What’s next for the men found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery
The killing was captured on video and shared around the world: Ahmaud Arbery ran towards and then around an idle truck before its driver blew him up close with a shotgun.
Shortly after Travis McMichael fatally shot Arbery on February 23, 2020, his father, Greg McMichael, told police how the couple had armed themselves, chased the young black man and caught him “like a rat”. Neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan told officers he participated in the persecution and helped cut off Arbery’s escape.
Following a 13-day trial at Glynn County Courthouse in coastal Georgia, a disproportionately white jury found the three white men guilty of murder. Each man was also convicted on minor charges.
What charges was each man convicted of?
A nine-point indictment charged all three men with one count of malicious murder, four counts of murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit a crime, in this case false imprisonment.
Travis McMichael was convicted of all nine charges. Greg McMichael was convicted of all charges except malicious murder. Bryan was convicted of two counts of felony murder, one for aggravated assault, one for false imprisonment and one for criminal attempt to commit a crime.
How much prison do they risk?
Beliefs about evil and crime both carry a minimum sentence of life in prison. The judge decides whether it comes with or without the possibility of parole. Although the possibility of parole is given, a person convicted of murder must serve 30 years before being acquitted. Several murder convictions have been merged for the purpose of sentencing.
Murder can also be punishable by death in Georgia if the killing meets certain criteria and the prosecutor chooses to seek the death penalty. The prosecutors in this case did not.
Each case of aggravated assault carries a prison sentence of at least one year, but not more than 20 years. False imprisonment is punishable by a sentence of 1 to 10 years imprisonment.
When will they be convicted?
It is not clear yet. District Court Judge Timothy Walmsley will set a sentencing date.
Are there any appeals?
Appeals are almost certain in this case, said Professor Emeritus at the University of Georgia, Ron Carlson.
A likely basis for appeal could be the exclusion of certain evidence from the trial, he said. Defense attorneys had sought to provide evidence of Arbery’s criminal record, records of his mental health and the fact that he was on probation. They also wanted to have a force expert testify. But the judge refused to admit any of that evidence.
“They would argue that relevant evidence useful to the defense was excluded by the trial judge and that was a mistake,” Carlson said.
It is also possible that appeal attorneys could find other grounds for appeal after reviewing transcripts and jury instructions and speaking with jurors.
Robert Rubin and Jason Sheffield, lawyers for Travis McMichael, said after the verdict that they plan to appeal. Sheffield said they had no thoughts of trying the case in the community where Arbery was killed, instead of trying to move it elsewhere. But he said: “It could certainly be part of the appeal.”
Aren’t there still federal charges?
Yes. McMichaels and Bryan are still facing federal charges.
Months before the three were on trial for state murder charges, a federal jury in April charged them with hate crimes. It is a completely separate case that is not affected by the outcome of the state lawsuit.
U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood has scheduled a jury trial in federal court to begin Feb. 7. All three men are charged with a single case of civil rights encroachment and attempted kidnapping. McMichaels was also charged with using, carrying and swinging a firearm during a violent crime.
The federal indictment says the men charged Arbery because he was black.