On Wednesday, three white men were convicted of murder for shooting Ahmad Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, whose killing last year fueled a national debate about racial profiling and vigilance.
65-year-old Gregory McMichael and his 35-year-old son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Rody” Bryan Jr., 52, ran through the coastal port city of Brunswick in Abery During the nearby Satila Coast Division, they drove a pickup truck to chase Abery. The young McMichael shot him to death.
These people later said that they were trying to arrest a citizen and Travis McMichael was in self-defense because he fired after Abery rushed towards him and his gun at the last minute.
The murder was sentenced to life imprisonment. These people were also convicted of serious assault, illegal imprisonment, and attempted felony.
As the verdict on Travis McMichael was read out, the aunt of Arbery, Theawanza Brooks, sobbed and swayed back and forth on the wooden bench.
When Gregory McMichael was convicted of felony murder, she took off her sweater and revealed an orange jumpsuit with a message printed on her chest: “Justice!!!”
Then, as Bryan was convicted of felony murder, she raised her fist in the air.
“We did it,” she said. “We are a role model for the world, showing the world that you don’t have to riot and tear things up in order to get a good ending.”
Outside the court, a man shouted: “Say his name!”
“Ahmaud Arbery,” chanted a crowd of about 150 people.
“We finally get justice for our children,” Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones said when she came out of the courtroom. “We finally got justice.”
In a county with 27% blacks, the jurors (11 of them are white and 1 of them black) made their decision in less than two days because a large group of family members, friends, pastors, and activists were in the city. Wandering outside the central court.
The verdict came less than a week after a jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin, acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Kyle Rittenhouse was in opposition to police brutality last year. Two men were shot and killed in the violent protest and another man was injured.
On a quiet Sunday afternoon on February 23, 2020, Abery was killed, shocking Americans on both sides of the political divide.
It inspired thousands of people across the country to participate in the #IRunWithMaud solidarity movement, and prompted Georgia’s staunch Republican Governor Brian Kemp to sign the state’s first hate crime bill and repeal the state’s civil war civil arrest law.
The jury had to solve the key question: Why did these three men hunt Abery when he ran through their predominantly white neighborhood? Do they have the legal right to execute citizen arrests? Did Travis McMichael take self-defense action?
According to Georgia’s Citizen Arrest Act—a civil war statute was repealed six months ago but still applies to trials because it took effect at the time of the shooting—it’s legal for ordinary people to detain people suspected of felonies.
However, when weighing whether it is reasonable for the defendant to arrest citizens, the jury must consider whether these people “reasonably suspect” that Abery committed a felony and tried to escape.
When they were deliberated in the Green County Court, the jurors had to categorize a lengthy indictment that contained complex, interrelated allegations.
The prosecutor not only filed separate charges against the three defendants, but also accused them of being “parties involved in the crime,” which means that if the jury finds a person guilty of a felony, they can all convict them.
The lawyer presented a very different narrative in court. The prosecutor said that the three men made “hypotheses” about Abery, there was no evidence that he had committed a crime and were pursued “because he was a black man running on the street.”
The defense lawyer argued that Abery was “not an innocent victim” and that the defendant had reason to suspect that Abery had committed theft in their vicinity and therefore “has the right to arrest citizens”.
During the trial, the jury was able to watch the final moments before the shooting. In a short, grainy mobile phone video taken while Bryan was driving his pickup truck, Arbery can be seen running along a sun-dappled street towards a parked pickup truck. Gregory McMichael was standing on the truck bed with a pistol, and Travis McMichael holding a shotgun by the open driver’s side door.
When Arbery ran past the truck on the passenger side, the camera panned away and then showed Arbery turning to the left and briefly disappearing from the view behind the truck.
The gunfire sounded, and Abery and Travis McMichael on the driver’s side could be seen arguing on the gun. With the second shot, Abery wrestled with McMichael. The third shot was fired at close range, and Abery stumbled to the ground.
The jury also saw a security camera video showing Abery entering a nearby house under construction multiple times in the months leading up to February 23-the last time it was minutes before he was shot.