A jury in the US state of Georgia has found three white men guilty of murder in the 2020 killing of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery after a nearly two-week trial.
The men face a minimum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole. US President Joe Biden said after the guilty verdict was announced that it “ensures those who committed this horrible crime will be punished.”
Arbery was jogging in a mostly white neighborhood in the Georgian port city of Brunswick in February last year when he was fatally shot.
Gregory McMichael, 65, a retired police officer and his son Travis, 35, grabbed guns and chased Arbery, who was unarmed, in a pickup truck and shot the 25-year-old. Neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, recorded cellphone video as he joined them in the pursuit.
The men claimed they had killed the unarmed jogger in self-defense.
After the verdicts were announced, Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr, was seen crying and hugging supporters outside the courtroom.
“He didn’t do nothing,” the father said, “but run and dream.”
Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said the three men had “no badge, no uniform, no authority” and were “just some strange guys in a white pickup truck.”
She also cited their own words to police immediately after the shooting, when they said they saw Arbery running but were not sure if he had committed a crime.
“You can’t make a citizen’s arrest because someone’s running down the street and you have no idea what they did wrong,” Dunikoski said.
Dunikoski said that the defense was seeking to blame Arbery for his own death.
“Standard stuff: malign the victim, it’s the victim’s fault,” Dunikoski told the jury. “You can’t claim self-defense if you are the unjustified aggressor,” she told jurors in her closing arguments. “Who started this? It wasn’t Ahmaud Arbery.”
The jury, which consists of 11 white jurors and one Black juror, was selected following a two-and-a-half-week selection process and included summoning 1,000 prospective jurors from the South Georgia coastal community.
Prosecutors said that the defense purposely disqualified potential Black jurors based on race.
Judge Timothy Walmsley, who is overseeing the case, said on Wednesday that the court found that there appears to have been “intentional discrimination” in the jury selection.
However, the judge said the case could go forward with the selected jury as the defense was able to provide valid reasons beyond race for why the other Black jurors were dismissed.
*Murder caught on video*
A graphic video of the shooting of Arbery went viral on social media following his murder.
It took police more than two months after the murder to arrest the McMichaels and Bryan, fueling outcry across the country and prompting Arbery’s lawyers to say the 25-year-old had been racially profiled.
Three months after the murder of Arbery, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was murdered by a white police officer in the midwestern state of Minnesota, sparking nationwide Black Lives Matters protests against widespread racial injustice and police violence against African-Americans.