BRUNSWICK, Georgia – As the first verdict was read by the judge – Travis McMichael, guilty of the malicious murder of Ahmaud Arbery – cheers from Arbery’s father were heard in the courtroom. In the overflow room where people were watching the verdicts live, cheers erupted. People hugged and cried as MPs called for order.
As each verdict was read, onlookers in the next room tried to contain their excitement, silently raising their fists, nodding and kissing. Some applauded softly.
A total of 27 verdicts were rendered, nine for each accused. Travis McMichael, who fired the shots, was convicted of all nine counts, including malicious murder. Her father, Gregory McMichael, was found not guilty of murder with meanness, and guilty of murder and seven other counts. Their neighbor, William “Roddie Bryan”, who videotaped the murder, was convicted of three counts of murder and three other counts.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, sobbed and kept saying, “We’ve finally got justice.”
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The mood among Arbery family supporters was exuberant and emotional outside the courthouse, where crowds were waiting for family members and prosecutors to speak. They chanted Arbery’s name and applauded behind the barricades.
Inside, Travis McMichael said “I love you” to his crying mother, Leigh McMichael.
“I’m floored, floored with a capital ‘F’,” Laura Hogue, one of Gregory McMichael’s attorneys, told Leigh McMichael as she sat in the courtroom gallery as the room turned. emptying around her, her face red with tears.
Lawyer Bob Rubin said Travis McMichael was “stoic” after the verdict was read. “He’s a strong man. He understood the potential consequences. Whatever he felt he was holding back, ”Rubin said.
“It’s a very difficult day for Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael. These are two men who honestly thought what they were doing was the right thing to do, ”said Jason Sheffield, another defense lawyer.
“This is a very disappointing and sad verdict,” he said, adding: “But we also recognize that this is a day of celebration for the Arbery family.”
People who had watched in the overflow room spilled out into the hallway, where many cried and hugged the family. Arbery’s aunt, Theawanza Brooks, removed a jacket to reveal a bright orange shirt that read “State Penitentiary,” with the photos of the defendants on the back as she stepped out in front of the rest of the crowd.
The courthouse was surrounded by media and supporters holding “Justice for Ahmaud” signs, featuring Arbery smiling in a baseball cap that prosecutors presented in court, and waving flags.
The crowd chanting Arbery’s name and ‘no justice, no peace’ fell silent as Arbery’s parents and Reverend Al Sharpton addressed them, then clapped again at the end.
“It was a long fight. It was a tough fight. But God is good, “Cooper-Jones told the crowd.” To tell you the truth, I never saw that day in 2020. I never thought that day would come. But God is good. “
As prosecutor Linda Dunikoski approached the microphone, the crowd cheered and called her “Aunt Linda”.
“The jury system works in this country and when you present the truth to people and they can see it, they will do the right thing. And that’s what this jury did today to get justice for Ahmaud Arbery, ”she said.
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Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud Arbery’s father, thanked supporters for “coming together” to do justice.
“We have defeated this mob of lynchings. We have this lynching mob, ”he said.
Onlookers said the verdicts were a “step in the right direction”.
Nadirah Young, 24, said she rushed to the courthouse after hearing news of the verdict at home. She said after watching the trial she didn’t expect the jury to find the McMichaels and Bryan guilty.
“I am amazed,” she said. “Right now, it’s just emotion. Very emotional. “
Sherine McKenzie, who was also in the crowd, called the guilty verdicts “relief.”
“I think as minorities we feel like we’re slipping through the cracks all the time. And when will that time end? “Said McKenzie.” At least in Brunswick, Georgia, that time is today. “
Carolyn Ruff, from Chicago, said she traveled to Brunswick from Kenosha, Wis., Where she attended the trial proceedings of Kyle Rittenhouse, who was found not guilty last week of murder and other charges after shooting and killing two men during a racial justice protest last summer.
Standing in front of a table set by protesters filled with snacks and a portrait of Arbery, Ruff said it was his “duty” to be there. Upon reading the verdicts, Ruff said she could no longer breathe.
“I was overwhelmed with joy,” she said. “I was jumping, I was screaming, I was doing everything. “
The crowd in front of the courthouse quickly began a march towards downtown Brunswick. They stopped at a fresco by Arbery. Dozens of people marched chanting “Whose streets?” Our streets ”, before returning to the courthouse.
A speaker reminded the crowd that the convicted murderers also face federal hate crimes and other charges related to Arbery’s death. This trial will begin in February.
The McMichaels and Bryans’ sentencing date has yet to be announced. They all face life imprisonment.
Contribution: Grace Hauck, USA TODAY