Three white men were found guilty on Wednesday of the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man whose murder last year helped fuel a national debate over racial profiling and vigilantism.
Gregory McMichael, 65, his son, Travis McMichael, 35, and his neighbor William “Roddy” Brian Jr., 52, followed Arbery in their pickup trucks as he drove through his Satilla Shores subdivision near the coastal port city of Brunswick. had run away. Little McMichael shot him.
The men later said they were attempting to make a civilian arrest and that Travis McMichael was acting in self-defense, as he fired only after Arbery in his final moments, lunging for him and his gun.
There is a provision of life imprisonment for those convicted of murder. The men were convicted of felony assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
Thevanza Brooks, one of Arbery’s aunts, sobbed and shuddered at the piece of wood as Travis McMichael’s verdict was read.
As Gregory McMichael was found guilty of a felony, he took off his sweater to reveal an orange jumpsuit, with a message across his chest that read: “Justice Served!!!”
Then, with Brian’s conviction on the felony, he raised his fist in the air.
“We did,” she said. “We are an example to the world to show you don’t have to riot and tear things up to have a good ending.”
Outside the courtyard, a man shouted, “Say his name!”
“Ahmoud Arbery,” chanted by a crowd of about 150.
“We finally got justice for our boy,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said as she left the courtroom. “Finally we got justice.”
It took jurors – 11 of them white and one black in a county that is 27% black – less than two days to reach their decision, as a group of family, friends, pastors and activists in the city. met outside the courtyard.
The verdict came less than a week after a jury in Kenosha, Wis., ruled not guilty in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager who shot and killed two people last year and police brutality last year. were injured in the violent protests against
Arbery’s killing on a quiet Sunday afternoon on February 23, 2020 shocked Americans on both sides of the political divide.
It inspired thousands across the country to take part in the #IRunWithMaud solidarity jog and prompted Georgia’s staunch Republican governor, Brian Kemp, to sign the state’s first hate-crime bill and bolster the state’s Civil War-era civil arrest law. prompted to cancel. ,
The jury was grappled with key questions: Why did the three men chase Arbery as he was fleeing his predominantly white neighborhood? Did he have the legal right to arrest a citizen? Did Travis McMichael Act In Self Defense?
Under Georgia’s civil arrest law—a Civil War statute that was repealed six months earlier but still applies at trial as it was in effect at the time of the shooting—for an ordinary person suspected of committing a felony It was legal to take custody.
Weighing in on whether the defendants were justified in making the civilian’s arrest, however, the jury had to consider whether the men “reasonably suspected” that Arbery had committed a crime and was trying to escape.
As they deliberated at the Glynn County Courthouse, jurors had to sort through a lengthy indictment with complex, interlocking charges.
Prosecutors charged the three defendants not only individually but as “related parties in the commission of the crime,” meaning that if the jury found that one person had committed a crime, it convicted all of those crimes. could.
Lawyers presented widely differing narratives in court. Prosecutors said the three men made “assumptions” about Arbery, had no evidence that he had committed a crime, and pursued “because he was a black man walking down the street.”
Defense attorneys argued that Arbery “was not an innocent victim” and that the defendants had reasonable suspicions that Arbery had committed theft in their neighborhood and, therefore, “a citizen’s right to make an arrest.”
During the trial, the jury was able to see the final moments before the shooting. In a short, grainy cellphone video shot by Brian driving his pickup truck, Arbery can be seen running along a sun-covered road shaded by live oak trees toward a parked pickup truck. Gregory McMichael stands with a handgun in the bed of the truck, and Travis McMichael stands near the open driver-side door holding a shotgun.
As Arbery runs behind the truck on the passenger side, the camera moves away and then turns Arbery to the left and briefly disappears from the rear of the truck.
A gunshot ensues, and Arbery can be seen feuding with Travis McMichael over the gun from the driver’s side. A second shot rings, and Arbery wrestles with McMichael. A third shot is fired at point-blank range and Arbery falls to the ground.
The jury was also presented with security camera video that showed Arbery entering a house under construction in the neighborhood several times in the months leading up to February 23 – minutes before the last time he was shot.