BRUNSWICK, Georgia – A jury on Wednesday found three white Georgia men guilty of a series of charges in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery early last year – a verdict carrying the minimum sentence of life in prison.
Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan each faced a total of nine counts: one count of murder with meanness, four counts of criminal murder, two counts of assault serious, one count of forcible confinement and one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
The jury declared Travis McMichael, who shot Arbery, guilty on all counts. Gregory McMichael was found guilty on all counts except malicious murder. Bryan was convicted of six of the nine counts, including three counts of murder.
Defense attorneys argued that the men are not guilty of all the charges because they were attempting to arrest a citizen and Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense. But prosecutors argued that the three men pursued and killed Arbery because they saw a black man walk through their small coastal neighborhood on February 23, 2020.
Although prosecutors did not explicitly claim racism motivated the murder, federal authorities charged them with hate crimes, alleging they hunted down and killed Arbery because he was black. This case is expected to be tried in February.
The verdict:Jury finds 3 white men guilty of murder in fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery
Here’s what these fees mean:
Criminal murder and malicious murder
Georgia does not have murder degrees but has malicious and felony killings.
Under Georgian law, malicious murder refers to the moment when someone causes the death of another person “unlawfully and with premeditation, whether express or implied”.
Express malice involves a “deliberate intention” to take the life of another human being. Malice is implied when the murder is not provoked and “all the circumstances of the murder show a forsaken and malignant heart.”
Murder is when a person causes the death of another person by committing a crime. To be convicted of murder, the person must be convicted of the underlying crime.
Prosecutors say the men committed four crimes: two counts of aggravated assault, one count of forcible confinement and one count of criminal attempt to carry out forcible confinement. The men therefore faced four counts of murder.
Aggravated assault and forcible confinement
The first count of aggravated assault was “with a gun, a lethal weapon”. That’s when Travis pointed a 12-gauge shotgun at Arbery, prosecutors said.
The second count was assault with “an object, apparatus and instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is capable of causing serious bodily harm”. It was then that Arbery was assaulted with the two vans, prosecutors said.
The judge told the jury on Tuesday that for aggravated assault, “the actual harm to the alleged victim does not need to be demonstrated.”
Prosecutors say the men committed false imprisonment when they violated Arbery’s personal freedom by confining and detaining him without legal authorization, using their vans. Because they tried to detain him on a different street, they were also charged with one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, prosecutors said.
According to the judge, these were the conditions for arresting a citizen at the time Arbery was shot:
- A person can arrest a citizen when an offense is committed in his presence or “with his immediate knowledge”. Or, on the basis of “reasonable and probable grounds for suspicion”, if the crime is a felony and the suspect escapes or attempts to escape.
- The arrest of a citizen cannot be based on “unsubstantiated statements by others”.
- This must happen immediately after the violation.
- A person cannot use “excessive force or an illegal degree of force” during the arrest.
- A person placed under unlawful arrest by a citizen “has the right to resist arrest with reasonably necessary force”.
Prosecutors argued that the defendants did not immediately know Arbery had committed a crime, but instead made assumptions based on neighborhood rumors.
They also said none of the defendants told Arbery or the police that they were attempting to arrest a citizen that day. However, Judge Timothy Walmsley tells the jury that a citizen arrest can be made even if the suspect is not informed that he is under arrest.
In Georgia, a person can threaten or use lethal force if they reasonably believe it is necessary to protect themselves or another person from “imminent” death or serious injury or to prevent the commission of a “crime. strength “.
Although Arbery was unarmed when he was killed, defense lawyers argued that he could have used his fists as a weapon. Walmsley told jurors that a person can use their fist to commit aggravated assault, which would be considered a “forced crime.”
Walmsley said a person cannot claim self-defense if they are committing a crime, instigating another person to use force or if they are the “unwarranted initial aggressor” during the encounter.
“A person who is not the aggressor does not have to retreat,” Walmsley said.
The minimum sentence is life imprisonment. It is up to the judge to decide whether it comes with or without the possibility of parole. Even if the possibility of parole is granted, a person convicted of murder must serve a sentence of 30 years before becoming eligible.
What the jury decided
The almost all-white jury found Travis McMichael guilty on all counts.
The jury said Gregory McMichael was not guilty of malicious murder, meaning McMichael did not deliberately intend to kill Arbery or had “a forsaken and clever heart.”
Jurors said Bryan was also not guilty of malicious murder. They also found Bryan not guilty of the first count of assault, where Travis McMichael pointed a shotgun at Arbery. This means Bryan wasn’t guilty of murder on that count either.
However, jurors have still found Bryan guilty of the other three crimes and, therefore, guilty of murder.
When is the penalty?
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley did not immediately set a sentencing date.
The sentence for criminal murder and malicious murder is the same, and the minimum sentence is life imprisonment. It is up to the judge to decide whether it comes with or without the possibility of parole. Even if the possibility of parole is granted, a person convicted of murder must serve a sentence of 30 years before becoming eligible.
Prosecutors have not called for the death penalty in this case.
Each count of aggravated assault carries a prison sentence of at least one year but not more than 20 years. Kidnapping is punishable by a sentence of one to 10 years in prison.
Lawyers for the defendants told reporters they intended to appeal.
Contribution: The Associated Press