10:48 AM PST, November 24, 2021
Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan have been found guilty in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
The younger McMichael was found guilty of five counts of murder, two counts of assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony. He now faces life in prison.
His father, Gregory McMichael, was found guilty of four counts of murder, two counts of assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony. He was found not guilty of malice murder.
Their neighbor William Bryan was found guilty of three counts of murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony. He was found not guilty of malice murder, felony murder, and aggravated assault.
“Ahmaud Arbery’s killing – witnessed by the world on video – is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country,” said President Joe Biden in a statement Wednesday released by the White House.
“Mr. Arbery should be here today, celebrating the holidays with his mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, and his father, Marcus Arbery. Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and to his community,” Biden added.
George Gov. Brian Kemp also issued a statement on the verdict. “Ahmaud Arbery was the victim of a vigilantism that has no place in Georgia,” the governor said. “As legal efforts continue to hold accountable all who may be responsible, we hope the Arbery family, the Brunswick community, our state, and those around the nation who have been following his case can now move forward down a path of healing and reconciliation.”
A federal grand jury indicted the three men in April. That trial is scheduled to begin start Feb. 7. Each is charged with interference with civil rights and attempted kidnapping.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump also weighed in, saying, “Nothing will bring back Ahmaud, but his family will have some peace knowing the men who killed him will remain behind bars and can never inflict their brand of evil on another innocent soul.”
Arbery, 25, was an unarmed Black man, and had been out jogging in his neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, in February 2020 when he was shot and killed by the McMichaels, who are father and son. Bryan, their neighbor, recorded cellphone video in the pursuit.
“Thank you God,” a family member said outside of the courthouse after the verdicts were read.
In total, the jury spent a little over 11 hours deliberating. A verdict was reached at 1:21 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, after deliberations began around 8:30 a.m. ET. The jurors spent just over six hours deliberating Tuesday, beginning at 11:53 a.m. ET and ending around 6:20 p.m. ET.
The only piece of evidence they asked to review during deliberations was the graphic video showing Arbery being shot.
The verdict comes following a controversial trial, during which the defense argued the three men acted in self-defense, and within the legal grounds of conducting a “citizen’s arrest.” Such an arrest was possible under a Georgia law dating back to 1863, which allowed private citizens to make an arrest if they had “immediate knowledge” of a crime being committed.
The law allowing for any citizen’s arrest was repealed earlier this year, in light of Arbery’s shooting death.
The younger McMichael testified that the trio thought Arbery might have had something to do with the recent burglaries in the area. “It was obvious that he was attacking me,” he said in court. “This was a life-or-death situation.”
No evidence linked Arbery to any burglaries, and McMichael acknowledged under cross-examination that Arbery was “just running” when they approached him, and that Arbery had not threatened him.
The prosecutor argued the defendants did not have the right to a citizen’s arrest of Arbery as they did not have “immediate knowledge” of any crime being committed, and pointed out that none of the three men mentioned to authorities on the day of the shooting that they had been attempting to place Arbery under arrest.
Throughout the trial and ahead of jury deliberations, the judge reminded the jury, which was comprised of 11 white people and one Black person, of the parameters that defined a lawful citizen’s arrest and that if the arrest is not made “immediately after” or “during escape,” a citizen’s right to perform a citizen’s arrest “is extinguished.”
The high-profile trial garnered national interest, with civil rights leaders including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III accompanying Arbery’s family each day of the trial.