Ahmaud Arbery trial: all three white men found guilty of murder

Black man was killed while jogging through a mostly white Georgia neighbourhood, bringing about a call for racial justice

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All three white men charged in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man killed while jogging, were found guilty on Wednesday.

Arbery's killing became part of a larger national reckoning in the US on racial injustice after the graphic video of his death circulated online.

Travis McMichael, the man who pulled the trigger, was found guilty on all nine counts including malice murder.

His father, Gregory McMichael, was found guilty on four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.

William "Roddie" Bryan, their neighbour, was found guilty on three counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.

All three men face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

The Department of Justice has also charged the men with federal hate crimes.

Outside the courthouse, civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton stood flanked by Arbery’s parents where he began by thanking the lawyers, prosecutors and the activists who showed up and marched.

“Let us thank the activists that you all called the mob that marched and stood up,” said Rev Sharpton.

“This one will go down in history as the one that proved that if you hang on, that justice can come. Let the word go out all over the world that a jury of 11 whites and one black come out in the Deep South, go up into court and say that black lives do matter.”

Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said her son can finally rest in peace.

“I thought this day would never come, but God is good. You all know him as Ahmaud but I call him Quez … Now Quez can rest in peace," she said.

Ms Cooper-Jones looked up and appeared to say a silent prayer as Judge Timothy Walmsley read out the verdicts on Wednesday afternoon.

“I thought this day would never come, but God is good. You all know him as Ahmaud but I call him Quez … Now Quez can rest in peace
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud Arbery's mother

As the first guilty verdict was read aloud, she sobbed aloud.

Her head sank on to her chest as she wept, with Rev Sharpton gripping her hand. Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud's father, leapt up and cheered.

Sheriff's deputies came over and told him he had to leave.

"It's been a long time coming," Mr Arbery said as he left.

In a statement, President Joe Biden said that the US still has work to do to commit itself to racial justice.

"Ahmaud Arbery’s killing – witnessed by the world on video – is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country," Mr Biden said.

"While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the colour of their skin."

Prominent civil rights lawyer Ben Crump said Arbery's family "finally has some justice".

"Nothing will bring back Ahmaud, but his family will have some peace knowing that the man who killed him will remain behind bars and can never inflict their brand of evil on another innocent soul," Mr Crump said in a statement.

During the trial, defence laywer Kevin Gough strenuously objected to the presence of Rev Sharpton, Rev Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III, whom Mr Gough misidentified as Martin Luther King Jr, his deceased father.

He also tried and failed to prevent "high-profile African Americans" from sitting with Ms Cooper-Jones.

"We don't want any more black pastors coming in here," Mr Gough said.

That same day, he questioned what would happen "if a bunch of folks came in here dressed like Colonel Sanders with white masks sitting in the back" — apparently equating African-American civil rights and faith leaders to the Ku Klux Klan. The judge admonished the remark as "reprehensible".

Defence lawyers argued the McMichaels were performing a legal citizen's arrest when they went after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.

The younger McMichael argued that he had acted in self-defence, saying the jogger attacked him with fists and tried to take his gun.

Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.

Prosecutors argued that the defendants could not claim self-defence since they initiated contact while committing a string of felonies against Arbery.

Agencies contributed to this report

A jury found three Georgia men guilty of murder in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man whom the trio pursued and confronted after seeing Arbery running in their neighborhood in 2020. AP Graphic
Updated: November 26, 2021, 3:46 AM