After more than 21 months since the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, the three white perpetrators have been found guilty by a jury in the United States. On Wednesday, November 24, a jury from the State of Georgia returned a unanimous verdict convicting Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, in the killing of Arbery. The three were convicted on charges of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal intent to commit a felony.
Travis McMichael, who fired the fatal shots at Arbery, was convicted of all nine charges leveled against the three, while Greg McMichael was convicted of eight of the nine charges. William Bryan, who was unarmed at the time of the incident, was convicted of six.
Lead prosecutor, Linda Dunikoski, asserted that the verdict was passed “based on the facts and based on the evidence.” Dunikoski had also insisted earlier in her closing remarks during the trial that the attack was racial in nature and that the accused “made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways, because he was a Black man running down the street.”
Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot dead at the outskirts of Brunswick, Georgia, by Travis McMichael on February 23, 2020, while he was cornered by the three men. The murder occurred while they cornered Arbery during an attempted ‘citizen’s arrest’ as he was jogging through their neighborhood. The entire incident was captured in a video recorded by Bryan, who had accompanied the McMichaels in a separate vehicle, in their bid to apprehend Arbery.
The three accused had defended their actions as an act of self-defense, and even made allegations of Arbery being behind a string of burglaries in the neighborhood that were never substantiated. Prosecutors also pointed out Arbery was unarmed at the time of the incident, while both the McMichaels were clearly armed and had illegally cornered Arbery.
The case received nationwide coverage during the George Floyd protests, and especially because of various shortcomings and conflict-of-interests reported over the course of the investigation and the trial. The first arrests in the case was only made after the video shot by Bryan was leaked to the public, months after the Arbery’s death.
Two district prosecutors had to recuse themselves in the last 21 months, with at least one of them now facing charges of obstruction of justice, for allegedly colluding with the McMichaels. The selection of the jury was also marked with controversies, as 11 of the 12 members of the jury were white.
The case also brought widespread public scrutiny to Georgia State’s citizen’s arrest laws, which many argued had a colonial and racist legacy of the late-19th century US. Georgia eventually became the first state to repeal it in March 2021, after months of anti-racist protests rocked the state.
Activists and Arbery’s family and friends have welcomed the verdict. Speaking to reporters after the verdict was announced Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-James, said “It’s been a long fight, it’s been a hard fight. But God is good. To tell you the truth, I never saw this day back in 2020. I never thought this day would come. But God is good. I just wanted to tell everybody thank you, thank you for all those who marched and those who prayed.”
Even as the verdict has been passed, the litigation process will continue. The three convicts are to receive their sentencing at a later date by the district judge. While they are expected to receive life imprisonment, the judge will decide on their eligibility for parole. They are also set to face a federal hate crimes trial, in February 2022, based on charges raised by the US Justice Department.