“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. But God is good,” said Wanda Cooper-Jones after learning the three white men who hunted down her son Ahmaud Arbery were convicted of his murder Wednesday, Nov. 24th, in Brunswick, GA.
The jury deliberated for 10 hours before convicting Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan. After seeing Arbery running in a neighborhood just outside of Brunswick on Feb. 23rd, 2020, the McMichaels armed themselves, chased the 25-year-old in a pickup truck, and trapped him on a quiet street. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded mobile video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery with a shotgun. The shooting received limited attention until Bryan’s video of the slaying was leaked online, and the incident became yet another example of the disparity between how Black people in America are treated versus whites.
The father-son duo told police that they suspected Arbery was a burglar, but the prosecution argued there was no evidence Arbery committed any crimes in the neighborhood and the three men provoked the deadly confrontation.
Each of the men was charged with nine counts: One count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony, false imprisonment in this incident.
All three men were convicted of felony murder. However, only Travis McMichael was convicted of the top charge, malice murder. The distinction between the two in George is: Malice murder means you have intent to kill someone, and felony murder means you may not necessarily desire to kill someone but a person is killed as a result of the felony you’re committing, reports CNN.
The McMichaels and Bryan now face a minimum penalty of life in prison, reports AP. A judge will decide whether there is a possibility of parole. However, they’ll have to serve 30 years before becoming eligible for parole since they’ve been convicted of murder.
They also face a federal trial for hate crime charges, which include interference with rights; attempted kidnapping; and using, carrying, brandishing, and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. The federal trial is set to begin in February 2022.
President Joe Biden released a statement addressing the fatal shooting of Arbery and the convictions of the McMichaels and Bryan:
“Ahmaud Arbery’s killing – witnessed by the world on video – is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country. Mr. Arbery should be here today, celebrating the holidays with his mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, and his father, Marcus Arbery. Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and to his community, but the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished.
“While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin. My administration will continue to do the hard work to ensure that equal justice under law is not just a phrase emblazoned in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans.”