Updated Nov 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Three Ahmaud Arbery killers found guilty of murder

Beverly Green, with the Transformative Justice Coalition, demonstrates at the Glynn County Courthouse as jury selection beginson October 18, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia.

Beverly Green, with the Transformative Justice Coalition, demonstrates outside the Glynn County Courthouse on Oct. 18 in Brunswick, Ga. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

A jury on Wednesday found all three suspects guilty in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was chased and shot while running in February 2020.

The big picture: Prosecutors only pursued the case after a video of the killing went viral in May 2020 sparking a national outrage. The case preceded the murder of George Floyd but Arbery's name, along with those of Floyd and Breonna Taylor, were at the center of last year's nationwide racial justice protests.

  • The jury took around 11 hours of deliberation to reach the verdict.

Details: Travis McMichael was found guilty on all charges, which included one count of malice murder and four counts of felony murder.

  • His father, Gregory McMichael, was found not guilty for malice murder, but guilty on all four counts of felony murder.
  • The McMichaels' neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, was found not guilty for malice murder and for one count of felony murder. He was found guilty for three counts of felony murder.

Of the 27 charges, there were only four not guilty verdicts.

Arbery was shot and killed by Travis McMichael outside of Brunswick, Ga. McMichael and his father, as well as Bryan, all white men, chased a running Arbery in their vehicles, leading to a struggle and the younger McMichael killing Arbery.

  • Arbery's family maintained he was out for a regular jog.

Defense attorneys argued the McMichaels pursued Arbery because they suspected him of a string of burglaries in the neighborhood and attempted to make a "citizen's arrest." The citizens arrest law was largely repealed in Arbery’s name in May.

  • Travis McMichael, the defense’s key witness, testified that he and his father were trying to intercept Arbery as they waited for police to arrive.
  • McMichael said the killing was a matter of self-defense. He called it a “life-or-death situation” and said that Arbery "was attacking me.”
  • An attorney for William Bryan said his client, who took the viral video, was there only to "document" the event and was "superfluous" to the crime.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said there’s no evidence of Arbery actually committing a burglary and that the men "attacked" Arbery based on “assumptions.”

  • "They made the decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black man running down their street,” Dunikoski said.
  • “The bottom line is, but for their actions, but for their decisions, but for their choices, Ahmaud Arbery would be alive,” she said.
  • "What right did they have to stop Ahmaud Arbery? What right did they have to go ahead and demand a fellow citizen stop and talk to them?" she asked the jury in her closing. "None whatsoever."
  • Dunikoski also argued Bryan, who previously told police he tried to "angle" Arbery off the road in his truck, played a "substantial and necessary part in causing [Arbery's] death."

The makeup of the jury, which included one Black and 11 white members, prompted outrage. More than one quarter of Glynn County residents are Black.

  • The presiding judge in the trial ruled that testimony by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent that William Bryan heard Travis McMichael use a racial slur about Arbery as he lay dying could not be included as evidence.
  • The judge also ruled that an old version of the Confederate flag on the front of Travis McMichaels’ pickup truck could be used as evidence, but attorneys opted not to bring it up.

Georgia’s new hate crimes law was not on the books at the time of the killing but the three defendants do still face federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping charges.

  • A federal judge has scheduled that trial to start in February.

The trial largely played out at the same time as that of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisc.

  • A jury last week found Rittenhouse not guilty on all five counts in the fatal shooting of two men during racial justice protests last year.
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