The Washington Post
Justice is served
A Georgia jury rightly found the three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery guilty of murder.
AS THE guilty verdicts were being read for the three White men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery, the mother of the murdered man bowed her head, his father shouted out an exultation and a crowd that had gathered outside the Georgia courthouse erupted in cheers and applause. “Thank God,” said one of Arbery’s aunts. No doubt that sentiment of relief was felt by many who feared that — as too often has been the case in this country’s history when a Black man is killed — no one would be held accountable.
The verdicts handed up Wednesday afternoon by a nearly all-white jury delivered a much-needed measure of justice to the family of Ahmaud Arbery and to a community that saw its sons in this 25-year-old Black man who went out for a jog on a Sunday afternoon only to be chased down and shot to death. “A modern-day lynching” was the description of civil rights activists who helped make Arbery’s killing a flash point of the Black Lives Matter movement.
After a 14-day trial and deliberations over two days, the Glynn County jury found the three defendants — Travis Mcmichael, 35; his father, Greg Mcmichael, 65; and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52 — guilty of murder and other charges, rejecting defense claims that the men were executing a lawful citizen’s arrest and acting in selfdefense. Travis Mcmichael, who fired the fatal shots on Feb. 23, 2020, was found guilty on all nine counts charged, including malice murder. The men face up to life in prison, and also have been indicted on separate federal charges, including hate crimes and attempted kidnapping.
Arbery’s killing came perilously close to being papered over by Georgia officials. The three men walked free for several weeks, and prosecutors first assigned to the case argued the shooting did not constitute an actual crime. Only when a video of the fatal encounter was leaked, creating a national firestorm, was the case reassigned to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and arrests were finally made. The first prosecutor on the case lost her bid for reelection and was indicted on charges of “showing favor and affection” to Greg Mcmichael, a former investigator in her office.
“To tell you the truth, I never saw this day back in 2020. I never thought this day would come,” said Arbery’s mother. That Arbery’s killers almost walked away underscores inequities that exist in law enforcement and the judicial system. Evidence presented by the prosecution — including videos of the unarmed Arbery trying to run away from his pursuers — was strong and compelling, while the defense faltered and engaged in such stunts as seeking to ban Black pastors from the courtroom. But juries can be unpredictable, and there was worry that this Southern, mostly White jury would opt for acquittal. The jurors looked at and considered the facts. Justice was done. That won’t bring Arbery back to his family, but hopefully it will bring them some comfort and will help restore confidence in the justice system.