On Wednesday November 24, 2021, the jury decided Wednesday to convict the three white men accused of murdering 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black, while he was just on his routine jogging. Ahmaud Arbery was murdered in Brunswick, GA, on Feb. 23, 2020. Three white men, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan, were found guilty on several different counts.
Travis McMichael was convicted on all nine counts, including felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit felony. He was the only one found guilty for malice murder, a case where, according to Georgia law, an accused person “unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either expressed or implied, causes the death of another human being.”
Greg McMichael, his son, was found guilty on the other eight counts.
William "Roddie" Bryan, was found guilty of three counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit felony. His is the neighbor who took the video of the shooting and assisted in enmeshing Ahmaud Arbery into a killing zone.
Travis McMichael, his son Greg McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, all faced nine felony charges during the trial. They face a minimum sentence of life in prison.
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After the verdict, Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer and the attorney for the Arbery family, said in a statement: “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.”
It is a beginning, of a journey to long waited justice for a Black man. In February, the convicted murderers will also face federal hate crime charges in a scheduled trial.
The trial has been marred by controversies.
First there were questionable actions by law enforcement and local prosecutors that came under scrutiny in the aftermath of the video’s release. None of the men accused was charged immediately after Arbery's shooting. It is only when the video footage taken by William Bryan became public, around 2 months and 1/2 later, that the charges were filed.
Following the video footage, the Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into Jackie Johnson and another district attorney's handling of the case and that is when the charges were filed. Then potential conflicts of interest were uncovered for several prosecutors. They recused themselves, under public pressure. Then the former district attorney Jackie Johnson, voted out, was charged with misconduct for interfering with police at the scene of the shooting (See here: Brunswick - Georgia - USA: Accountability for Murder of Ahmaud Arbery on Line)
Second, there was the jury selection. In Glynn County, Georgia, where the trial took place, Blacks account forr 27% of the population. Yet, only one Black juror was chosen while the other 11 were white. This lack of diversity in jury selection in Georgia, still haunted by the memory of lynchings was a major hurdle.
Third, there were controversial statements by a defense attorney, calling for banning Blacks and civil rights activists from the court.( See here: Brunswick - Georgia - USA: Was Ahmaud Arbery Killed for "Jogging While Black", Based on Evidences ?)
But, in the end, the verdict showed progress. As Ben Crump put it:
“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”.
It took 2 days and 10 hours of deliberation for the jurors to reach their unanimous verdict. Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley will review the matters related to parole.
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