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Ahmaud Arbery's murderers sentenced to prison for life

Gregory McMichael, 65, and Travis McMichael, 35, have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. William 'Roddie' Bryan has also been handed life imprisonment but is eligible for parole.

Ahmaud Arbery's murderers sentenced to prison for life
Image Source: Jury Finds Three Men Guilty Of Killing Ahmaud Arbery. ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 24. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)

Three men have been convicted in the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery as he was jogging through a neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, in February 2020. On Friday, father and son duo Gregory McMichael, 65, and Travis McMichael, 35—who fired the bullets that ended the young Black man’s life—were sentenced to the maximum of life in prison, without parole. Meanwhile, William “Roddie” Bryan, the man who joined the McMichaels as they chased after Arbery, was also sentenced to life in prison. However, Bryan will have the opportunity to apply for parole unlike his fellow defendants, VICE News reports.


Judge Timothy Walmsley, in an unusual moment, called for the courtroom to take a minute of silence in order to convey just a fraction of how long the three white men chased after Arbery in the south Georgia neighborhood prior to killing him. The judge stated, "The chase that occurred in Satilla Shores occurred over a five-minute period. And when I thought about this, I kept coming back to the terror that must have been in the mind of the young man running through Satilla Shores. He was killed because the individuals here in this courtroom took the law into their own hands."


The three men were found guilty of several counts of murder, false imprisonment, and aggravated assault by a jury after a two-and-a-half-week trial. The conviction was a rare victory for folks who claim that the American justice system does not punish those who kill and commit crimes against Black people. The verdict came just months after the conviction of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd, the unarmed Black victim whose death sparked a string of Black Lives Matter protests. During the trial, McMichaels claimed they acted in self-defense when they chased after Arbery in their pickup truck so as to conduct a citizen’s arrest. As per Georgia law, this was permitted at the time.


The McMichaels spotted Arbery jogging past their yard, several houses away from an unfinished home down the road. Recognizing him from surveillance footage displayed to them by a neighbor, the father-son duo incorrectly concluded that he was the individual responsible for a series of robberies that had occurred in the area over the previous year. Travis grabbed his shotgun and chased after Arbery, joined by his father in their pickup truck. Their neighbor Bryan, noticing the chase, chose to get into his own truck and trail behind, capturing the entire incident on his cellphone. After pursuing the young Black man for several minutes, the McMichaels and Bryan cut off Arbery’s path with their trucks. Travis jumped out and pointed his shotgun at him. Following a brief struggle, Travis fired three shots, hitting Arbery twice in the chest, as per the autopsy.


According to State prosecutors, racism had motivated the three men’s unneeded "over-vigilance." Notably, while delivering testimony on the stand, Travis admitted that Arbery never threatened him. In addition to their most recent prison sentence, the McMichaels and Bryan may face prison time for federal hate crime charges filed by the Justice Department last April. The three defendents have been charged with one count of interference with rights, one count of attempted kidnapping, and one count of carrying and using a firearm during the accused crime. The federal trial is scheduled to begin on February 7 this year.


Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother told the courtroom on Friday, "Ahmaud never said a word to them. He never threatened them. He just wanted to be left alone. They were fully committed to their crimes. Let them be fully committed to the consequences." His father Marcus Arbery Sr. also made a statement. "The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every single day next to his father," he stated. "I’ll never get that chance to sit next to my son ever again. Not at a dinner table. Not at a holiday. And not at a wedding. I pray that no one in this courtroom ever has to do what we had to—to bury their child."


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