Men convicted of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder face life imprisonment
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) – Three white men face conviction by a judge on Friday about six weeks after being convicted of murder for chasing after an Ahmaud Arbery running in vans, cutting off the escape from the unarmed black man and fatally detonating him with a shotgun.
The guilty verdicts handed down the day before Thanksgiving sparked a victory celebration outside the Glynn County courthouse for those who saw Arbery’s death as part of a larger national calculation on racial injustice .
Testimony in court will likely be more painful on Friday, when Arbery’s family members are expected to show their grief and loss to the judge before he imposes penalties on father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan.
Murder carries a mandatory life sentence under Georgian law, unless prosecutors seek the death penalty, which they opted for Arbery’s murder against. For Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley, the main decision will be to grant the defendants a possible chance to get parole.
Either choice amounts to a severe sentence. Even if the judge allows a possibility of parole, the McMichaels and Bryans will first have to serve at least 30 years in prison.
For Travis McMichael, 35, “it could make a significant difference,” said Page Pate, an Atlanta criminal defense attorney who is not involved in the case. “For the two older guys, that’s effectively a life sentence.”
Greg McMichael recently turned 66 and Bryan is 52.
The three men were also convicted of aggravated assault, forcible confinement and a criminal attempt to carry out forcible confinement. The maximum prison sentences for these counts range from five to 20 years. The judge was likely to allow these additional sentences to be served at the same time as the life sentences for murder.
The McMichaels seized guns and jumped into a van to pursue Arbery, 25, after spotting him running around their neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick in Georgia on February 23, 2020. Bryan joined the chase in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael firing close range shotguns at Arbery as he threw punches and grabbed the gun.
The murder went largely unnoticed until two months later, when the graphic video leaked online and sparked a nationwide uproar. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took the matter back to local police and quickly arrested the three men.
Defense attorneys argued the McMichaels were attempting the legal arrest of a citizen when they left after Arbery, seeking to arrest and question him after being seen fleeing a house under construction near.
Travis McMichael said he shot Arbery in self-defense. He said Arbery turned and attacked with his fists as he walked past the truck where McMichael was standing with his shotgun.
At the time of his death, Arbery was enrolled in technical college and was preparing to study to become an electrician like his uncles.
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 U.S. 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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