Arbery’s killers are sentenced to life in prison; no parole for father, son

BRUNSWICK, Georgia – Three white men convicted of murder for pursuing and killing Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced to life in prison on Friday, with a judge denying any chance of parole for the father and son who armed themselves and launched the murderous pursuit of 25 – 1 year old black man.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley said Arbery left his house to jog and ended up running for his life for five minutes as the men chased him until they finally cornered him . The judge paused for a minute of silence to help understand how that period must have felt for Arbery, whose murder has become part of a larger national calculation of racial injustice.

“When I thought about this, I thought from many different angles. I kept coming back to the terror that must have been in the mind of the young man walking through Satilla Shores, ”he said, mentioning the neighborhood where Arbery was killed.

Greg and Travis McMichael grabbed guns and jumped into a van to chase Arbery after spotting him running around their neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick on February 23, 2020. Their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan joined the chase in his own truck and a cell phone video of Travis McMichael firing close range shotguns at Arbery.

“Ahmaud Arbery was then hunted down and shot, and he was killed because individuals here in this courtroom took justice on their own,” the judge said. Walmsley ordered the McMichaels to serve a life sentence without parole and gave Bryan a chance at parole after serving at least 30 years in prison.

A few dozen supporters cheered on Arbery’s family as they stepped out onto the steps of the courthouse on Friday afternoon.

“Today your son has made history because we have people who are held responsible for the lynching of a black man in America! Said Benjamin Crump, a civil lawyer representing the family.

Murder carries a mandatory life sentence under Georgian law, unless prosecutors seek the death penalty, which they opted against in this case. At the sentencing hearing, Arbery’s family asked the judge not to be lenient in deciding whether to grant a possible parole option.

Arbery’s sister recalled his humor, describing him as a positive thinker with a great personality. She told the judge that her brother had “sun-glistening” dark skin, thick, curly hair and an athletic build, factors that made him a target for men chasing him.

“These are the qualities that made these men assume that Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal and pursue him with guns. To me, these qualities reflected a young man full of life and energy who looked like me and the people I loved, ”said Jasmine Arbery.

Arbery’s mother said she suffered intense personal loss made worse by a lawsuit where the defense was that her son made bad choices which led to his death.

“It was not a mistaken identity or a mistaken fact. They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community. They chose to treat him differently from other people who frequently visit their community, ”said Wanda Cooper-Jones. “And when they couldn’t scare or intimidate him enough, they killed him.”

The sentences matched the recommendation of prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, who said all deserved the mandatory life sentence for showing “no empathy for the trapped and terrified Ahmaud Arbery”.

Claiming that the McMichaels still believed they had done nothing wrong, Dunikoski revealed on Friday that Greg McMichael gave video of Bryan’s shooting to a lawyer, who leaked it.

“He believed it would exonerate him,” the prosecutor said.

Defense attorneys for the McMichaels argued that their clients deserved the possibility of parole because the murder was an unforeseen and unintentional act. Bryan’s attorney said he exhibited remorse and cooperated with police, turning video of the shooting on cell phones to help them uncover the truth.

“Sir. Bryan is not the one who brought a gun,” Kevin Gough said. “He was unarmed. And I think that reflects his intentions.

Bryan is 52 years old, which increases the chances that he will spend the rest of his life in prison even with the possibility of parole after serving 30 years.

The guilty verdicts against the men handed down the day before Thanksgiving sparked a victory celebration outside the Glynn County courthouse. In addition to the murder, the three men were also found guilty of aggravated assault, forcible confinement and criminal attempt to carry out forcible confinement. Travis and Greg McMichael were each sentenced to an additional 20 years for aggravated assault.

Defense lawyers said they plan to appeal the convictions. They have 30 days after conviction to drop them off.

Next month, the McMichaels and Bryans will face a second trial, this time in a United States district court, on federal hate crime charges. A judge has set the jury selection to begin on February 7. Prosecutors will argue that the three men violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him for being black.

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