The Washington Post

Justice is served

A Georgia jury rightly found the three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery guilty of murder.

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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.

 ?? STEPHEN B MORTON/POOL/EPA-EFE/SHUTTERSTO­CK ?? Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-jones, left, reacts after the jury verdicts on Wednesday.
STEPHEN B MORTON/POOL/EPA-EFE/SHUTTERSTO­CK Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-jones, left, reacts after the jury verdicts on Wednesday.

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