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Three men in Ahmaud Arbery case found guilty of murder

The verdicts were read in court on Wednesday

Update Nov. 25, 2021: Incorrect information about the verdicts was reported Wednesday. That information has been corrected.

After six hours of deliberations on Tuesday and a few hours Wednesday, the three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery while he was running near his home in Brunswick, Ga., early last year have been found guilty.

Jury selection for Ahmaud Arbery murder trial has begun

Travis McMichael, 35 (who fired the shots that killed Arbery), his father, Gregory McMichael, 65, and William “Roddy” Bryan, Jr., 52, were charged with one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. Travis McMichael was found guilty on all nine charges; Gregory McMichael was found not guilty of the single count of malice murder but guilty of all other eight charges; and Bryan was found guilty on three counts of felony murder and the less serious charges. (Even though Travis McMichael indisputably pulled the trigger, in Georgia accomplices can be charged with murder; Bryan faced the same charges as the McMichaels.)  

After Judge Timothy Walmsley read the verdicts against Travis McMichael, one spectator let out a whoop, after which the judge had him removed from the courtroom. He then cautioned spectators again against any kind of outburst before reading the verdicts against Gregory McMichael and Bryan.

According to a report by ABC News, “Unlike many states, Georgia doesn’t have degrees of murder, but instead has malice murder and felony murder. Neither requires prosecutors to prove an intent to kill.” Both carry a minimum sentence of life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 30 years. The prosecution did not seek the death penalty in this case. 

One year ago today, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered while running in Georgia

The 25-year-old Arbery was stalked, ambushed and shot to death while out for a jog on Feb. 23, 2020, but it wasn’t until Bryan’s cellphone video of the murder emerged two months later that the case gained international attention. The video sparked a public outcry, but charges against the three men were not brought until more than a year later. 

The defense claimed the McMichaels suspected Arbery of being a burglar, and that they were attempting to make a citizen’s arrest when they grabbed their guns and chased him down in their truck. 

Sprinter Sam Effah on running while Black

The trial lasted eight days, and 23 witnesses were called. Travis McMichael was the only defendant to testify. The trial attracted a number of prominent Black pastors, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

In further explaining the charges against the McMichaels and Bryan, the ABC News report goes on to distinguish between malice murder and felony murder:

“Malice murder is when a person “unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied, causes the death of another human being.” No evidence of premeditation is required.

“Express malice involves an intent to kill. Implied malice is when the there is “no considerable provocation” and the circumstances of the killing “show an abandoned and malignant heart,” which essentially means the person has acted with extreme recklessness even if there was no intent to kill, said Georgia State University law professor Russell Covey.

“Felony murder applies when someone who has no plans to kill intentionally commits another felony and a person dies as a result. The person must be convicted of the underlying felony to be found guilty of felony murder.”

Video of runner Ahmaud Arbery’s murder in Georgia sparks outrage

The three men have also been charged with hate crimes, and will be tried federally in 2022.