The jury in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial reached a verdict on Wednesday afternoon, two days after the deliberations in the high-profile killing began.
Gregory McMichael, 65, Travis McMichael, 35 — who are father and son were found guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment. Separately, Travis McMichael was also found guilty of malice murder — a charge his father was found not guilty of. William “Roddie” Bryan, 52 — a neighbor — was found not guilty on one count of felony murder, but guilty on other counts of felony murder, and also found guilty of aggravated assault and false imprisonment. He was found not guilty of malice murder. Each of them men had pleaded not guilty in court.
Lawyers for the McMichaels argued in court that they were pursuing a burglary suspect to 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.
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 has 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, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said after the killing that 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.”
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.
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 and pressure from Arbery’s mother.
Jackie Johnson, the first prosecutor, was indicted in September for “showing favor and affection” to Gregory McMichael, who previously worked in her office. 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 become the second prosecutor. Barnhill 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 charged with murder in early May; Bryan was arrested weeks later.
This is a developing story; refresh the page for updates.
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