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All 3 defendants convicted of murder in Arbery slaying

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 1:29 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2021 at 2:11 PM EST
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BRUNSWICK, Ga. - All three men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery were convicted of murder Wednesday, although the most damning convictions were against Travis McMichael, the man who pulled the trigger.

McMichael was found guilty of malice murder, several counts of felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempts to commit a felony.

McMichael’s father, Gregory McMichael, was found not guilty of malice murder but was found guilty of all other charges against him, including several counts of felony murder and aggravated assault.

Their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan was found not guilty of malice murder and not guilty of one county of felony murder but was convicted of other charges including other felony murder counts and false imprisonment.

With the announcement of the verdicts, Arbery’s mother began weeping in the courtroom. His father, Marcus, stood and cheered, prompting the judge to have him taken out because of the disturbance.

Travis McMichael stood for the verdict, his lawyer’s arm around his shoulder. At one point, he lowered his head to his chest. After the verdicts were read, as he stood to leave, he mouthed “love you” to his mother, who was in the courtroom.

Greg McMichael hung his head when the judge read his first guilty verdict.

Bryan bit his lip.

Ben Crump, attorney for Arbery’s father, spoke outside the courthouse, saying repeatedly that “the spirit of Ahmaud defeated the lynch mob.”

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, thanked the crowd gathered for the verdict and said she did not think she would see this day.

“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. But God is good,” she said. Of her son, she said, “He will now rest in peace.”

The jury reached its decision after more than 10 hours of deliberations following a trial in which prosecutors argued that the defendants provoked a confrontation with Arbery and defense attorneys said their clients were acting in self-defense.

The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup to pursue the 25-year-old Black man after seeing him running in their neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick in February 2020. Their neighbor, Bryan, joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.

Defense attorneys contended the McMichaels were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest when they set off after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.

Travis McMichael said he shot Arbery in self-defense, saying the running man turned and attacked with his fists while running past the idling truck where Travis McMichael stood with his shotgun.

Prosecutors said there was no evidence Arbery had committed crimes in the defendants’ neighborhood. He had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing at the time to study to become an electrician like his uncles.

THE VERDICTS AT A GLANCE:

Verdicts in the Ahmaud Arbery slaying trial
Verdicts in the Ahmaud Arbery slaying trial(WRDW)

The slaying of Arbery — who had family ties to the CSRA and is buried near Waynesboro — became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice after the graphic video leaked online two months later.

Although prosecutors didn’t argue that racism motivated the killing, federal authorities have charged all three men with hate crimes, alleging they chased and killed Arbery because he was Black. All three defendants are white. They are scheduled to go on trial for the federal charges in February.

They weren’t charged for weeks after the slaying until the Georgia Bureau of Investigation got involved. The district attorney at the time is now accused of shielding Travis McMichael and his father — a former police officer — from prosecution.

The verdict came on the second day of deliberations for the jury.

“We commend the courage and bravery of this jury to say that what happened on Feb. 23, 2020, to Ahmaud Arbery — the hunting and killing of Ahmaud Arbery — it was not only morally wrong but legally wrong, and we are thankful for that,” said Latonia Hines, Cobb County executive assistant district attorney.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski added: “The jury system works in this country, and when you present the truth to people and they see it, they will do the right thing.”

Travis McMichael’s’ attorneys said both he and his father feel that they did the right thing, and that they believed the video would help their case. But they also said the McMichaels regret that Arbery got killed.

“I can tell you honestly, these men are sorry for what happened to Ahmaud Arbery,” attorney Jason Sheffield said. “They are sorry he’s dead. They are sorry for the tragedy that happened because of the choices they made to go out there and try to stop him.”

They planned to appeal.

Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, said his team was “disappointed with the verdict, but we respect it.” He planned to file new legal motions after Thanksgiving.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley did not immediately schedule a sentencing date, saying that he wanted to give both sides time to prepare.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.