Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael & William ‘Roddie’ Bryan found guilty in the shooting murder of black man, Ahmaud Arbery. Face life in prison.
Travis McMichael, 35, of Brunswick was found guilty on the charge of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
His father, Gregory McMichael, 65, also of Brunswick, was found guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
He was found not guilty of malice murder.
Neighbor, William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, 52, also standing on trial and who had trailed the father and son and shot video of the man’s murder, was found guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
‘Life or death decision’
He was found not guilty of malice murder and one count each of felony murder and aggravated assault. Defense attorneys for the man insisted Bryan was ‘was armed only with a cellphone’ and did not know that the McMichaels had a weapon when he joined the chase.
All three men face life in prison.
The verdict comes after 10 days of testimony in which the mostly-white jury panel was shown widely seen cellphone videos taken by Bryan of the shooting.
Jurors during the trial heard from more than two dozen witnesses – including gunman Travis McMichael, the only defendant to take the witness stand, who claimed having to make a ‘life-or-death’ decision to shoot Arbery as he grabbed his gun.
Jurors were also exhibited with evidence photos, police body camera video, autopsy reports and more.
All three men, father and son and their neighbor had pleaded not guilty to charges including murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment for the killing in the coastal suburb of Satilla Shores on Feb. 23, 2020.
The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a fleeing burglar when they armed themselves and jumped in a pickup truck to chase him.
Reasonable and probable suspicion
Bryan joined the pursuit when they passed his house and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range with a shotgun as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for the weapon.
During the trial, the prosecution sought to prove the defendants had wrongly assumed the worst about Arbery and sought to rebut arguments that they were attempting a valid citizen’s arrest, which required that someone have ‘reasonable and probable’ suspicion that a person is fleeing a serious crime they committed.
‘They made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a black man running down the street,’ Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said during her closing arguments according to the dailymail.
They killed him ‘not because he’s a threat to them, but because he wouldn’t stop and talk to them,’ she alleged.
The state claimed there was no evidence Arbery had committed crimes in the defendants’ neighborhood.
Defense attorneys contend the McMichaels were attempting a legal citizen´s arrest when they set off after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.
Of note, it wasn’t until a video of the fatal shooting was publicly released weeks later that Arbery’s killers were arrested or charged, with all three men allowed to walk free for several weeks after the shooting – positing the question, would any charges have been levied had Bryan’s video not seen the light of day…
During trial testimony, Travis McMichael testified that he shot Arbery in self-defense, saying the running man (who by now was fleeing the trio of three men chasing him) turned and attacked with his fists while running past the idling truck where Travis McMichael stood with his shotgun.
Defense attorney, Jason Sheffield, said his client had ‘reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion’ to follow the 25-year-old in his truck because he believed he was a burglar.
He added that although Arbery was not armed with a weapon, Travis McMichael said he had reached into his shirt as if for a weapon, and he was also armed with his fists.
‘Travis felt something is not right…Aggravated assault is a felony that can be committed by the use of fists. Fists are a weapon. And right now as Ahmaud Arbery is running towards Travis McMichael he could have a gun and he definitely has fists,’ Sheffield said.
On a 911 call the jury reviewed on day two of deliberations, Gregory McMichael told an operator: ‘I’m out here in Satilla Shores. There’s a Black male running down the street.’
He then starts shouting, apparently as Arbery is running toward the McMichael’s idling truck with Bryan’s truck coming up behind him: ‘Stop right there! Damn it, stop! Travis!’ Gunshots can be heard a few second later.
Told Sheffield in his closing statement in part, ‘You are allowed to defend yourself. You are allowed to use force that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if you believe it’s necessary. At that moment Travis, believed it is necessary.’
Arbery’s killing became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice after the graphic video of his death leaked online two months later and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, quickly arresting the three men. Each of them were charged with murder and other crimes.
Racial profiling and injustice
The 25-year-old had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing at the time to study to become an electrician like his uncles.
Told civil rights attorney Ben Crump following following the completion of trial proceedings: ‘They capture him and then they kill him. And the only question that remains is, is this jury going to give us a Jim Crow verdict? Or are they going to say in 2021 America we must be better than this?’
Crump, who has previously represented the families of George Floyd and Michael Brown, said Arbery did nothing to provoke Gregory McMichael, 65, his gunman son Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor William ‘Roddy’ Brian, 52, before the fatal chase in February last year.
‘It harkens back to a Jim Crow-era type killing,’ Crump added. ‘You have a young black man who is minding his business and then ordinary white citizens suspect that they believe he’s done something criminal.
‘And instead of calling the police, instead of giving him his due process, they go out and they take the law into their own hands.’
Adding, ‘We have a visual of everything that happened as he [Arbery] ran for his life. And I think that sets us apart because we literally see a young black man get lynched in broad daylight and 2020.
‘If America can condone this, then all parents who have children of color, we can’t protect them and we can’t depend on the law to hold people accountable.
‘I looked at that video as a lawyer that then I looked at it as a black man who’s a parent of black children. And I said that we have to get justice in this matter. We have to get justice.’