On November 21, Gregory McMichael, his son, Travis, and their neighbor, William Bryan Jr., were found guilty of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Sentencing is to take place in the following weeks, and all are facing life in prison.
Twenty-five-year-old Arbery was murdered on February 23, 2020, while he was out for a jog in his in Brunswick, Georgia. He was unarmed, and he was not in violation of any laws. The three men were on trial after shooting at least twice and killing Arbery while trying to perform a citizen’s arrest. The three defendants had incorrectly assumed Arbery was responsible for some recent burglaries in the neighborhood. The defendants claimed self-defense, although, according to the BBC, Arbery never threatened or yelled back at them after he was confronted by the McMichael’s from their pickup truck. Travis McMichael claimed Arbery tried to grab his gun when he tried to shoot.
In May of 2020, video of the incident became public, sparking national outcry that led to charges being filed. In the state of Georgia, citizen’s arrests are legal based on a law dating back to the Civil War. As a result of the incident, the law has since been repealed, according to the BBC. New hate crime laws have also been enacted.
Arbery’s family described him as an athletic young man who often went on jogs in the area. He was training to be an electrician at a technical school. Lawyers for the prosecution described what happened as a modern-day lynching, according to the BBC.
The jury of 12 included 11 white people and just one Black person. The search for jurors was extensive, with over 1,000 people summoned, and the process took over two weeks. Many critics were concerned about the disproportionate racial background of the jurors. According to NPR, in Glynn County, GA, where the trial was held, 27% of the population is Black. Jury deliberations lasted 11 hours.
Additionally, the three men will also be back in court in February. Each has been charged with federal hate crimes as a result of the shooting. All three have pleaded guilty to those charges.
Outside the courthouse, crowds cheered and, according to CNN, chanted “We got justice!” In response to the verdict, President Biden said, “While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin.” Senator Raphael Warnock, the first Black senator from Georgia, also responded, saying on Twitter, “This verdict upholds a sense of accountability, but not true justice. True justice looks like a Black man not having to worry about being harmed — or killed — while on a jog, while sleeping in his bed, while living what should be a very long life. I’m grateful to the jury for their service and for a verdict that says Ahmaud Arbery’s life mattered. He was a son, a nephew, a child of God, and he did not deserve to die in this way.”