BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) – All three white men charged with the death of Ahmaud Arbery were on Wednesday convicted of murder in the fatal shooting that became part of a larger national inventory of racial injustice.
The verdicts for Greg McMichael, son Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan came after jurors consulted for about 10 hours. The men risk minimum sentences of life in prison. It is up to the judge to decide whether it comes with or without the possibility of parole.
Travis McMichael stood trial with his lawyer’s arm around his shoulder. At one point, McMichael lowered his head toward his chest. After the verdicts were read while he was about to leave, he said “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 did nothing,” said the father, “but ran and dreamed.”
McMichaels grabbed weapons and jumped into a pickup truck to pursue the 25-year-old black man after seeing him run in their neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick, Georgia in February 2020. Bryan participated in the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cell phone video of Travis McMichael , who fatally shoots Arbery, which leaked online two months later.
Although prosecutors did not claim that racism motivated the killing, federal authorities have accused them of hate crimes, claiming that they hunted and killed Arbery because he was black. The case is scheduled to go to court in February.
The jury sent a note to Supreme Court Justice Timothy Walmsley shortly after he returned to court Wednesday morning asking to see two versions of the recording video – the original and one that investigators improved to reduce shadows – three times each.
Juries returned to the courtroom to watch the videos and listen again to the 911 call that one of the defendants made from the bed of a pickup truck about 30 seconds before the shooting.
The disproportionately white jury received the case around noon Tuesday and spent about six hours contemplating before the sentencing without sentencing.
McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a fugitive burglar as they armed themselves and jumped into a pickup truck to chase him. Bryan participated in the chase as they passed his house and recorded cell phone video of Travis McMichael blowing up Arbery at close range with a shotgun while Arbery threw shots and grabbed the weapon.
On the 911 call, which the jury reviewed, Greg McMichael tells an operator, “I’m out here in Satilla Shores. A black man is running down the street.”
Then he starts yelling, apparently as Arbery runs towards McMichael’s idle truck with Bryan’s truck heading up behind him: “Stop right there! Damn, stop! Travis!” Gunshots can be heard a few seconds later.
The graphic video of Arbery’s death leaked online two months later, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case and quickly arrested the three men. Each of them was charged with murder and other crimes.
Defense attorneys allege that McMichaels attempted to arrest a lawful citizen as they left for Arbery, in an attempt to detain and interrogate him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.
Travis McMichael testified that he shot Arbery in self-defense, saying the running man turned and attacked with his fists as he ran past the idle truck where Travis McMichael was standing with his shotgun.
Prosecutors said there was no evidence that Arbery had committed crimes in the defendants’ neighborhoods. He was enrolled in a technical school and was preparing at the time to study to be an electrician just like his uncles.
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