Ahmaud Arbery Family Lawyer Reacts To Guilty Verdict
“It really gives us hope for America when you think about this jury with 11 white members and one Black member being able to focus in on the evidence, this horrific killing, and not be distracted by all the dog whistles and racial rhetoric,” says Arbery family attorney Ben Crump.
While legal scholars say the system worked as intended — this time — many hope the trial of the three white men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery will place greater attention to the entire judicial process, not just policing.
Travis and Greg McMichael, a father and son, along with their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, were convicted Wednesday on 23 of 27 counts, including all nine charged to Travis. He fired the fatal shots at close range after the trio pursued Arbery through their suburban Georgia neighborhood.
The encounter was partially recorded on cell phone video captured by Bryan.
“This was a lynching in broad daylight that would have been perfectly okay,” said Justin Hansford, a Howard University law professor. “If it wasn’t for video footage and protests, these people would have walked scot-free.”
Defense attorneys for the McMichaels argued their clients had a duty to protect their neighborhood and were within their legal right to detain Arbery citing a Civil War-era citizen’s arrest law, which was repealed earlier this year.
The white men, suspecting Arbery was behind a string of burglaries in the area, pursued him as he jogged through Satilla Shores, a neighborhood outside Brunswick, Ga. On the day of the encounter no one witnessed him doing anything nefarious and he was unarmed.
Still, a defense lawyer told jurors Travis McMichael was justified in using lethal force because his client feared for his life when he and Arbery tussled over the shotgun. McMichael said he was trying to avoid violence when he pointed the weapon in Arbery’s direction as a “show of force” to “deescalate” the situation.
The jury did not buy it, convicting the younger McMichael with the most serious charge: malice murder, the deliberate intention to kill someone.
“The defendants never witnessed a crime. They have no immediate knowledge of a crime. Mr. Arbery was not an aggressor. He hadn't committed a felony,” said Ira Robbins, a professor at American University Washington College of Law.
“There was no citizen’s arrest and therefore, no self-defense. Instead all there was was a totally unjustified murder as a result of vigilante justice,” Robbins said.
Outside the courthouse in the aftermath of the verdict, lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski was succinct.
“The verdict today was a verdict based on the facts,” 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 jury convicted all 3 defendants, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan of murdering Ahmaud Arbery and now face life in prison. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones exclaimed, “I never thought this day would come…he will now rest in eace.” NBC correspondent Sam Brock reports for TODAY from the Glynn County courthouse.