Three men convicted of murdering black jogger Ahmaud Arbery

Georgia jury rejects self-defence claim in trial that probed divisive issues of race and guns

Three white men were convicted of murder on Wednesday for chasing and shooting Ahmaud Arbery as the black man ran through their neighbourhood, with a Georgia jury rejecting a self-defence claim in a trial that once again probed America's divisive issues of race and guns.

The verdicts were delivered by the jury, consisting of one black man and 11 white men and women, after about a two-week trial in the coastal city of Brunswick in a case that hinged on whether the defendants had a right to confront the unarmed 25-year-old avid jogger last year on a hunch he was fleeing a crime.

Gregory McMichael (65) his son Travis McMichael (35) and their neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan (52) were found guilty of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony. They face a minimum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Jurors reached their verdicts on the second day of deliberations.


President Joe Biden said the convictions showed that America's criminal justice system is "doing its job", though the killing was "a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country".

“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,” Mr Biden said in a statement.

There was never any dispute that the younger McMichael fired his pump-action shotgun three times at Arbery at close range on February 23rd, 2020, in the suburban community of Satilla Shores. It was captured on a graphic cellphone video made by Bryan, stoking outrage when it emerged more than two months later and the public learned that none of the three men had been arrested.

Defence lawyers had cited a Georgia law that allowed anyone to make a citizen’s arrest of individuals they have reasonable suspicion are fleeing a serious crime they committed, though the jury ultimately rejected that defence. The law was repealed in the wake of Arbery’s killing.

Pick-up trucks

Lawyers for the McMichaels argued that the killing was justified after Arbery ran past the McMichaels’ driveway in a neighbourhood that had experienced a spate of property thefts. Both McMichaels grabbed their guns and jumped in their pick-up truck in pursuit, with Bryan, unarmed, joining moments later.

Prosecutors said the defendants had “assumed the worst” about a black man out on a Sunday afternoon jog. He was chased by the defendants for about five minutes around the looping streets.

Arbery's name was added to those invoked in nationwide anti-racism protests in 2020 that erupted after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both of whom were black.

“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. But God is good,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said outside the courthouse. “He will now rest in peace.”

Earlier, her head sunk into her chest as she wept upon hearing the verdict, with civil rights activist the Rev Al Sharpton gripping her hand. Arbery's father Marcus Arbery leapt up and cheered.

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

In reacting to the verdict, Marcus Arbery later told reporters, “We conquered the lynch mob.”

Outside the courthouse, a crowd of more than 100 people gathered and cheered yelling “justice” and “yes” as the verdicts were read, some waving flags including one for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Travis McMichael, looking red-faced, turned as he stood to leave the courtroom and mouthed “love you” to his mother, Leigh.

"I'm floored, floored with a capital 'F,'" Laura Hogue, one of Gregory McMichael's lawyers, said in the courtroom.

The three men face a federal trial next year on hate-crime charges, accused in an indictment of violating Arbery’s civil rights by embarking on the fatal chase because of his “race and colour”.

Wednesday's verdict followed a jury's acquittal last Friday in another closely watched trial of an 18-year-old named Kyle Rittenhouse who fatally shot two men during racial justice protests in Wisconsin. – Reuters