The jury in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial reached a verdict on Wednesday afternoon, finding Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael guilty of felony murder. A third defendant, William “Roddie” Bryan, was found not guilty on one count of felony murder but guilty on other counts of felony murder.
Gregory McMichael, 65, Travis McMichael, 35 — who are father and son — and William “Roddie” Bryan, 52 — a neighbor — were found guilty of various charges. In addition to felony murder, Travis McMichael was also found guilty of malice murder, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment.
Gregory McMichael was also found not guilty of malice murder, but guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment; Bryan was also found guilty of one count of aggravated assault as well as false imprisonment.
Lawyers for the McMichaels argued in court that they were pursuing a man they believed to be a burglary suspect so that they could perform a citizen’s arrest. A lawyer for Bryan argued that Bryan merely recorded the incident and his presence was entirely irrelevant to Arbery’s death. He was armed “with a cell phone,” his attorney told the court.
Kevin Gough, an attorney for Bryan, told The New York Times after the verdict: “While we disagree with the verdict, we must respect it.” Gough, who repeatedly sought mistrial motions during the trial, also said he will file a motion for a new trial.
According to USA Today, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, cried in the hallway of the courthouse after the verdict, saying, “we finally got justice.” Ben Crump, an attorney for the Arbery family, also responded to the verdict on social media.
“Nothing will bring back Ahmaud, but his family will have some peace knowing the men who killed him will remain behind bars and can never inflict their brand of evil on another innocent soul,” said Crump.
The three men will be sentenced at a later date, and each faces up to a maximum of life in prison.
Although Arbery was killed in February 2020, the case drew national attention months later after a video of the fatal encounter was leaked to a local media station by an attorney with an informal connection to Bryan — an attempt to set the record straight.
The video showed Arbery running down the street in the direction of a white pickup truck, where Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael can be seen armed and waiting for Arbery. The duo argued that they believed he was a suspect in a recent string of burglaries in the neighborhood. When Arbery approaches the truck, he goes around to the passenger’s side, and a struggle breaks out between him and Travis McMichael, who is holding a shotgun. Arbery is fatally shot in the encounter.
Arbery’s mother said she believed her son was jogging at the time he was pursued. During closing arguments at trial, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski argued that the McMichaels “made the decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black man running down the street.”
In response to the case, Georgia repealed its citizen’s arrest law.
During the trial, Travis McMichael took the stand to explain his actions, saying he wanted to give “my side of the story.”
The younger McMichael recalled seeing Arbery in the neighborhood a couple of weeks before the shooting, at night, and said the man tried to hide from him. “He comes out and pulls up his shirt, and goes to reach in his pocket or waistband area,” Travis McMichael told the court. He added, “It freaked me out.”
Hours before the verdict was reached, the jury asked the court to replay the video of the fatal encounter as well as the 9-1-1 call made by Gregory McMichael before the shooting. Most of the 9-1-1 call was filled with silence, although at the beginning of it, the elder McMichael could be heard shouting his son’s name. Travis had also made a 9-1-1 call, moments earlier.
When recalling the shooting at trial, Travis McMichael said he shot Arbery because he “had my gun.”
“He struck me, it was obvious that he was … attacking me, that if he [would] have [gotten] the shotgun from me, then it was a … life or death situation,” said Travis McMichael.
The verdict brings an end to only one chapter of the case, which was tossed around from prosecutor to prosecutor due to conflicts of interest, pressure from Arbery’s mother, and its growing size.
Jackie Johnson, the first prosecutor in the case, was indicted in September for violating her oath of office and obstructing a law enforcement officer. According to the indictment, she also showed “favor and affection” to Gregory McMichael, who previously worked in her office, reports The New York Times.
Although Johnson recused herself from the case within days of receiving it, before doing so, she sought advice about the case from George Barnhill, who would later become the second prosecutor. Barnhill, whose son worked in Johnson’s office, would later recuse himself at the request of Arbery’s mother, but not before telling the police department in a letter, in early April, that there was “insufficient probable cause to issue arrest warrants at this time.” The McMichaels were arrested the following month, within 36 hours of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations taking over the case file, as The Daily Wire previously reported.
Johnson faces up to five years for violating her oath of office, and up to 12 months for obstructing and hindering a law enforcement officer, according to CNN. The former charge is a felony, while the latter charge is a misdemeanor.
This is a developing story; refresh the page for updates.