The three men who were already sentenced to life in prison in a state court for the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia were found guilty this morning of violating federal hate-crime statutes by a jury that determined that their actions in the killing were motivated by racial animus.
Travis McMichael, 36, his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, and their neighbor, William Bryan, 52 were also found guilty of attempted kidnapping, and the McMichaels were each found guilty on charges of discharging or brandishing a firearm in the course of a violent crime.
They now await sentencing in this second trial and face the possibility of second sentences of life in prison, practically ensuring that they will spend a significant portion of their futures incarcerated, no matter how any possible legal appeals may play out.
Defense attorneys for the trio attempted to convince the jury that the already-convicted armed pursuers who chased and shot Arbery were motivated by their belief that he was the person responsible for a series of thefts in their neighborhood and that racism played no part in their decision to hunt and kill the Black jogger in their town.
The prosecution, however, presented voluminous evidence of hatred and antagonism towards African-Americans by each of the men, including incidents that took place in the days and weeks before the shooting.
In amongst the evidence were text messages from William Bryan’s mobile phone using a racist epithet to describe his daughter’s Black boyfriend; Gregory McMichael’s discriminatory comments about an African-American tenant who rented a property from him and towards civil rights activist Julian Bond; and Travis McMichael’s oft-stated desire to see Black Americans be subjected to violence and death. Bobbi Bernstein, a prosecutor for the Justice Department, told the jury:
“At the end of the day, the evidence in this case will prove that if Ahmaud Arbery had been white, he would have gone for a jog, checked out a house under construction and been home in time for Sunday supper. Instead he went out for a jog, and he ended up running for his life. Instead he ended up bleeding to death, alone and scared, in the middle of the street.”
It was likely the sheer quantity of evidence that racial hatred was an integral part of these men’s psyches that led the jury to reach their guilty verdict after deliberating for only four hours. The emotionally-charged trial had several jurors in tears as they announced the verdict.
The three men had very little reaction as the guilty verdicts were read.
At least three jurors, however, were crying as the verdict was announced.
— Danae Bucci (@DanaeBucci) February 22, 2022
The verdict was seen as a victory for Arbery’s family who had opposed an earlier effort by the Justice Department prosecutors to settle the case in a plea deal, largely because the settlement would have allowed the convicted murderers to serve their sentences in the federal prison system, which is considered a considerably more comfortable destination than the Georgia state penitentiary system.
— Eric Perry (@Ericperrytv) February 22, 2022
The guilty verdict of the 3 murderers of Ahmaud Arbery of hate crimes is a precedent setting verdict. Even in the Deep South the Feds will convict you of hate actions. I salute Ahmaud’s parents for forcing the trial.
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) February 22, 2022
Civil rights leaders praised the verdict as a long-awaited serving of justice.
The tenacity, courage and determination of Wanda Cooper Jones, the mother of Ahmaud Arbery must be recognized and lauded. She was determined that this prosecution would move forward. https://t.co/1dovMgh3iF
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) February 22, 2022
While the verdict leads to a close in the case of one of the worst examples of racist violence perpetrated in our nation, it far from ends the search for equity and equality in American society as the racists emboldened by the presidency of Donald Trump and the GOP effort to roll back voting rights continue to threaten our progress to eliminate the scourge of discrimination and racial hatred.
We want to hear what YOU have to say. Scroll down and let us know in our comment section!
Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.