The three white men on trial for killing Ahmaud Arbery have been found guilty of murder in the fatal pursuit of the unarmed Georgia jogger.
Travis McMichael, 35, his father, Gregory McMichael, 65, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, were tried together in the shooting of Arbery, 25, who they thought was fleeing a burglary as he ran through a mostly white neighborhood near Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020.
The younger McMichael — who was the one who pulled the trigger — was the only one found guilty on the top charge of malice murder.
When that verdict was read aloud, someone in the courtroom whooped, prompting the judge to boot them from the proceeding.
His father, Gregory, was found guilty of the other eight counts.
Bryan, the neighbor who joined the pursuit and filmed video of the fatal shooting, was convicted on all charges except malice murder, felony murder with a shotgun and one count of aggravated assault.
All three men face life in prison.
The verdict comes after 10 days of testimony in which the mostly white jury panel was shown widely seen cellphone video taken by Bryan of the shooting.
The defense argued that the three men were trying to make a lawful citizen’s arrest of Arbery, who they believed had been burglarizing a local under-construction home when Gregory spotted him looking around inside it before Arbery ran off.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said the defendants wrongly “assumed the worst” about Arbery and made the decision to attack him because he was “a black man running down the street.
“They assumed he must have committed some crime that day. He’s running real fast down the street, right?” she said in her closing arguments.
She argued that Arbery did not even have his cellphone on him and that the men fatally shot him “not because he’s a threat to them but because he wouldn’t stop and talk to them.”
Lawyer Laura Hogue, who represented the elder McMichael in the racially charged case, countered that no one was saying Arbery “deserved to die for whatever it was he was doing inside” the unfinished home.
But she said Arbery should have stopped “when Travis’ truck rolled up beside him, to wait to tell the police what he was doing there.
“He died because for whatever inexplicable, illogical reason, instead of staying where he was, whatever overwhelming reason he had to avoid being captured that day and arrested by the police,” she said in her closings.
Jason Sheffield, one of Travis McMichael’s lawyers, showed the footage of the men pursuing Arbery, stopping at the moment the jogger runs toward his client, who had just aimed his shotgun at him.
“There’s no question that Ahmaud’s hands are on this gun,” Sheffield said.
“You are allowed to defend yourself. You are allowed to use force that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if you believe it’s necessary. At that moment, Travis believed it is necessary,” he added.
Bryan’s lawyer, Kevin Gough, had urged the jury to consider his client separately from the McMichaels.
In his closing arguments, Gough stressed that Bryan “was armed only with a cellphone” and did not know that the McMichaels had a weapon when he joined the chase.
“Roddie Bryan was not aware of any intention, and could not be a party to the crime of malice murder, because he can’t intentionally help commit a crime he doesn’t know is underway,” he said.
The closely watched trial featured testimony from 20 witnesses, including the younger McMichael, who said he was forced to make a “life-or-death” decision to shoot Arbery as Arbery grabbed his gun.
The charges carry a minimum sentence of life in prison.
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