Three men were convicted of hate crime charges in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery after a federal trial in which the government argued that they were motivated by racism when they fatally shot Arbery in February 2020.
Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan were also convicted of attempted kidnapping charges stemming from the murder.
Additionally, Travis McMichael was found guilty of brandishing and firing a firearm. Gregory McMichael was also found guilty of brandishing a firearm.
The jury of eight white people, three Black people and one Hispanic person came to an unanimous decision on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Brunswick, Georgia. Jurors began deliberating on Monday after prosecutors and the defense gave their closing arguments.
Prosecutors ended Monday’s closing statements arguing the three men, who are all white, associated Arbery’s “Black skin with criminality” when he was killed in broad daylight.
“They didn’t just make racial assumptions, they made racial decisions,” Christopher Perras, a special litigation counsel for the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, said.
On Feb. 1, U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood denied plea agreements reached between Gregory and Travis McMichael and the Department of Justice.
The McMichaels would have avoided a federal hate crimes trial. Instead, they would have been able to serve their first 30 years of their life sentence from the state murder in federal prison, where they would have avoided Georgia’s state prison conditions.
The plea agreements had no mention of Bryan.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors presented evidence of racist statements made by Travis McMichael, the man who fatally shot Arbery, in the years and months before Arbery was murdered. Amy Vaughn, an FBI intelligence analyst, testified about text messages where Travis McMichael made several racist comments toward Black people, as well as comments he made to friends on social media.
Travis McMichael referred to Black people as “subhuman savages” and responded to a video of a Black person with a firecracker saying he wished it blew “that f**king n****r’s head off.”
Prosecutors also displayed evidence of Bryan using racial slurs and condemning his daughter for dating a Black man. In one instance, Bryan said that his daughter has her a “n****r now,” and that the relationship had been causing strife between him and his daughter.
The racist messages and statements made by the men were key evidence throughout the trial, a stark contrast compared to the state murder trial that focused on whether or not the men committed murder when they killed Arbery.
All three men were convicted of felony murder in November and they were sentenced to life in prison in January. Bryan was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.
In 2020, Arbery’s killing sparked mass protests for months in major cities across America. A video recorded by Bryan that showed the murder spread throughout social media, sparking outrage.
The jury’s verdict comes just a day before the two-year anniversary of Arbery’s murder on Feb. 23, 2020. Prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump released a statement on unanimous decision made by jurors on Tuesday.
“Tomorrow marks two years since Ahmaud Arbery was stalked, trapped, and murdered in cold blood as he jogged through his Brunswick neighborhood. And today, after much sorrow, grief, and pain, Ahmaud’s family can finally put this chapter behind them. For the last 24 months, they’ve dedicated themselves to getting justice for their son,” Crump said in a statement.
“They’ve had to relive his brutal murder, watch and listen as he was demonized in court, and fight to share with the world who Ahmaud Arbery was and who he could have been had his young life not been so violently cut short.”
Crump went on to add that there was never any “doubt” that the McMichaels and Bryan chased and killed Arbery because he was Black. He said the prosecution “revealed to the world” what their views were through text messages, testimony and video evidence.
“Ahmaud Arbery was denied the opportunity to define his own legacy, but America, we have the power to ensure that it is one that propels our fight for equal justice and dispels hate from this world. That is how we continue to honor Ahmaud and make sure his death was not in vain.”