Three Georgia men found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery
Defendant Travis McMichael speaks with his attorney Bob Rubin while they wait for the jury to return to the courtroom during the trial of McMichel and his father, Greg McMichael, and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan in the Glynn County Courthouse, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in Brunswick, Ga. The three are charged with the February 2020 slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool) Stephen B. Morton/AP
Three Georgia men found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery
Barnini Chakraborty November 24, 01:42 PMNovember 24, 01:49 PM
The three white men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty on Wednesday.
Their lawyers argued self-defense, while prosecutors claimed Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan chased down and killed the 25-year-old black man near the port city of Brunswick because of his race.
All three faced nine counts each in Arbery’s death, including malice murder, felony murder, and aggravated assault. Travis McMichael was found guilty of all charges, while his father was guilty of all but one, malice murder.
Deliberations began Tuesday following 10 days of testimony and seven hours of contentious closing arguments.
On Wednesday morning, jurors sent a note to Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley asking to view two versions of the shooting video, the original and one that investigators enhanced to reduce shadows, three times apiece.
The jury returned to the courtroom to see the videos and listen again to the 911 call one of the defendants made from the bed of a pickup truck about 30 seconds before the shooting.
Arbery was killed Feb. 23, 2020, in an incident that has drawn intense national attention. His death was barely investigated by Glynn County authorities and only became national news after a cellphone video Bryan took of the killing was leaked online.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was brought in and within 48 hours had made arrests in the case.
The McMichaels, who have close ties with local law enforcement in Glynn County, claimed they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest and thought Arbery was stealing. They said they had previously caught him on security cameras in an open-framed house under construction, though the GBI’s lead agent refuted the claim in court.
Prosecutors pushed back and said neither the McMichaels nor Byran ever used the term “citizen’s arrest” during interviews and interrogations following Arbery’s death. Instead, prosecutors argued that Arbery was racially profiled and targeted solely because of his skin color.
The McMichaels’ attorneys argued that they had every right to detain Arbery under Georgia’s old citizen’s arrest law, which allowed any private citizen to detain someone if he or she had “reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion” the person was escaping a felony. The archaic law was largely gutted as a result of Arbery’s death.
The three-week trial had plenty of twists and turns, including two unsuccessful attempts by Bryan’s lawyer to kick Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton out of the gallery. After the last attempt, more than 700 black pastors showed up to the Glynn County Courthouse to hold a prayer service for the Arbery family.
Travis McMichael, the man who actually fired the shots that killed Arbery, testified in his own defense. It was the first first-person account ever heard publicly about what happened the day Arbery died.
“I want to give my side of the story,” McMichael, a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard, said.
McMichael said that in the months leading up to the shooting, he had become worried about a rash of robberies and property crimes in his Satilla Shores neighborhood. On New Year’s Day, McMichael reported that his Smith & Wesson 9-millimeter pistol had been stolen from his unlocked Ford pickup truck.
On the stand, he got emotional as he described the confrontation with Arbery and what he described as his split-second decision to pull the trigger as Arbery grabbed for his gun.
“It was obvious that he was attacking me,” he said. “That is, he would have gotten the shotgun from me, then this was a life or death situation, and I’m going to have to stop him from doing this, so I shot.”
During cross-examination, McMichael, who called the shooting “the most traumatic event of my life,” admitted Arbery never threatened him or showed him a weapon.
“All he’s done is run away from you,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said. “And you pulled out a shotgun and pointed it at him.”
While prosecutors suggested the defendants racially profiled Arbery on the day of his death, the defense worked to paint Arbery as the villain. One defense lawyer accused him of “running away instead of facing the consequences” and “making terrible, unexpected, illogical choices.”
Greg McMichael’s lawyer Laura Hogue said her client had good reason to suspect Arbery of stealing and alluded to his criminal record, something the judge had previously ruled inadmissible.
“Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in khaki shorts, with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails,” Hogue said.
Her comments shocked many and created a social media backlash.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, who was in the courtroom when Hogue made the comments about her son, could be heard shakily saying, “Wow.”
She then got up from her seat and left the courtroom briefly.
For many, the McMichaels-Bryan murder trial wasn’t just about a shooting. Instead, it was a hard look at a justice system that allowed the defendants, who were close with law enforcement, to remain free for nearly a month after they killed Arbery.
“It’s shaken the faith of the black and brown community in their ability to trust the justice system,” Rev. John Perry, who was the president of the Brunswick NAACP chapter when Arbery was killed, said.
Arbery’s death became part of a broader national movement that looked at the U.S. criminal justice system following a string of fatal encounters between police officers and minorities that included the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks.
© 2021 Washington Examiner
Originally appeared at Washington Examiner