Los Angeles Times

Likely appeals, federal hate crimes trial await killers


ATLANTA — The killing was captured on video and shared around the world: Ahmaud Arbery running toward and then around an idling pickup truck before its driver blasted him at close range with a shotgun.

Soon after Travis McMichael fatally shot Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020, his father, Greg McMichael, told police how the pair had armed themselves, chased the young Black man and trapped him “like a rat.” Neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan told officers he joined the pursuit and helped cut off Arbery’s escape.

After a 13-day trial at the Glynn County courthouse in coastal Georgia, a disproport­ionately white jury found the three white men guilty of murder. Each man was also convicted on lesser charges.

What were the charges?

A nine-count indictment charged all three men with one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonme­nt and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony, in this case false imprisonme­nt.

Travis McMichael was convicted of all nine charges. Greg McMichael was convicted of all charges except malice murder. Bryan was convicted of two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonme­nt and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony.

How much prison time?

Malice and felony murder conviction­s both carry a minimum penalty of life in prison. The judge decides whether that comes with or without the possibilit­y of parole. Even if the possibilit­y of parole is granted, a person convicted of murder must serve 30 years before becoming eligible. Multiple murder conviction­s are merged for the purposes of sentencing.

Murder can also be punishable by death in Georgia if the killing meets certain criteria and the prosecutor chooses to seek the death penalty. Prosecutor­s in this case did not.

Each count of aggravated assault carries a prison term of at least one year but not more than 20 years. False imprisonme­nt is punishable by a sentence of one to 10 years in prison.

When will they be sentenced?

That’s not clear yet. Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley will set a sentencing date.

Will there be appeals?

Appeals are almost certain in this case, said Ron Carlson, a University of Georgia professor emeritus of law.

One likely basis for appeal could be the exclusion of certain evidence from the trial, he said. Defense attorneys had sought to introduce evidence of Arbery’s criminal record, records on his mental health and the fact that he was on probation. They also wanted to have a use-of-force expert testify. But the judge ruled against admitting any of that evidence.

“They’ll argue that relevant evidence helpful to the defense was excluded by the trial judge and that was an error,” Carlson said.

It’s also possible that appellate attorneys could find other grounds for appeal after scouring transcript­s and jury instructio­ns, and speaking with jurors.

Are federal charges pending?

Yes. The McMichaels and Bryan still face federal charges.

Months before the three stood trial on state murder charges, a federal grand jury in April indicted them on hate crimes charges.

U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood has scheduled jury selection in the federal trial to start Feb. 7. All three men are charged with one count of interferen­ce with civil rights and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels were also charged with using, carrying and brandishin­g a firearm during a crime of violence.

The federal indictment says the men targeted Arbery because he was Black.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States