By Neha Malhi
ATLANTA, GA – Three white men, who were found guilty of murdering 25-year-old Black man Ahmaud Arbery, were sentenced to life in prison, two without the possibility of parole, by a Georgia judge Friday
Superior Court Judge Timothy R. Walmsley said. “Arbery was hunted down and shot in a callous killing that occurred because the defendants sought confrontations.” The judge later held a moment of silence in the court.
On Feb. 23, 2020, Arbery—who was out jogging—was shot by Gregory McMichael, 65, and Travis McMichael, 35, while chasing him with their pickups in a suburban community near Brunswick, GA.
Both father and son involved in shooting the defendant were arrested more than two months after the incidents, along with their neighbor who filmed the whole event.
The neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, was also sentenced to life in jail but will be eligible for parole after serving 30 years.
The Ahmaud Arbery case pushed a national debate on racial profiling and vigilantism. Prosecutors alleged “Travis McMichael used a racial epithet and expletive directed at Mr. Arbery as he lay on the ground.”
For her opening statement, lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski stated, “All three of these defendants did everything they did based on assumptions—not on facts, not on evidence.”
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said, “These men have chosen to lie and attack my son and his surviving family. They each have no remorse and do not deserve any leniency.”
In their defense, the defendants said they were “attempting to make a citizen’s arrest when they pursued Arbery.”
In court, Travis McMichael testified that “he was acting in self-defense because he fired only after Arbery, in his final moments, had lunged for him and his gun.”
Defense attorneys before the jury also argued that “Arbery was killed as he resisted a justified legal citizen’s arrest attempt and that three defendants sought to stop and detain him after he was seen running from a home under construction.”
Robert Rubin, an attorney for Travis McMichael, sought leniency on behalf of his client and stated that there was “no evidence of a soul so blackened as to deserve to spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Although lead prosecutor Dunikoski agreed to show leniency for Bryan, she urged stricter sentences for the McMichaels and stated there was “no remorse and certainly no empathy.”
While giving a verdict, Judge Walmsley said, “We are all accountable for our own actions. Sometimes, in today’s day and age, that statement is lost upon many…Today demonstrates that everybody is accountable to the rule of law. Taking the law into your hands is a dangerous endeavor.”
All the civil rights activists involved in the case said, “The case represented a landmark victory against racism in the criminal justice system,” after hearing the verdict.