The verdict is in and the trial over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery has come to a close. All three men have been found guilty of murder and other offenses. Each of the men was facing the exact same charges.
Travis McMichael was found guilty on all counts which included malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, criminal attempt to commit a felony.
Gregory McMichael, Travis’ father, was found guilty on all but one count: malice murder.
William “Roddie” Bryan was found not guilty on all but one count of felony murder. He was found guilty of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
Celebrations erupted outside the courthouse after Judge Timothy Walmsley adjourned the court. Chants of “Ahmaud Arbery” reverberated throughout the crowd.
The case came to national attention after the video showing the incident which claimed Arbery’s life went viral on social media. The footage showed Arbery running toward Travis McMichael’s truck after a five-minute chase. The armed men had been pursuing him because they believed he was responsible for a burglary in the area despite having no evidence to that effect. As Arbery approach the truck, Travis exited the vehicle with his shotgun to confront the young man. Arbery turned towards Travis and attempted to wrest the shotgun from Travis’ hands before being shot three times.
Defense attorneys representing the three men argued that a recent string of burglaries in the neighborhood had put the Satilla Shores neighborhood on edge. This contributed to a tense environment in which they might view some individuals with suspicion. They also pointed to a previous encounter Travis claimed he had with Arbery two weeks before in which he believed Arbery had a firearm.
The defense also attempted to portray Arbery as the aggressor in the encounter and argued Travis acted in self-defense. They also tried to paint the young man as a criminal who was in the neighborhood for nefarious purposes despite the fact that the police never tied him to any of the burglaries that occurred in the area. The defense also contended that the three men were attempting to conduct a citizen’s arrest. At one point, Laura Hogue, who represented Gregory McMichael elicited controversy when she said:
“Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.”
The prosecution focused its case on the notion that the three men made a decision to begin chasing Arbery for no valid reason. In her opening statement, lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said that “all three of these defendants did everything they did based on assumptions – not on facts, not on evidence.”
She also continually hammered on the point that none of the men bothered to stop and call the police to handle the situation. The prosecutor used the video of the shooting to counter the defense’s argument that the men were just trying to detain Arbery. At one point during the chase, Gregory McMichael yelled “stop or I’ll blow your motherf*cking head off!”
The video of the shooting caused widespread outrage. But the issue became even more heated when the conduct of the local government came to light.
District Attorney Jackie Johnson intervened to protect the three men from being arrested and it was clear they had no intention of prosecuting them. However, the emergence of the video and the outrage that followed forced their hand, and the men were finally arrested months after the incident.
This story was also noteworthy because it was the first of several stories involving racial narratives and contributed to the growing resentment towards the mistreatment of black Americans by their local governments. The fact that Glynn County’s government attempted to cover the matter up and allow the McMichaels and Bryan to go free without so much as a trial was of particular concern.
Before adjourning the court, Judge Walmsley noted that the court will set a date for sentencing the three men at a later time.