BRANSWIK, GA (AP) – A jury in a federal trial for hate crimes against three white men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbury has announced Tuesday that it has handed down a verdict.
The jury revealed that they had a decision on whether father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddy” Brian violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because he is black. All three were found guilty of murder in a Georgian state court and sentenced to life in prison for the deadly shooting. Judge Lisa Godby Wood said the verdict would be read out at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
McMichals grabbed a weapon and jumped into a pickup truck to chase Arbury, after seeing him running in their area outside the port city of Brunswick, Georgia in February 2020. Brian joined the chase in his pickup truck and recorded on his cell phone a video of Travis McMichael making deadly shots. . Arbury’s murder was part of a larger national calculation with racial injustice after a graphic video leaked online two months later.
McMichals and Brian pleaded not guilty to hate crimes. Lawyers claimed that the three did not chase Arbury or kill him because of his race, but acted on the basis of a serious, albeit erroneous, suspicion that Arbury had committed crimes in their neighborhood.
A panel of eight whites, three blacks and one Hispanic received the case Monday after a week-long trial in U.S. District Court in the port city of Brunswick. The jury announced a break for the night after about three hours of discussion and resumed the meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The trial ended on Monday when prosecutors said the murder of 25-year-old Arbery on a residential street was motivated by “restrained racial anger” revealed by e-mails from defendants and witnesses who testified they heard racist tirades and insults. .
“All three defendants have told you loud and clear in their own words that they are African Americans,” prosecutor Tara Lyons told jurors Monday.
Lawyers insisted that past racist statements by their clients yielded no evidence that they violated Arbery’s civil rights, and targeted him because he is black. They urged the jury to postpone their emotions.
“It’s natural for you to want retribution or revenge,” said Pete Theodosion, who represented William “Roddy” Brian. “But we have to lift ourselves up … even if it’s hard.”
The basic facts are not disputed. Arbury’s murder nearly two years ago, on February 23, 2020, was recorded in a video from a cell phone that caused widespread outrage. Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves after noticing Arbury running past their home and chasing him in a pickup truck. Brian joined the neighbors in his own truck and recorded a video in which Travis McMichael shoots at point-blank range.
Police found that Arber had no weapons or stolen items. Prosecutors said he was just jogging.
Travis McMichael’s lawyer, Amy Lee Copeland, told the jury that prosecutors had not provided any evidence that he had “ever spoken to anyone about Mr Arbery’s racially motivated death.” She said her client opened fire in self-defense after Arbury tried to take away his gun.
Greg McMichael’s lawyer, AJ Balba, claimed that his client initiated the chase not because Arbury was a black man, but because he was the “THAT man” McMichals saw in video from security cameras filmed from a nearby house, which under construction.
McMichals and Brian, convicted of murder last fall in a Georgian state court, pleaded not guilty to federal charges.
FBI agents found about two dozen racist text messages and messages on social media from McMichael and Brian in the years and months leading up to the shooting.
For example, in 2018, Travis McMichael commented on a Facebook video in which a black man pranks over a white man: “I would kill that devil.”
Some witnesses testified that they heard McMichael’s racist statements first hand. A woman who served under Travis McMichael in the U.S. Coast Guard ten years ago said he called her a “lover” after learning she was dating a black man. Another woman testified that Greg McMichael spoke angrily in 2015 when she noticed the death of civil rights activist Julian Bond, saying, “All these Negroes are nothing but trouble.”