A Georgia jury on Wednesday convicted three men – Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan – of the February 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
“The case touched on some of the most combustible themes in American criminal justice,” explains The New York Times “including vigilantism, self-defense laws, the effects of widespread gun ownership and the role of race in jury selection.”
The Associated Press explains the broad outlines of the murder:
The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue the 25-year-old Black man after seeing him running in their neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick in February 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.
The defendants said they suspected Arbery was fleeing a burglary; the former high school football star was simply out for a jog and had stopped to look around a construction site.
After being found guilty of murder, all three defendants now face up to life in prison. They face separate federal charges related to the killing.
“To tell you the truth, I never saw this day back in 2020,” Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, said after the verdict. “I never thought this day would come, but God is good. Thank you — thank you for those who marched, those who prayed.”
“You know him as Ahmaud, I know him as ‘Quez,’ he will now rest in peace,” she added.
“This is a very consequential day, not just for Ahmaud Arbery but for families all over America,” added Ben Crump, a lawyer who represents the Arbery family. “We have to show that America must be better than what we saw in that video.”
“A jury of 11 whites and 1 black, in the Deep South, just stood up and said Black Lives Matter,” said Rev. Al Sharpton.
In a statement, President Joe Biden wrote:
While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin. My administration will continue to do the hard work to ensure that equal justice under law is not just a phrase emblazoned in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans.
The NAACP added:
The actions and events perpetrated by the McMichaels and William Bryan leading up to Ahmaud’s death reflect a growing and deepening rift in America that will be its undoing if not addressed on a systemic level. We must fix what is genuinely harming our nation: white supremacy. To address and begin to repair the harm and trauma caused by centuries of racism, violence, and murder, we need stronger federal and state actions to address and eliminate outdated racist policies, like citizens’ arrest.
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