Jury finds McMichaels and Bryan guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery

On Wednesday afternoon, an almost all-white jury in a Glynn County courtroom convicted three white men of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery as the 25-year-old black jogger walked through their neighborhood in February 2020.

Travis McMichael, seen around the world in a viral video that shows him shooting a shotgun at Arbery at close range, briefly bowed his head after Judge Timothy Walmsley read the jury’s guilty verdict for malicious murder and eight other counts. The malicious murder was the most serious of multiple murder charges against him and the other two accused.

His father, Greg McMichael, was convicted of eight of the nine counts, including four counts of felony murder, but the jury found him not guilty of malicious murder.

And William “Roddie” Bryan, who joined the McMichaels’ pursuit of Arbery in the Brunswick neighborhood in his van while recording on his phone, was convicted on five of the eight counts he was charged with. confronted, including three counts of murder.

The McMichaels and Bryans face life in prison.

The convictions mark the culmination of 18 months of pressure from the Arbery family for justice after the three white men were spared arrest for weeks after police responded to the bloody scene where Arbery unarmed was shot dead in the street.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, thanked supporters after the judge read the jury verdicts shortly before 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“It was a long fight. It’s been a tough fight but God is good… to tell you the truth, I never saw this day in 2020. I never thought that day would come. But God is good. Thank you, thank you, for those who walked, for those who prayed, especially for those who prayed… He (Ahmaud) will now rest in peace, ”said Cooper-Jones.

About 1,000 candidate jurors were called to hear the trial which began on October 18, with the pool reduced to one black and nine whites. Many said they knew either one of the defendants or a member of the Arbery family, complicating jury selection. After confirmation from the racially imbalanced jury, the judge expressed disappointment with the roster.

The racial makeup of the jury and one of the defendants’ law enforcement background raised the question of whether the three white men could be convicted in the Deep South.

By the end of winter 2020, Glynn County was already in turmoil with questions about how an unarmed black man could have been shot in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick without any arrests having been made. been carried out. Atlanta-based New York Times reporter Richard Faussett has filed an Open Case Request with local prosecutors for his report that the McMichaels carrying weapons were cleared of their allegations of attempted arrest by a citizen and self-defense.

Gregory McMichael previously worked in law enforcement, most notably as an investigator for the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office. Former Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson initially cited the state’s Citizen Arrest Act as justification for not arresting the McMichaels. She was later indicted for her handling of the case, which is now being prosecuted by the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office.

Lawmakers revised Georgia’s Citizen Arrest Law, which was linked to the practice of rounding up runaway slaves during the pre-war period earlier this year following the negative publicity surrounding the Arbery case. The state legislature also passed a hate crimes bill after Arbery’s death. After Wednesday’s convictions, the men will face additional federal charges of hate crimes.

At the start of the trial, Bryan’s attorney Kevin Gough told jurors the trial was not about race even though the case served as a point of contact for social justice protests in the summer of 2020. Protesters marched to the Georgia Capitol in June on behalf of Arbery. , George Floyd and other black men and women killed at the hands of white people, often law enforcement professionals. Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of Floyd’s murder in April.

But it was Gough himself who injected the skin color into consideration when he objected to the presence of black pastors in the courtroom, gathered in Brunswick to comfort the Arbery family. Gough complained that the jury could be swayed by seeing Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton sitting on the benches in the Small Courtroom.

And, in her rebuttal to defense argument Monday, Cobb County Senior Assistant Attorney Linda Dunikoski insisted Arbery’s run was a motivator for the defendants after spotting a “black man. running in the street “of the district of the region of Brunswick.

Georgia Capitol officials at the White House were quick to express their relief for the jury’s verdict and their sadness that Arbery had lost his life insanely while running a Sunday afternoon a few miles from his home.

“The murder of Ahmaud Arbery – which the whole world has witnessed on video – is a devastating reminder of how far we must go in the fight for racial justice in this country,” President Joe Biden said. “Sir. Arbery should be here today to celebrate the holidays with his mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, and father, Marcus Arbery. Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and his community, but the verdict guarantees those who committed this horrible crime will be punished.

Last May, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp hugged Cooper-Jones at a State Capitol signing ceremony where he dedicated an overhaul of Georgia’s citizen arrest law to Ahmaud Arbery.

“Ahmaud Arbery has been the victim of a vigilantism that has no place in Georgia,” Kemp said shortly after news of the convictions broke on Wednesday afternoon. “As legal efforts continue to hold all those who may be responsible to account, we hope that the Arbery family, the community of Brunswick, our state and those across the country who have followed this case can now move forward on the path. healing and reconciliation. “

Defense attorney for Travis McMichael said at a press conference outside the courthouse on Wednesday afternoon that he planned to appeal.

“It’s a very difficult day for Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael,” said attorney Jason Sheffield. “These are two men who honestly believed that what they were doing was the right thing to do. However, the Glynn County jury has spoken and they have found them guilty and they will be sentenced. It is a very disappointing and sad verdict.

He also acknowledged the mourning that weighs on the Arbery family since February 23, 2020.

“But we also recognize that this is a day of celebration for the Arbery family,” Sheffield said. “We cannot look away from how they feel about this. And we understand that they feel they got justice today. We respect that, we honor that because we honor this system of jury trials. ”

Sharpton, a regular presence in Brunswick this month, expressed the sentiments shared by many on Wednesday after the verdict, lamenting that there will be an empty chair at Arbery’s family homes for Thanksgiving, the seat where Ahmaud Arbery would have shared the camaraderie with loved ones had he lived until his 27th year.

“First and foremost, let’s start by thanking God by enlightening us,” said Sharpton, surrounded by Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery Sr., other family members and lawyers outside the palace. justice.

“Let’s thank everyone who believed and thank Ahmaud’s mother and father more than anything,” said Sharpton. “They lost a son but their son will go down in history which will prove that if you hold on, justice can come.”

Stanley Dunlap of the Georgia Recorder contributed to this report.

This report was originally published by the Georgia Recorder, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom, which includes the Louisiana Illuminator.

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