Ahmaud Arbery death trial: Guilty verdicts for all defendants
An outburst was heard after the first verdict. Corrected: A previous version of this video gave incorrect information on Gregory McMichael’s verdict.
Staff Video, USA TODAY
BRUNSWICK, Ga. — A jury found three white men guilty of murder and other charges in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, who was Black, early last year.
Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan all face minimum sentences of life in prison for the murder on Feb. 23, 2020. The judge will decide whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole.
After more than 10 hours of deliberation, the nearly all-white jury found Travis McMichael, 35, who fired the shotgun, guilty on all nine counts, including malice murder and four counts of felony murder. His father, Gregory McMichael, 65, was found not guilty of malice murder but guilty of felony murder and all other charges.
Bryan, 52, who recorded video of the killing, was found guilty of three counts felony murder, one count aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. He was not convicted of malice murder, one count of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault.
Malice murder: What were the charges and what do they mean?
The three men were arrested two months after the shooting, when Bryan’s cellphone video of the incident became public and spurred nationwide outrage over what several high-profile figures called “a lynching.” The killing fueled a growing nationwide movement against the treatment of Black people in the U.S., and the judge and attorneys in the case acknowledged the “racial overtones” of the trial.
In the courtroom Wednesday, the Rev. Al Sharpton held the hands of Arbery’s parents, Marcus Arbery and Wanda Cooper-Jones, as the jurors entered the courtroom. Cooper-Jones mouthed a silent prayer as the judge readied to read the verdict.
Cheers erupted as the verdicts were read, and people cried and embraced one another. Deputies called for order. Travis McMichael mouthed “love you” to his mother, Leigh McMichael, who was crying.
“I’m floored, floored,” Laura Hogue, one of Gregory McMichael’s lawyers, told Leigh McMichael as she sat in the courtroom gallery. Hogue told reporters she was “very disappointed.”
Defense attorneys for all three men said they intend to appeal, which can only begin once sentencing is done. The judge did not immediately schedule a date for sentencing.
Outside, the courthouse was surrounded by media and supporters holding signs that said “justice for Ahmaud” and bearing the image of him smiling in a baseball cap. The crowd chanted Arbery’s name and “no justice, no peace.”
Cooper-Jones told the group her son “will now rest in peace.”
“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. But god is good,” she said. “To tell you the truth, I never saw this day back in 2020. I never thought this day would come. But god is good.”
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Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski called the outcome a “gigantic team effort.”
“The jury system works in this country, and when you present the truth to people and they can see it, they will do the right thing,” Dunikoski said.
Defense attorney Jason Sheffield, who represents Travis McMichael, told reporters the McMichaels are “sorry for what happened to Ahmaud Arbery.”
“This is a very difficult day for Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael,” attorney Jason Sheffield said outside the courthouse. “These are two men who honestly believed what they were doing was the right thing to do.”
At trial, defense attorneys for the McMichaels painted a picture of residents on edge about crime in their neighborhood and said the father and son were attempting to detain Arbery for police because they suspected he was a burglar. Bryan’s attorney said he was a witness who documented the killing.
Prosecutors argued Arbery was “under attack” by the white men who saw a Black man running in their small, coastal neighborhood and hopped in pickup trucks to pursue him. Arbery committed no crimes and was attempting to flee throughout the five-minute chase, they said.
Race was central to the trial from the beginning, with potential jurors being asked their thoughts on Black Lives Matter and the Confederate flag and a defense attorney attempting to bar national civil rights figures like Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson from the courtroom.
One Black man was on the jury of 12, and even the judge acknowledged “intentional discrimination” in the selection process. The demographic makeup of the jury drew scrutiny because it does not mirror Glynn County, where more than 26% of residents are Black.
But the jury did not hear evidence the killing was racially motivated in part because prosecutors did not need to prove the defendants’ actions were racially motivated. That argument is expected to come up in a federal hate crimes trial scheduled to begin in February.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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Who was on the jury?The 12 people who found 3 men guilty of murder