murder.
The convictions for Greg McMichael, son Travis McMichael and neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan came after jurors deliberated for about 10 hours. The men face minimum sentences of life in prison. It is up to the judge to decide whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole.
Travis McMichael stood for the verdict, his lawyer’s arm around his shoulder. At one point, McMichael lowered his head to his chest. After the verdicts were read, as he stood to leave, he mouthed “love you” to his mother, who was in the courtroom.
Moments after the verdicts were announced, Arbery’s father Marcus Arbery Sr. was seen crying and hugging supporters outside the courtroom.
“He didn’t do nothing,” the father said, “but run and dream.”
Ben Crump, attorney for Arbery’s father, spoke outside the courthouse, saying repeatedly, “The spirit of Ahmaud defeated the lynch mob.”
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, thanked the crowd gathered outside the courthouse and said she did not think she would see this day.
“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. But God is good,” she said. Of her son, she said, “He will now rest in peace.”
Georgia senator Raphael Warnock and former presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar were among those to welcome the verdict.
These verdicts are justice for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. But true justice would be Ahmaud spending Thanksgiving with his family. I hope, we all hope, this brings some healing.
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) November 24, 2021
I'm grateful to the jury for their service and for a verdict that says Ahmaud Arbery’s life mattered. He was a son, a nephew, a child of God, and he did not deserve to die in this way.
I'm praying for Ahmaud’s family as they begin the difficult journey towards healing.
— Reverend Raphael Warnock (@ReverendWarnock) November 24, 2021
Remember, if local authorities in Georgia had their way, no one would have ever been charged for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
It took weeks of protest before charges were even brought in the case, 74 days after Arbery was shot and killed in February 2020.
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) November 24, 2021
Confronting video at centre of murder trial
The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue the 25-year-old after seeing him running outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick in February 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded a mobile phone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.
The graphic video leaked online two months later. Though prosecutors did not argue that racism motivated the killing, federal authorities have charged them with hate crimes, alleging that they chased and killed Arbery because he was black. That case is scheduled to go to trial in February.
Soon after returning to court Wednesday morning (local time), the jury sent a note to Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley asking to view two versions of the shooting video — the original and one that investigators enhanced to reduce shadows — three times apiece.
Jurors returned to the courtroom to see the videos and listen again to a 911 call that one of the defendants made from the back of a pickup truck about 30 seconds before the shooting.
"This is not a celebration, it is a reflection to acknowledge that the spirit of Ahmaud defeated the lynch mob," Benjamin Crump says after three men found guilty of felony murder in death of Ahmaud Arbery. pic.twitter.com/WMGd8V6hYD
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) November 24, 2021
The disproportionately white jury received the case around midday Tuesday and spent about six hours deliberating before adjourning without a verdict.
The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a fleeing burglar when they armed themselves and jumped in a pickup truck to chase him. Bryan joined the pursuit when they passed his house and recorded video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery at close range with a shotgun as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for the weapon.
On the 911 call the jury reviewed, Greg McMichael tells an operator: “I’m out here in Satilla Shores. There’s a Black male running down the street.”
He then starts shouting, apparently as Arbery is running toward the McMichael’s idling truck with Bryan’s truck coming up behind him: “Stop right there! Damn it, stop! Travis!” Gunshots can be heard a few second later.
The graphic video death leaked online two months later, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, quickly arresting the three men.
Defense attorneys contend the McMichaels were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest when they set off after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.
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