Under Georgia law, the only question before Judge Timothy Walmsley as the sentencing hearing began in Glynn County Superior Court in Brunswick was whether to allow any of the three men to seek parole after 30 years.
A jury found Gregory McMichael, 66, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, guilty in late November of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony. read more
Arbery’s anguished relatives addressed the court to argue that racial stereotyping led to the killing of the 25-year-old avid jogger. Defense lawyers pleaded leniency, saying none of the three men ever intended for Arbery to be killed.
Linda Dunikoski, the lead prosecutor, argued that the two McMichaels should die in prison as punishment for the killing, which sparked national outrage and helped fuel daily protests against racism in the criminal justice system in 2020.
Only Bryan should be able to seek parole, Dunikoski said, pointing to what she called “a demonstrated pattern of vigilantism” by the McMichaels, whom she said had shown no remorse.
Jasmine Arbery addressed the court in a quavering voice to offer a poetic celebration of her brother’s Blackness, which she said was mistaken for something frightening by his murderers.
“He had dark skin that glistened in the sunlight like gold. He had curly hair; he would often like to twist it. He had a broad nose and the color of his eyes was filled with melanin,” she said. “These are the qualities that made these men assume Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal. To me, those qualities reflected a young man full of life and energy who looked like me and the people I love.”
Bob Rubin, a lawyer for the younger McMichael, saying life without parole should be reserved only for “the worst of the worst.”
“His goal was not to commit a crime that day or kill somebody that day,” Rubin said of Travis McMichael. “His goal was to have a family afternoon.”
Laura Hogue, another defense attorney, said that, his murder conviction notwithstanding, the elder McMichael “remains a man of goodness.”
Lawyers for all three men have said they will appeal the convictions. All three men also face a federal trial in February on hate-crime charges, accused in an indictment of violating Arbery’s civil rights by attacking him because of his “race and color.” read more
Arbery, a 25-year-old avid jogger, was running through the mostly white residential neighborhood of Satilla Shores on the afternoon of Feb. 23 when the McMichaels decided to grab their guns, jump in a pickup truck and give chase. The younger McMichael would later testify to the jury they had a hunch Arbery might be fleeing a crime and argue that he fired only in self defense.
Bryan joined the chase in his own pickup truck after it passed his driveway, and pulled out his cellphone to record Travis McMichael firing a shotgun at Arbery at close range. Arbery had nothing on him besides his running clothes and sneakers.
“They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community,” Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, told the court. “When they couldn’t sufficiently scare him or intimidate him, they killed him.”
Bryan’s video caused outrage when it emerged months later and it became clear that none of the men involved had yet been arrested after a local prosecutor concluded the killing was justified.
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