On Tuesday, three white men were found guilty of killing and killing a young Black man in their suburban Georgia home. Ahmaud Arbery was found guilty of committing federal hate crimes and other offenses in the massacre in 2020.
Travis McMichael, 36, his father, former police officer Gregory McMichael, 66, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, 52, were sentenced to four hours in prison after the verdict was reversed. District Court in Brunswick, Georgia
After the verdict was read, "Ahmaud will continue to rest in peace, but he will now begin to rest in power." Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud's mother, said outside the courthouse.
All three individuals were found guilty of violating Arbery's civil rights by attempting him because of his race and attempted kidnapping, completing the most recent high-profile prosecution to investigate issues of racial violence and vigilantenism in America.
The McMichaels were also accused of committing a federal firearms offense. Bryan was not charged with a weapons offense. The hate crime, the most serious of the charges the defendants faced, carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. The judge has not yet agreed a sentencing date.
The three men were sentenced to life in prison for the shotgun slaying of Arbery, 25, a one-time high school footballer who worked for a truck-washing company and his father's landscaping business.
Prosecutors in the state trial avoided stating the killing as racist, but seeking only to demonstrate that the McMichaels and Bryan were responsible for his death.
Cooper-Jones fought against the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors, who had originally agreed to a plea deal with the defendants in order to avoid a trial, as a result of the arrest of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who slapped on and was found guilty of murdering him.
After Ahmaud's mother enplored her not to accept it, the judge ruled in a difficult decision last month.
"What we got today, we would have been honored if it wasn't for the family's work," Cooper-Jones said. "What the Department of Justice did today, they were made to do today. It wasn't because it was what they wanted to do."
After a guilty verdict in the trial of William "Roddie" Bryan, Travis McMichael, and Gregory McMichael, charged with the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, the United States, on November 24, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo
To commemorate the second anniversary of Arbery's murder, the family and supporters plan to hold a vigil on Wednesday in the area where Arbery was murdered.
LAG TIME ON CHARGES
As the victim walked out for an afternoon jog through the town of Satilla Shores, near Brunswick, the younger McMichael was shot to death on February 23, 2020.
After a series of neighborhood break-ins, the McMichaels allered that they did not act out of racial angry rather than self-defense.
Although trial testimony indicated that no burglaries were committed, federal authorities presented testimony from 20 witnesses and other evidence they allege that the three men had long histories of using slurs and making racist statements. The defense continued its case after phoning one witness.
There was never a concern that the younger McMichael fired his rifle three times at Arbery at close range.
The shooting was captured in a graphic cellphone video by Bryan, stoking public outrage when it appeared on social media two months later, although no arrests were made, even if Travis McMichael admitted to police at the scene that he shot and killed Arbery.
Civil rights groups said that arrests of three men are coming as the latest example of law enforcement permettant to white perpetrators in the unjustified killing of Black people.
After Floyd, another unarmed Black man, was killed in May 2020, Arbery's name was coined by a host of others in a summer of protests against racial injustice in the United States. The federal prosecution of the killers is the first in which those who committed a high-profile murder are being faced by a jury in a hate-crime trial.
Georgia's legislature approved a measure in 2020 that promoted hate crimes and mandated data collection on hate crimes. A year later, lawmakers overhauled a Civil War-era in an effort to prevent vigilantism.