Updated Jan 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Ahmaud Arbery killers sentenced to life

A demonstrator holds a sign at the Glynn County Courthouse as jury selection begins in the trial of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on October 18, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia
A demonstrator holds a sign at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

A judge on Friday sentenced the three white men convicted in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery to life in prison, with Travis and Gregory McMichael receiving life without parole and William “Roddie” Bryan receiving life with the possibility of parole.

Driving the news: Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was chased and shot dead while running in February 2020. Prosecutors only pursued the case after a video of the killing went viral in May 2020, sparking national anger.

  • His name, along with those of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, was at the center of the 2020 racial justice protests.

Background: Arbery was shot and killed by Travis McMichael outside of Brunswick, Ga. McMichael and his father, Gregory, as well as their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, 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.

Travis McMichael, 35, was convicted of nine charges, including one count of malice murder and four counts of felony murder.

  • Gregory McMichael, 66, was convicted of four counts of felony murder.
  • Bryan, 52, was found guilty of three counts of felony murder.
  • All three men were also convicted of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
  • Their attorneys have said they will appeal the verdicts.

Under Georgia law, the minimum sentence for felony murder is life in prison, but the question of parole was left up to the judge.

  • Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.
  • Those serving life sentences for violent crimes like murder can't be considered for parole until they've served 30 years in prison.

What they're saying: "The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every single day, next to his father. I’ll never get that chance of sitting next to my son ever again — not at the dinner table, not at the holidays, and not anywhere," said Arbery's father, Marcus, ahead of the sentencing.

  • "I'm standing here today to do what he can't and that is to fight for him. fight for his memory, his legacy, and to tell you who he was, because that’s the one thing you didn't hear in this courtroom, and more than anything else, you should know who my boy was," Marcus Arbery added.
  • The three men who killed Arbery "were fully committed to their crimes, let them be fully committed for the consequences," said Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery's mother, who called for the maximum sentences.

Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley sat in silence for about one minute before handing down the sentence to represent "only a fraction of the time" Arbery was running.

  • "Almost two years ago, a resident of Glynn County, a graduate of Brunswick high [school], a son, a brother, a young man with dreams, was gunned down in this community. As we understand it, [he] left to ... apparently to go for a run, and he ended up running for his life," Walmsley said.
  • When thinking about the case, he added that he kept coming back to the “terror that must have been in the mind of the young man running through" the neighborhood. “He was killed because individuals here in this courtroom took the law in their own hands."

What's next: Georgia’s new hate crimes law was not on the books at the time of the murder, but the three men do face federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping charges.

  • They have pleaded not guilty.
  • A federal judge has scheduled that trial to start next month.

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