All three defendants found guilty in murder of Ahmaud Arbery
All three defendants
found guilty in murder
of Ahmaud Arbery
A jury has returned guilty verdicts against all three defendants in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. Travis McMichael, who fired the fatal shots, was convicted on all counts, including the charge of malice murder. His father Gregory McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were convicted of felony murder and other charges.
Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot to death while jogging in the neighborhood in February 2020. Cellphone video showed the men chasing Arbery and cornering him with their pickup trucks before a scuffle that ended with Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range with a shotgun.
As the first guilty verdict was read aloud, people in the public gallery were heard audibly gasping. One man could be heard saying, “Long time coming.” Judge Timothy Walmsley reminded the courtroom to remain silent as he continued to read the rest of the jury’s verdicts aloud.
The defense’s case centered around the claim that the men acted lawfully under the state’s citizen’s arrest law — which was in effect at the time but has since been repealed — because they were suspicious he might have been involved in neighborhood burglaries. They argued they had a right of self-defense against Arbery who, one defense attorney said, “chose to fight.”
“All three of these defendants made assumptions — made assumptions about what was going on that day, and they made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black man running down the street,” lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the jury.
Though Arbery had gone inside a house under construction in the neighborhood, “nothing had ever been taken from the construction site,” Dunikoski said, and the defendants had no direct knowledge linking him to any crime when they began their pursuit.
“He was trying to get away from these strangers that were yelling at him, threatening to kill him. And then they killed him,” she said, adding that Arbery was killed “for absolutely no good reason at all.”
The jury was able to hear from Travis McMichael when he took the stand in his own defense. He testified that he had heard about break-ins in the neighborhood and had previously seen a Black man “lurking” and “creeping” around a house under construction.
When his father spotted Arbery on February 23, they decided to drive up alongside him and question him. As the confrontation ensued, McMichael said he was forced to make a split-second “life-or-death” decision when he said Arbery grabbed for his shotgun.
“It was the most traumatic event of my life,” he told the court.
But under cross-examination, McMichael acknowledged that Arbery was “just running” and did not threaten them.
The other two defendants did not testify at the trial.
The three men are also facing federal hate crimes charges. A separate trial in the federal case is scheduled to begin on February 7, 2022.