The decade's most triggering comedy
A judge on Friday sentenced the three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.
Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced both Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Walmsley sentenced their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was fatally shot in Glynn County, Georgia on Feb. 23, 2020, as he was walking through the Satilla Shores neighborhood.
During the trial, the jury watched video of Arbery roaming around a vacant property with a house under construction. In the moments after Arbery left the property, he was chased by three white male residents of the neighborhood. Travis McMichael, 35, and his father Gregory McMichael, 66, armed themselves with guns and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after he ran past their yard, which was several houses down from the unfinished property. Bryan, 52, followed Arbery in another car. Arbery then had a confrontation with Travis McMichael, who shot Arbery as he ran in front of the pickup truck.
All three men were charged with murder and convicted on November 24.
Both McMichaels were found guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault with a firearm and with a pickup truck, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony. Travis McMichael was also found guilty of malice murder, but his father was found not guilty on that charge.
Bryan was found guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault with a pickup truck, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony. The jury found Bryan also not guilty of malice murder.
Before the sentencing, the judge remarked that he found the part of the video of the shooting that showed Travis McMichael lifting the shotgun to kill Arbery “absolutely chilling.”
“I’ve read somewhere, and I don’t remember where it was, that at a minimum, Ahmaud Arbery’s death should force us to consider expanding our definition of what a neighbor may be and how we treat them,” Walmsley said. “I argue that maybe a neighbor is more than the people who just own property around your house. I believe that assuming the worst in others we show our worst character.”
Arbery’s murder along with the killing of George Floyd and several other incidents of violence against African Americans contributed to sparking the racial justice protests, uprisings, and riots that erupted across the country in the summer of 2020.
Prosecutors were seeking life without parole for the McMichaels and life with the possibility of parole for Bryan.
The three men argued during the trial that they were chasing Arbery to make a citizen’s arrest following several break-ins that had recently occurred in the area. Gregory McMichael told police that his son shot Arbery in self-defense after Arbery attempted to attack Travis McMichael.
The attorney for Gregory McMichael argued Friday that her client is a “man of goodness” who “never wanted another person to die.”
“If life without parole is a sentence that is held for only the worst of the worst, it simply can’t be a sentence for a person who never intended that tragic result that took place on Feb. 23,” attorney Laura Hogue told the judge.
Arbery’s mother’s attorney said Friday that prosecutors had asked her whether she would accept a plea deal for her son’s killers, and she declined.
The plea deal would have put the three men behind bars in federal prison for 30 years in addition to whatever additional prison time the state judge ordered Friday.
“These men have chose to lie and attack my son and his surviving family. They each have no remorse and do not deserve any leniency,” Wanda Cooper-Jones said Friday in her victim impact statement.
Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, also spoke Friday at the sentencing hearing and shared some of his heartbreak with the court.
“You know something that just does not sit right with me at this time? The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every single day next to his father. I’ll never get that chance to sit next to my son ever again — not at the dinner table, not at the holidays and not at a wedding,” he said Friday.