Savannah, Ga. (AP) — Nearly six weeks after pleading guilty to manslaughter for chasing Ahmaud Arbery running in pickup trucks, cutting off the escape of an unarmed black man, and fatally destroying him with a shotgun, three white men were arrested on Friday. To face punishment by the judge.
The guilty verdict the day before Thanksgiving celebrated a victory outside the Glynn County Courthouse for those who viewed Arbery’s death as part of a larger national countdown on racial injustice.
Testimony in court will be more tragic on Friday, when members of Arbery’s family are expected to convey their grief and loss to the judge before passing sentences on father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddy” Bryan.
Murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison under Georgia law unless prosecutors seek the death penalty, which they chose for Arbery’s murder. For Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley, the main decision will be whether to give defendants a final chance to earn parole.
Either option is equivalent to a stringent sentence. Even if the judge allows the possibility of parole, the McMichaels and Bryan must first serve at least 30 years in prison.
For Travis McMichael, who is 35, “it could make a significant difference,” said Paige Pate, an Atlanta criminal defense attorney who is not involved in the case. “For two older people, it’s effectively a full life sentence.”
Greg McMichael recently turned 66 and Brian is 52.
The three men were also convicted of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to false imprisonment. The maximum prison terms for those cases range from five to 20 years. The judge was likely to allow those additional punishments to be awarded as well as a sentence of life imprisonment for murder.
The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped into a pickup truck after following 25-year-old Arbery as he ran through his neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick on February 23, 2020. Bryan joined the chase in his truck and recorded a cellphone video of Travis McMichael exploding close-up shotguns at Arbery as he threw punches and grabbed the weapon.
The killing went unnoticed until two months later, when a graphic video leaked online and sparked national outrage. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from the local police and soon arrested the three men.
Defense attorneys argued that the McMichaels were attempting to arrest a legal citizen when they stopped after Arbery, trying to detain and interrogate him, saw him fleeing a home under construction. went.
Travis McMichael testified that he shot Arbery in self-defense. He said Arbery turned and attacked with his fist while running to the back of the truck where McMichael was standing with his shotgun.
At the time of his death, Arbery had enrolled in a technical college and, like his uncles, was preparing to study to become an electrician.
Defense lawyers have said they plan to appeal the conviction. He has 30 days after sentencing.
The following month, the McMichaels and Brian face a second trial, this time in US District Court on federal hate crime charges. A judge has set February 7 for jury selection to begin. Prosecutors would argue that the three men violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because he was black.