A Georgia jury on Wednesday found three men guilty as charged for the 2020 murder of unarmed Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery.
“A jury with only one Black juror, even with racial dog whistles from defence counsel, recognized and honoured Ahmaud Arbery’s humanity.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the nearly all-white jury convicted Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr.—who recorded video of the fatal encounter—of 23 charges.
Cheers erupted in the Brunswick courthouse amid tears and hugs as the three men were found guilty. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, silently prayed just before Judge Timothy Walmsley read the verdicts.
“I never thought this day would come,” Cooper-Jones said outside the courthouse following the convictions, “but God is good.”
“With their verdict, the jury rejected the vestige of Jim Crow and the assertion of white supremacy that was at the centre of this case,” Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement. “This is a vitally important step, brought about because of the determination of Ahmaud Arbery’s family and his community and the public protests.”
“Importantly, this movement led to the repeal of the citizen’s arrest law, and we must continue to work for racial equality in the state of Georgia,” she added.
Jesselyn McCurdy, executive vice president for government affairs at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement that “today’s conviction is a bittersweet salve to the loved ones of Mr Arbery and those of us who were horrified by his tragic murder.”
“Too often the bigoted assumptions of white supremacists are prioritized over the actual lives of Black people and other people of colour across this country,” she continued. “Although nothing can bring Mr Arbery back, we must dedicate ourselves to confronting the white supremacy that claimed Mr Arbery’s life and defends communities targeted for hate to ensure no more lives are tragically lost to such senseless, racist violence.
Travis McMichael was found guilty of all nine charges against him—which included malice murder, felony murder, and aggravated assault—while his father was convicted on eight of the nine charges. Bryan was found guilty of six of the nine charges he faced.
“A jury with only one Black juror, even with racial dog whistles from defence counsel, recognized and honoured Ahmaud Arbery’s humanity as much as it punished his murderers for their depravity,” Damon Hewett, president and executive director with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement. “The jurors sent a signal about accountability for the racist violence and harassment that inherently ignores the humanity of Black people.”
The three men convicted were immediately taken into the custody of the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office.
Arbery was running in the Satilla Shores neighbourhood of Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020, when he was confronted by the McMichaels—who claimed they thought the unarmed man may have committed a burglary—and shot by the son as Bryan recorded the attack. There is no evidence that Arbery committed any crime.
According to Bryan, Travis McMichael called Arbery a “fucking nigger” as he lay dying.
After being briefly questioned by police, the three killers were allowed to go free for 74 days. Meanwhile, Waycross District Attorney George E. Barnhill defended the murder as an act of “justifiable homicide” under Georgia’s “stand your ground” law. Outraged critics called Arbery’s slaying a “modern-day lynching.”
In April, McMichaels and Bryan were charged with federal hate crimes in connection with Arbery’s killing.
Cooper-Jones said that her son “will now rest in peace.”
“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight,” she said outside the courthouse. “To tell you the truth, I never saw this day back in 2020.”