All three white men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery were convicted of murder Wednesday in the fatal shooting that became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice.
The convictions for Greg McMichael, son Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan came after jurors deliberated for about 10 hours. The men face minimum sentences of life in prison. It is up to the judge to decide whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole.
The case was prosecuted by the Cobb County District Attorney’s office.
Travis McMichael stood for the verdict, his lawyer’s arm around his shoulder. At one point, McMichael lowered his head to his chest. After the verdicts were read, as he stood to leave, he mouthed “love you” to his mother, who was in the courtroom.
Moments after the verdicts were announced, Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., was seen crying and hugging supporters outside the courtroom.
“He didn’t do nothing,” the father said, “but run and dream.”
The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue the 25-year-old Black man after seeing him running in their neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick in February 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.
Arbery’s killing after the graphic video leaked online two months later. Though prosecutors did not argue that racism motivated the killing, federal authorities have charged them with hate crimes, alleging that they chased and killed Arbery because he was Black. That case is scheduled to go to trial in February.
The jury sent a note to Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley soon after returning to court Wednesday morning asking to view two versions of the shooting video — the original and one that investigators enhanced to reduce shadows — three times apiece.
Jurors 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.
The disproportionately white jury received the case around midday Tuesday and spent about six hours deliberating before adjourning without a verdict.
‘A great day for Georgia,’ Cobb DA says
Following the verdict Wednesday afternoon, Cobb District Attorney Flynn Broady, whose team prosecuted the case, issued the following statement to the Marietta Daily Journal:
“It’s a great day for Georgia. The people representing the community of Brunswick, Glynn County, that jury decided that this is not going to be who we are. That our community is not going to stand for hate, is not going to stand for intolerance, is not going to stand for division. We really and truly in this country have an opportunity to seek a better future for everybody, this verdict has definite repercussions throughout this country in showing that people can look at the facts, that people can look at what’s in front of them and make a decision based on right and wrong.
“Many people criticized us for not pulling the race card in this, but we didn’t want to do that. We wanted this to be about right and wrong — not black and white, but right and wrong.”
“I’m proud of our team, the enormous hard work they did in making this happen. I trusted in them to do the right thing, and they did that in all regards. I truly believe that going forward, people can start to trust the justice system. Because for so long, and so many times, people of color decided the justice system will never work for us, but I think today shows that it can.
“The fact that the jury makeup is what it is — many people questioned whether that jury would find these men guilty. I was confident that if they saw the facts, and we made this about right and wrong, that they would, and they did. So I’m very happy about today’s verdict.”
The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a fleeing burglar when they armed themselves and jumped in a pickup truck to chase him. Bryan joined the pursuit when they passed his house and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery at close range with a shotgun as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for the weapon.
On the 911 call the jury reviewed, Greg McMichael tells an operator: “I’m out here in Satilla Shores. There’s a Black male running down the street.”
He then starts shouting, apparently as Arbery is running toward the McMichael’s idling truck with Bryan’s truck coming up behind him: “Stop right there! Damn it, stop! Travis!” Gunshots can be heard a few second later.
The graphic video death leaked online two months later, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, quickly arresting the three men. Each of them was charged with murder and other crimes.
Defense attorneys contend the McMichaels were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest when they set off after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.
Travis McMichael testified that he shot Arbery in self-defense, saying the running man turned and attacked with his fists while running past the idling truck where Travis McMichael stood with his shotgun.
Prosecutors said there was no evidence Arbery had committed crimes in the defendants’ neighborhood. He had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing at the time to study to become an electrician like his uncles.