Jury reaches verdict in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery

FAN Editor

Travis McMichael has been found guilty on all charges for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, in February 2020. The judge is now reading the verdict against the other two defendants.

Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were each charged with nine felony counts for the shooting death of Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was jogging in the neighborhood. Cellphone video showed them chasing Arbery and cornering him with their pickup trucks before a scuffle that ended with Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range with a shotgun. 

The defense’s case centered around the claim that the men acted lawfully under the state’s citizen’s arrest law — which was in effect at the time but has since been repealed — because they were suspicious he might have been involved in neighborhood burglaries. They argued they had a right of self-defense against Arbery who, one defense attorney said, “chose to fight.” 

The prosecution disputed that and argued that the three men had no legitimate reason to chase down and confront Arbery.

Ahmaud Arbery
Ahmaud Arbery

“All three of these defendants made assumptions — made assumptions about what was going on that day, and they made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black man running down the street,” lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the jury.

Though Arbery had gone inside a house under construction in the neighborhood, “nothing had ever been taken from the construction site,” Dunikoski said, and the defendants had no direct knowledge linking him to any crime when they began their pursuit.

“He was trying to get away from these strangers that were yelling at him, threatening to kill him. And then they killed him,” she said, adding that Arbery was killed “for absolutely no good reason at all.”

The jury was able to hear from Travis McMichael when he took the stand in his own defense. He testified that he had heard about break-ins in the neighborhood and had previously seen a Black man “lurking” and “creeping” around a house under construction.

When his father spotted Arbery on February 23, they decided to drive up alongside him and question him. As the confrontation ensued, McMichael said he was forced to make a split-second “life-or-death” decision when he said Arbery grabbed for his shotgun.

“It was the most traumatic event of my life,” he told the court.

But under cross-examination, McMichael acknowledged that Arbery was “just running” and did not threaten them.

The other two defendants did not testify at the trial.

3-arbery-suspects.jpg
L-R: Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan are charged with murder in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. Glynn County Detention Center via AP/ WJAX

In a case where race played a key role, only one Black juror and 11 Whites were chosen to decide the fate of the three defendants, who are all White. Prosecutors objected, arguing that several potential Black jurors were cut because of their race.

The judge agreed that “intentional discrimination” by defense attorneys appeared to have shaped jury selection but said his authority to intervene was limited under Georgia law. In Glynn County, where Arbery was killed and the trial was held, Black people account for nearly 27% of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The judge said 25% of the pool from which the final jury was chosen was Black.

The three defendants faced the following charges at trial:

  • Count 1: Malice murder

  • Count 2: Felony murder

  • Count 3: Felony murder

  • Count 4: Felony murder

  • Count 5: Felony murder

  • Count 6: Aggravated assault

  • Count 7: Aggravated assault

  • Count 8: False imprisonment 

  • Count 9: Criminal attempt to commit a felony

The three men are also facing federal hate crimes charges. A separate trial in the federal case is scheduled to begin on February 7, 2022. 

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