(Trends Wide) — Ahmaud Arbery’s family reacted with joy and relief on Wednesday after three white men were found guilty of charges related to the death of the 25-year-old black man.
This after a trial immersed in issues such as race and the rights and limitations of self-defense.
As the first verdict was being read, Marcus Arbery Sr., Arbery’s father, “jumped up and clapped,” according to a reporter in the courtroom.
Rejoicing among the relatives of Ahmaud Arbery
“I never imagined this day in 2020, I never thought this day would come,” said Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, as she followed the verdicts outside the courthouse doors.
She thanked God and all the people who marched and prayed for her family.
“Quez, who you know as Ahmaud, I know him as Quez. Now he will rest in peace,” his mother told the assembled crowd, who had celebrated upon hearing the news.
“Today’s verdict was a fact-based, evidence-based verdict and that was our goal, to bring that to that jury so they could do the right thing,” said prosecutor Linda Dunikoski. And he added: “The jury system works in this country.”
Now, questions arise about the sentencing, appeals process, and additional federal charges of Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr.
Possible life imprisonment after
Judge Timothy Walmsley has yet to set a sentencing date for the three men found guilty.
On Wednesday, the jury found Travis McMichael guilty of intentional murder, four counts of murder in the commission of a felony, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of unlawful detention, and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony for the Ahmaud Arbery’s death on February 23, 2020 outside of Brunswick, Georgia.
His father, Gregory McMichael, was convicted of four counts of murder in the commission of a felony, two counts of aggravated battery, unlawful detention and criminal attempt to commit a felony. They only acquitted him of the charge of intentional homicide.
Bryan was convicted of three counts of murder in the commission of a felony, one count of aggravated battery, one count of unlawful detention, and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony. He was acquitted of intentional homicide, one count of murder in the commission of a felony, and one count of aggravated battery.
The men now face a sentence of up to life in prison without the possibility of parole for each of the murder charges, 20 years for each of the aggravated assault charges, 10 years for the unlawful detention charge and 5 years for the attempt. criminal of committing a felony. Walmsley will decide whether the sentences will be served consecutively or simultaneously.
Prosecutors have indicated that they will seek life sentences without the possibility of parole.
The defense plans to appeal the verdicts
Jason Sheffield and Bob Rubin, attorneys for Travis McMichael, said they planned to appeal the conviction.
When asked about the venue for the trial, Sheffield said he was confident that his decision not to request a change of venue would be discussed “ad nauseam” and could become part of a future appeal, but said they had no doubts about the decision.
“I can honestly tell you that these men are sorry for what happened to Ahmaud Arbery,” Sheffield said. “They are sorry that he is dead, they are sorry for the tragedy that happened because of the decisions they made to go out and try to stop him.”
Kevin Gough, Bryan’s attorney, said he planned to appeal the decision regarding his client, noting: “We believe the appellate courts will reverse this conviction.”
During the trial, Gough made comments deemed insensitive, such as pleading with the court to prevent high-profile black pastors from sitting in the public gallery. And a prosecutor told Trends Wide on Wednesday that the decision to raise the issue may have been intentional to help with an appeal.
Gough said on November 11 that he had “nothing personally against” the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was present along with the Arbery family. He added: “We don’t want any more black pastors or another Jesse Jackson coming in, whoever was here earlier this week, sitting with the victim’s family trying to influence a jury in this case.”
Walmsley ruled that as long as court proceedings were not interrupted, there would be no blanket prohibitions. Gough apologized for his remarks the next day.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson hadn’t made an appearance as of comment time, but then he sat in the gallery with Arbery’s parents.
Dunikoski, the prosecutor, told Trends Wide’s Jim Acosta after the verdict that Gough’s comments about black shepherds, though made without the presence of the jury, were strategic.
“Mr. Gough is a very, very good attorney, and I think he did what he did on purpose, intentionally, and strategically in an effort to try to insert some potential error into the case, in case he lost the case and went to appeal, “he said.
Awaiting federal charges
The three men were charged in April with separate federal hate crime charges, including interference with rights and attempted kidnapping, according to the US Department of Justice. Travis and Gregory McMichael were also charged with using, carrying , brandishing and shooting a firearm during and in connection with a violent crime.
Federal prosecutors said the three men “used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use the public highway because of his race.”
McMichaels and Bryan have pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.
Sheffield and Rubin, on behalf of Travis McMichael, said after the federal indictment: “We are deeply disappointed that the Justice Department bought into the false narrative that the media and state prosecutors have enacted.”
The Arberys’ attorney, Ben Crump, said at the time, “This is an important milestone on America’s uphill journey toward racial justice, and we applaud the Justice Department for treating this heinous act for what it is: a purely malignant and racially motivated hate crime. “
The federal trial is scheduled for February. Since they were being held on the state charges, there has yet to be a federal bond hearing.
If convicted of the federal charges, they could face an additional penalty of up to life in prison.
Trends Wide’s Chris Boyette, Amir Vera, Angela Barajas, and Madeline Holcombe contributed to this report.