Feb 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Ahmaud Arbery murderers found guilty of federal hate crimes

Beverly Green, with the Transformative Justice Coalition, demonstrates at the Glynn County Courthouse.
Beverly Green, with the Transformative Justice Coalition, holds a sign demanding justice for Arbery outside the Glynn County Courthouse on Oct. 18, 2020. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

A jury on Tuesday found the three white men sentenced to life for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery guilty of federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping.

Driving the news: Father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael, and their former neighbor William Bryan, chased Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, and killed him while he was running in a neighborhood just out Brunswick, Ga., nearly two years ago.

Prosecutors argued that “pent-up racial anger" motivated the men to chase down and shoot Arbery.

  • They presented nearly two dozen racist messages and social media posts, including Travis McMichael's regular reference to Black people as "savages" and "monkeys"
  • Defense attorneys argued the three men did not chase and kill Arbery because of his race.

The men on Monday were found guilty of all counts, including interference with rights and and attempted kidnapping.

  • The McMichaels were also found guilty of firearm charges.
  • The jury in the hate crimes trial included eight white people, three Black people and one Hispanic person.

What they're saying: In a press conference after the verdict, Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper Jones said, "Ahmaud will continue to rest in peace. But he will now begin to rest in power."

  • Cooper Jones called it "long and stressful fight" and criticized prosecutors for initially negotiating a plea deal with the murderers--a deal that would have avoided trial, which the federal judge rejected.

The big picture: The three men were convicted last November for Arbery's Feb. 23, 2020, murder on a street in the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Glynn County, Ga.

  • The McMichaels were sentenced to life in state prison without parole, while Bryan was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.
  • Prosecutors only pursued the case after a video of the killing went viral in May 2020, sparking national anger.

What's next: The Georgia Attorney General indicted the local district attorney for misconduct related to Arbery's murder last fall.

  • Former DA Jackie Johnson, who had worked with Greg McMichael for years, allegedly told police officers on the scene not to arrest the now-convicted murderers. Johnson has maintained she did nothing wrong.
  • "I look at this as being another milestone, another challenge that we've overcome," Cooper Jones said after the verdict. "We still have the DAs to deal with as well, but we've come a long way. We're not done."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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