The man who shot Ahmaud Arbery was convicted of premeditated murder
by RUSS BYNUM
BRUNSWICK, GA (Associated Press) – Three men were convicted of murder Wednesday in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was running empty-handed in a Georgia section when white strangers chased after him, cornered him on a quiet street and attacked him. him with a gun.
The February 2020 murder attracted limited attention at first. But when a video of the shooting was leaked online, Arbery’s death quickly became another example in the nation’s appreciation of racial injustice in the way blacks are treated in their daily lives.
Now the men all face a mandatory life sentence. The judge will decide whether or not the sentences are to be carried out with the possibility of parole.
When the first 23 verdicts of conviction were read, Arbery’s father had to leave the courtroom after jumping and screaming. Reading the latest criminal count, Arbery’s mother lowered her head and softly pumped her fists.
“He did nothing but run and dream,” Marcus Arbery Sr. said of his son. Outside the courtroom, dozens of black supporters hugged and cried.
The jury debated about 10 hours before the conviction of Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and neighbor William “Rudy” Bryan.
The McMichaels took the guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue 25-year-old Arbery after seeing him run outside the coastal city of Brunswick, Georgia. Brian joined the chase in his own van and recorded a mobile phone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery.
The father and son told police they suspected Arbery was a fugitive thief. But the prosecution argued that the men caused the bloody confrontation and that there was no evidence that Arbery committed any crimes in the neighborhood.
“We applaud the courage and bravery of this jury for saying that what happened on February 23, 2020 to Ahmaud Arbery — the hunting and killing of Ahmaud Arbery — was not only a moral error, but a legal error, and we are grateful for that,” said Latonia Hines, Cobb County Executive Assistant Attorney.
Prosecutor Linda Donekowski added: “The jury system works in this country. And when you give the truth to people and they see it, they will do the right thing.”
Travis McMichael, 35, stood with the ruling, his attorney’s arm around his shoulder. Once, he lowered his head to his chest. After the sentences had been read, and as he stood to leave, he said “I love you” to his mother on the courtroom balcony.
Greg McMichael, 65, hung his head when the judge read out the first guilty verdict. Brian, 52, bit his lip.
Speaking outside the courtroom, Ben Crump, Arbery’s father’s attorney, has repeatedly said that “Ahmed’s spirit has defeated the lynching gang.”
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, thanked the assembled crowd for the sentencing and said she didn’t think she would see this day.
It was a long battle. It was a tough fight. “But God is good,” she said, adding that her son would now rest in peace.
Travis McMichaels’ lawyers said he and his father feel they did the right thing, and that they believe the video will help their case. But they also said the MacMichaels family regretted Arbery’s death.
“I can tell you frankly, these guys are sorry for what happened to Ahmaud Arbery,” said attorney Jason Sheffield. “They are sorry he died. They are sorry for the tragedy that happened because of the choices they made to get out there and try to stop him.”
They planned to appeal.
Brian’s attorney, Kevin Gough, said his team was “disappointed with the ruling, but we respect it.” He plans to file new legal requests after Thanksgiving.
Supreme Court Justice Timothy Walmsley did not immediately set a date for a ruling, saying he wanted to give both sides time to prepare.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said Arbery’s killing was a “devastating reminder” of how much additional work the country has to do in the fight for racial justice.
“While the guilty verdicts reflect the justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin,” Biden said.
Although prosecutors did not argue that racism was the motive for the murder, federal authorities charged them with hate crimes, claiming that they stalked and killed Arbery because he was black. The case is due to go to trial in February.
The disproportionately white jury took over the case around midday Tuesday.
Shortly after returning to court on Wednesday morning, the jury sent a note to the judge requesting that two copies of the shooting video — the original and one that investigators had enhanced to reduce shadows — be shown three times each.
The jurors returned to the courtroom to watch the videos and listen again to call 911 from one of the defendants from the bed of a pickup truck about 30 seconds before the shooting.
On the 911 call that was reviewed by the jury, Greg McMichael told the operator, “I’m here in Satella Shores. There’s a black guy running down the street.”
Then he started screaming, apparently as Arbery ran toward a parked McMichael truck with Bryan’s truck coming behind him: “Stand there! Damn, stop! Travis!” Gunshots could be heard a few seconds later.
The videotaped surfaced two months later, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, and soon arrested the three men.
Defense attorneys say the McMichael family was trying to arrest a lawful citizen when they set out after Arbery, seeking to detain and interrogate him after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.
Travis McMichael testified that he shot Arbery in self-defense. He said Arbery turned and attacked with his fists as he passed the truck where McMichael was standing with his rifle.
At the time of his death, Arbery was enrolled in a technical college and was preparing to study to become an electrician like his uncles.
Sean Sales, 32, a resident of Brunswick, rushed into the courtroom to join the crowd cheering the verdict.
“We just went out to see history,” Sells said as he pushed his 10-month-old daughter into a stroller.
The seal, who is black, described the convictions as a victory not only for his community but for the nation.
“Most wounds will not heal,” he said, from a long history of inequality. “But it’s a start and it shows that people are trying.”