Three men were on Wednesday convicted of murder in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was running empty-handed through a Georgia subdivision when the white strangers chased him, trapped him on a quiet street and blasted him with a shotgun.
The slaying in February last year drew limited attention at first, but when video of the shooting leaked online, Arbery’s death quickly became another example in the US’ reckoning with racial injustice.
Now the men all face a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The judge is to decide whether their sentences are served with the possibility of parole.
As the first of 23 guilty verdicts were read, Arbery’s father had to leave the courtroom after leaping up and shouting. At the reading of the last criminal count, Arbery’s mother dropped her head and quietly pumped her fists.
“He didn’t do nothing, but run and dream,” Marcus Arbery Sr said of his son, while dozens of the family’s supporters hugged and cried outside the courthouse.
The jury deliberated for about 10 hours before convicting Greg McMichael, son Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan.
The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup to pursue the 25-year-old Arbery after seeing him running outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick.
Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.
The father and son told police that they suspected Arbery was a fleeing burglar, but the prosecution argued that the men provoked the fatal confrontation and that there was no evidence Arbery committed a crime in the neighborhood.
“We commend the courage and bravery of this jury to say that what happened on Feb. 23, 2020, to Ahmaud Arbery — the hunting and killing of Ahmaud Arbery — it was not only morally wrong but legally wrong, and we are thankful for that,” Cobb County Executive Assistant District Attorney Latonia Hines said.
“The jury system works in this country,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski added.
Speaking outside the courthouse, Ben Crump, attorney for Arbery’s father, said that “the spirit of Ahmaud defeated the lynch mob.”
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, thanked the crowd gathered for the verdict and said she did not think she would see this day.
“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight — but God is good,” she said, adding that her son would now rest in peace.
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