Three white men who hunted down and shot dead a black man in Georgia last February have been convicted of his murder.
Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was chased and cornered by Travis McMichael, 35, his father Gregory McMichael, 65, and their neighbor William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, 52, on February 23, 2020 at Satilla Shores just outside the city of Brunswick.
Mr. Arbery was then shot dead by Travis McMichael.
The three accused had pleaded not guilty on nine counts, including murder, aggravated assault and forcible confinement for the murder of Mr. Arbery who was on the run.
As the first of the verdicts were read in court, one of Mr. Arbery’s family members shouted in relief.
He was dismissed from court before the remaining verdicts were read by the judge one by one for each of the three men.
Mr. Arbery’s murder was caught on video that was filmed by the third accused, Mr. Bryan.
He was seen being chased by the three men in two vehicles. After being chased for about five minutes, Mr. Arbery was cornered by the vehicles. He was then shot with a 12 gauge shotgun held by Travis McMichael.
The jury had had two different accounts of what had happened. Defense lawyers argued that their clients sued Arbery because they saw him enter a house under construction without permission.
It had been argued that he was not a jogger but a burglar. The three accused claimed to have attempted to make a citizen arrest and that Travis McMichael had opened fire in self-defense only after Mr. Arbery had violently resisted.
“Ahmaud Arbery was not an innocent victim”, argued the defense lawyer.
But the prosecution dismissed the account, saying the men had “parked him like a rat” and had no reason to chase him as he ran through their neighborhood.
It has been successfully argued that citizen arrests require immediate knowledge of a crime. Trespassing is a misdemeanor, not a felony and no evidence has ever been presented to show that Mr. Arbery stole anything.
Lawyers for Mr Arbery’s family said the three men who hunted down and killed him were a “group that carried out a modern lynching in the middle of the day”.
At the time of the murder, then President Donald Trump commented on the case, saying: “My heart goes out to the parents and loved ones of the young man.”
President Joe Biden said “the video is clear: Ahmaud Arbery was killed in cold blood”.
At the time, the police did not arrest the three men and no charges were laid. They were not arrested until months later.
The three men faced 27 charges, including malicious murder (intentional murder), felony murder, aggravated assault, forcible confinement and a felony attempt to commit a felony.
Travis McMichael, who fired the gun, was convicted of all counts – one count of “malicious murder”, four counts of indictable murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of forcible confinement and one count of criminal attempt to commit a crime.
Her father, Gregory McMichael was found not guilty of the charge of malicious murder, but guilty of all other charges.
Their neighbor, William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, who was in a separate car chasing Mr Arbury, was found not guilty of the charge of malicious murder, not guilty of any of the murder charges and not guilty one of the aggravated assault charges. but guilty of all other charges.
Outside the court, referring to the jury, civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton said: “Eleven white jury in court said black lives matter … Not all white people are racist and not all black people are worthless. “
Following the guilty verdicts, Mr Biden said: “The murder of Ahmaud Arbery – which the world witnessed on video – is a devastating reminder of how far we must go in the fight for racial justice in this country.
“Mr. Arbery is expected to 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 that those who committed this horrific crime will be punished.
“While guilty verdicts reflect that our justice system is doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must re-commit to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence at all. because of the color of his skin.
“My administration will continue to do the hard work to ensure that equal justice before the law is not just a phrase set in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans.