The three men convicted of murder in Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting were today found guilty of federal hate crimes; and other lesser charges for violating Arbery’s civil rights and targeting him because he was Black.
Beyond the federal hate crimes, the jury also found father and son Greg; and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan guilty of attempted kidnapping; in addition the McMichaels were also found guilty of the use of a firearm in the commission of a crime.
At the time of the trial, prosecutors showed over two dozen text messages and social media posts; in which Travis McMichael and Bryan used racist slurs and made derogatory comments about Black people.
In February 2020, the McMichaels grabbed guns and used a pickup truck to pursue Arbery; after seeing him running in their neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick.
Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.
The killing became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice; after the graphic video leaked online two months later.
Police found Arbery had no weapon and no stolen items. Prosecutors said he was merely out jogging.
The panel of eight white people, three Black people, and one Hispanic person; received the case Monday following a weeklong trial in the U.S. District Court in the port city of Brunswick.
The case was adjourned for the night after about three hours of deliberations and resumed deliberations at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The prosecutors’ Case
The trial closed on Monday with prosecutors saying 25-year-old Arbery’s slaying on a residential street was driven by pent-up racial anger; which was revealed by the defendants’ electronic messages as well as by witnesses who testified to hearing them make racist tirades and insults.
For instance, in 2018, Travis McMichael commented on a Facebook video of a Black man playing a prank on a white person: “I’d kill that f—-ing n—-r.”
Prosecutor Tara Lyons told the Jury on Monday that “All three defendants told you loud and clear, in their own words; how they feel about African Americans,”
The Defense attorneys Case
Defense attorneys contended that the three didn’t chase and kill Ahmaud because of his race but acted on the earnest with the suspicion that Ahmaud Arbery had committed crimes in their neighborhood.
The McMichaels and Bryan had pleaded not guilty to the hate crime charges.
The Defense attorneys urged the jury to set aside their emotions.
They insisted that past racist statements by their clients offered no proof they violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because he’s Black.
Pete Theodocion, representing William “Roddie” Bryan, said, “It’s natural for you to want retribution or revenge, But we have to elevate ourselves; even if it’s the tough thing.”
Travis McMichael’s attorney, Amy Lee Copeland, told the jury that prosecutors presented no evidence that her client never spoke to anyone about Mr. Arbery’s death in racial terms. She further said, “her client opened fire in self-defense after Arbery tried to take away his shotgun.”
Greg McMichael’s attorney, A.J. Balbo, argued that his client initiated the chase not because Ahmaud Arbery was a Black man, but because he was The man McMichaels had seen in security camera videos taken from a nearby house under construction.
McMichaels and Bryan were convicted of murder last fall in a Georgia state court, pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.
Some Witness Testified
Some witnesses also testified they heard the McMichaels’ racist statements firsthand.
A woman who served under Travis McMichael in the U.S. Coast Guard a decade ago said he called her “n——r lover after learning she’d dated a Black man.
Another woman testified Greg McMichael had ranted angrily in 2015 when she remarked on the death of civil rights activist Julian Bond, saying, “All those Blacks are nothing but trouble.”