In addition to the federal hate crimes, the jury also found father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan guilty of attempted kidnapping, while the McMichaels were also found guilty of using drugs. a firearm in the commission of a crime. .
During the trial, prosecutors showed about two dozen text messages and social media posts in which Travis McMichael and Bryan used racial slurs and made derogatory comments about black people. The FBI could not access Greg McMichael’s phone because it was encrypted.
The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped into a van to pursue Arbery after seeing him running around their neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick in Georgia in February 2020. Bryan joined the chase in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery. The murder became part of a larger national toll on racial injustice after the graphic video leaked online two months later.
Defense attorneys claimed that the three did not pursue and kill Arbery because of his race, but acted on the serious, albeit erroneous, suspicion that Arbery had committed crimes in their neighborhood.
The McMichaels and Bryan had pleaded not guilty to the hate crime charges. Defense attorneys claimed that the three did not pursue and kill Arbery because of his race, but acted on the serious, albeit erroneous, suspicion that Arbery had committed crimes in their neighborhood.
The panel of eight whites, three blacks and one Hispanic received the case Monday after a week-long trial in U.S. District Court in the port city of Brunswick. Jurors adjourned for the night after about three hours of deliberations and resumed deliberations at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The trial ended on Monday with prosecutors saying the killing of Arbery, 25, on a residential street was motivated by ‘pent-up racial anger’, revealed by defendants’ email messages as well as witnesses who testified hearing them make racist tirades and insults.
“All three defendants have told you loud and clear, in their own words, how they feel about African Americans,” prosecutor Tara Lyons told the jury Monday.
Defense attorneys have insisted that their clients’ past racist statements offer no evidence that they violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him for being black. They urged the jury to set aside their emotions.
“It’s natural for you to want retaliation or revenge,” said Pete Theodocion, representing William “Roddie” Bryan. “But we have to rise…even if it’s the hardest thing.”
The basic facts are not disputed. Arbery’s murder nearly two years ago on February 23, 2020, was captured in graphic cellphone video that sparked widespread outrage. Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves after spotting Arbery driving past their home and chased after him in a van. Bryan joined his neighbors in his own truck and recorded video of Travis McMichael shooting at close range.
Police found that Arbery did not have a weapon or stolen item. Prosecutors said he was simply jogging.
Travis McMichael’s attorney, Amy Lee Copeland, told the jury that prosecutors presented no evidence that he “ever spoke to anyone about Mr. Arbery’s death in racial terms.” She said her client opened fire in self-defense after Arbery tried to take his shotgun away from her.
Greg McMichael’s attorney, AJ Balbo, argued his client launched the lawsuit not because Arbery was a black man, but because he was “The Man” McMichael had seen in videos of security cameras taken in a nearby house under construction.
The McMichaels and Bryan, convicted of murder last fall in a Georgia state court, have pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.
FBI agents uncovered about two dozen racist text messages and social media posts by McMichael and Bryan in the years and months leading up to the shooting.
For example, in 2018, Travis McMichael commented on a Facebook video of a black man pranking a white person: “I would kill that f—-ing n—-r.”
Some witnesses said they heard the McMichaels’ racist statements firsthand. A woman who served under Travis McMichael in the US Coast Guard a decade ago said he called her “n–r lover”, after learning she had dated a black man. Another woman testified that Greg McMichael fumed in 2015 when she commented on the death of civil rights activist Julian Bond, saying: “All these black people are just trouble”.
The video featured in the player above is from an earlier version of this story.
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