One at a time on Wednesday afternoon, Travis and Greg McMichael, the son and father, and William Bryan stood in the Glyn County courtroom to hear they had been convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. The self-defense measure that had saved Kyle Rittenhouse from conviction in Kenosha was ineffective for the men in Georgia.
The prosecutors had argued that the defendants, three white men, provoked the confrontation when the McMichaels’ grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck and pursued the 25-year-old Black man, running through the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick. Bryan followed behind them in his pickup truck and helped cut off Arbery, all the while recording the incident on his cellphone.
It was his video that would be critical evidence in their convictions, and on at least two occasions the jurors, with only one Black person, asked to view and to hear a 911 phone call. Along with self-defense stated that the men were merely attempting to make a citizens’ arrest, but this failed to persuade the jurors in bringing guilty verdicts on all nine counts to Travis, who fired the gun, and guilty charges on eight of nine counts against Gregory McMichael, and seven of nine against Bryan.
As Judge Timothy Walmsley polled each juror, the defendants sat stoically. They all agreed with the verdicts and they were later remanded into custody. No date has been established for sentencing but all three face the possibility of life in prison.
“This story—although devastating—is not new,” Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) and Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement to the press. “We’ve seen this play out repeatedly. Vigilantes acting with racial animus take the lives of Black men and boys, and claim self-defense when confronted with the consequences of their actions…Simply put,” she said of the defendants, “none of these criminals had any concrete knowledge Mr. Arbery committed any crime on the day they murdered him. Further, the vitriol and racist tropes invoked by the defense to justify their client (s) illegally detaining, filming, and committing murder were appalling and extremely offensive.”
Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. of New Jersey, echoed his leader declaring that “Anyone who saw the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder knows this is the correct verdict. I have been guilty of looking around a new construction being built. Automatically, a Black man must be stealing from the property rather than just being inquisitive. But even with this verdict, we still need to make the changes to society that would stop such senseless killings of African Americans nationwide. My condolences and prayers continue to go out to Mr. Arbery’s family and friends for their loss. But today, they know that justice was served and his killers will go to prison.”