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Guilty Verdicts in Ahmaud Arbery Case
By Dr. Valerie Wardlaw, Contributing Writer
Published November 24, 2021

Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery with Al Sharpton and Lee Merritt
Credit: Reuters/Marco Bello

After more than 11 hours of deliberation and eight days of testimony, a nearly all-white jury in the seaside town of Brunswick, Ga., have brought back guilty verdicts for all three men charged in the shooting death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.  Travis McMichael, 35; Gregory McMichael, 65, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, face sentences of up to life in prison.  Glynn County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley will decide if those convictions come with or without the possibility of parole.  Judge Walmsley did not immediately schedule a sentencing date.

Each man faced nine counts:  one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count each of false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony murder.  While all three men faced a charge of “malice murder,” only one man, Travis McMichael was convicted on that charge.  In finding Travis McMichael who fatally shot Mr. Arbery in February 2020, guilty of malice murder, the 12 jurors found that he deliberately intended to kill Mr. Arbery. McMichael was found guilty on all nine counts, including malice murder, and four counts of felony murder.

Gregory McMichael, a former police officer and father of Travis McMichael was found guilty on all charges except the most serious charge of malice murder.  William “Roddie” Bryan, who recorded the video of the killing, was also acquitted of malice murder but was convicted on three of the four counts of felony murder, one of the two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony.  The judge polled each juror after the reading of the verdict, asking if they stood by their decision and each juror replied, “yes”.

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Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said today’s result seemed unimaginable in the months after her son’s death, “To tell you the truth, I never saw this day back in 2020.  I never thought this day would come, but God is good.  Thank you – thank you for those who marched, those who prayed. Now Quez, – you know him as Ahmaud, but I called him Quez, he will now rest in peace.”   Arbery’s father, Marcus Abery Sr., was removed from the courtroom as the verdict was read after he shouted out “long time coming.”  Of the outburst, Ben Crump, an attorney for the Arbery family said, “He could not contain it any further.  Think about how long he and Wanda have been enduring all the innuendo, all the allegations, and all the character assassinations.  Just imagine all they went through.”

After the verdict, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said, “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.  The verdict today was a verdict based on the facts.  Based on the evidence.  That was our goal, to bring to that jury so that they could do the right thing.”

Wanda Cooper-Jones, Marcus Arbery Sr., (father of Ahmaud), and Attorney Ben AP Pool

The jurors returned to court earlier today and requested to see the videos of the shooting of Arbery and to listen to the 911 call one of the defendants made from the bed of a pickup truck about 30 seconds before the shooting.  On that call, Gregory McMichael is heard telling the 911 operator, ”I’m out here in Satilla Shores.  There’s a Black male running down the street.”  McMichael is  also heard telling Arbery, “stop right there!  Damn it, stop!  Travis!”  Gunshots can be heard a few seconds later.  Travis McMichael tried to convince the jury that he shot Arbery in self-defense and both father and son contended that they were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest because they believed he was a suspected burglary.  Today, the jurors rejected those claims.

The Rev. Al Sharpton whose presence throughout the trial drew the ire of  defense counsel led a prayer of thanks outside the courtroom, saying, “we’ve never had a Thanksgiving Day like today.  “Let the word go out all over the world that a jury of 11 whites and one Black in the deep South stood up in the courtroom and said Black lives do matter.” William Arbery, uncle of Ahmaud, reflecting on his own nickname of ‘sweetness,” said the convictions were just that – “sweet.”

In a statement, President Joe Biden said Arbery’s killing was “devasting reminder of how much more work the country has to do in the fight for racial justice.”  Vice President Kamala Harris said Arbery, “was a son.  He was a brother.  He was a friend.  His life had meaning.  We will not forget him.  We honor him best by continuing the fight for justice.  The jury rendered its verdicts, and the three defendants were found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.  Still, we feel the weight of that grief.  Ahmaud Arbery should be alive, and nothing can take away the pain that his mother Wanda Cooper-Jones, his father Marcus Arbery, and the entire Arbery family and community feel today.  I share in that pain.”

 

Full breakdown of the verdict:

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Count 1:  Malice Murder

Travis McMichael:  Guilty

Gregory McMichael:  Not Guilty

William “Roddie” Bryan:  Not Guilty

 

Count 2:  Felony Murder

Travis McMichael:  Guilty

Gregory McMichael:  Guilty

William “Roddie” Bryan:  Not Guilty

 

Count 3:  Felony Murder

Travis McMichael:  Guilty

Gregory McMichael:  Guilty

William “Roddie” Bryan:  Guilty

 

Count 4:  Felony Murder

Travis McMichael:  Guilty

Gregory McMichael:  Guilty

William “Roddie” Bryan:  Guilty

 

Count 5:  Felony Murder

Travis McMichael:  Guilty

Gregory McMichael:  Guilty

William “Roddie” Bryan:  Guilty

 

Count 6:  Aggravated Assault

Travis McMichael:  Guilty

Gregory McMichael:  Guilty

William “Roddie” Bryan:  Guilty

 

Count 7:  Aggravated Assault

Travis McMichael:  Guilty

Gregory McMichael:  Guilty

William “Roddie” Bryan:  Guilty

 

Count 8:  False Imprisonment

Travis McMichael:  Guilty

Gregory McMichael:  Guilty

William “Roddie” Bryan:  Guilty

 

Count 9:  Criminal Attempt to Commit a Felony

Travis McMichael:  Guilty

Gregory McMichael:  Guilty

William “Roddie” Bryan:  Guilty

 

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