3 men involved in Ahmaud Arbery’s killing found guilty of murder and other charges


Travis McMichael listens to testimony in the Ahmaud Arbery killing trial.

(CNN) — A jury Wednesday found three White men charged in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, guilty on multiple murder counts, as well as other charges.

The verdict, delivered by nine White men, two White women and one Black man, came after hours of deliberation spanning two days. It followed eight days of testimony, involving 23 witnesses.

Ahmaud Arbery killing trial: Live updates

The men each faced the same nine counts, and verdicts were as follows:

• Travis McMichael, who fatally shot Arbery, is guilty on all charges: malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony;

• His father, Gregory McMichael, who rode armed in the bed of a pickup truck as his son pursued Arbery, is not guilty of malice murder but guilty on the other eight charges.  

• And William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., a neighbor who joined the pursuit and filmed Arbery’s final moments, is guilty of three counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. Bryan was cleared on the charge of malice murder, felony murder involving aggravated assault with a firearm and the count of aggravated assault with a firearm.

The McMichaels and Bryan were arrested last year after the shooting of Arbery in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23, 2020.

The sentencing date for the men is unclear. Prosecutors have indicated they will seek sentences of life in prison without hte possibility of parole.

The McMichaels and Bryan were also indicted on hate crime charges in federal court, where they’re scheduled to go on trial in February on counts of interference of rights and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels each face an additional charge of using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. The men have pleaded not guilty.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, has filed civil claims against the McMichaels, Bryan and police and prosecutorial officials.

Arbery was out for a jog when he was killed

The McMichaels and Bryan said they believed Arbery had committed a crime. Evidence introduced in the trial showed the men chased Arbery through the streets he repeatedly tried to elude them. The McMichaels, who were armed, were in one vehicle, while Bryan, who joined while the chase was underway, followed in his own truck, assisting in and recording the chase. Arbery was unarmed and on foot.

Video of the killing showed Travis McMichael exit his truck and confront Arbery before fatally shooting him as the two tussled. McMichael’s father watched from the bed of the truck.

The men pleaded not guilty, with the McMichaels claiming they were conducting a citizen’s arrest and acting in self-defense, and Bryan saying he took no part in the killing.

Arbery was on a jog — a common pastime, according to those who knew him — when the McMichaels grabbed their guns and pursued him. Gregory McMichael, a former police officer and ex-investigator in the county prosecutor’s office, told authorities Arbery and his son had struggled over his son’s shotgun and Travis shot Arbery after he was attacked, according to a police report.

On the stand, Travis McMichael echoed his dad’s claim that he acted in self-defense after Arbery grabbed his shotgun. Cross-examined by a prosecutor, Travis McMichael conceded that he’d told investigators he didn’t know if Arbery grabbed the weapon and that neither he nor his dad had mentioned a citizen’s arrest to police. His father and Bryan declined to testify.

Travis McMichael said he was “scattered,” traumatized and “mixed up” in the hours after the shooting, offering an explanation for his inconsistencies.

Two prosecutors initially instructed Glynn County police not to make arrests in the case, but about two months after the shooting, Bryan’s video of the chase and killing was made public, sparking nationwide outcry.

Part of a national outcry

The McMichaels were arrested May 7, 2020, and Bryan was taken into custody two weeks later. The case soon dovetailed with the killings of three Black people — Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, George Floyd in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta — redoubling angst over racial injustice and civil unrest nationwide.

The father and son believed Arbery was responsible for a string of recent burglaries in the neighborhood, the elder McMichael told police, but Glynn County police said there had been only one burglary reported in the roughly two months before the shooting. In that incident, a gun had been stolen from an unlocked vehicle at the McMichaels’ home.

Gregory McMichael also suspected Arbery had been inside a home under construction, he said, but the home’s owner told CNN he had surveillance cameras and did not see Arbery commit any crime. He did not ask the McMichaels to take any action on his behalf, he testified in a deposition.

Travis McMichael also acknowledged he never saw Arbery armed and never heard Arbery threaten him. Rather, Travis McMichael testified, Arbery refused to respond to him and showed no interest in conversing.

A state investigator testified during a preliminary hearing last year that Bryan and Travis McMichael used racial slurs on social media and messaging services, and that Bryan told police he heard Travis McMichael use a racial epithet after killing Arbery. Evidence of the slurs was never presented to the jury.

“I believe Mr. Arbery was being pursued, and he ran till he couldn’t run anymore, and it was turn his back to a man with a shotgun or fight with his bare hands against the man with the shotgun. He chose to fight,” Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Richard Dial said at a June 2020 probable cause hearing.

Makeup of jury was source of contention

Only having one Black juror has been a key complaint from prosecutors and Arbery’s family, as Glynn County’s population is about 69% White and 27% Black.

The 12-member trial jury and three alternates were selected after a protracted jury selection process that lasted two and a half weeks and included summoning 1,000 prospective jurors from the South Georgia coastal community. Of those summoned, less than half showed up.

The makeup of the jury was challenged by the state at the conclusion of the jury selection process. Dunikoski claimed defense attorneys disproportionately struck qualified Black jurors and based some of their strikes on race.

Judge Timothy Walmsley said, “This court has found that there appears to be intentional discrimination,” but ruled that the case could go forward with the selected jurors because the defense was able to provide valid reasons, beyond race, for why the other Black jurors were dismissed.

Defense attorneys also took issue with there being fewer older White men without college degrees in the juror pool, saying the demographic was underrepresented.


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