(Trends Wide) — Before sentencing three men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery in south Georgia to life in prison, Judge Timothy R. Walmsley held a minute of silence Friday, saying he hoped to put into context the 25-year-old’s time spent being persecuted. by the accused.
“That minute represents a fraction of the time that Ahmaud Arbery was running at Satilla Shores,” Walmsley said, before falling silent.
Arbery’s chase went on for about five minutes, the judge said after speaking again, as father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. chased the 25-year-old black man into their neighborhood outside of Brunswick, Georgia.
The men believed Arbery had committed a crime in their neighborhood, they told police. The McMichaels were armed and gave chase, and Bryan later joined the chase, searching him from his truck. Bryan’s video shows Travis McMichael getting out of his truck and confronting Arbery, who fights Travis over a shotgun before he is fatally shot by the younger McMichael.
“I want to put that time period into context, and the only way I can think of doing it, it may be a bit theatrical, but I think it’s appropriate,” Walmsley told the court. “I want everyone to have a concept of time. So what I’m going to do is sit quietly for a minute.”
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, bowed her head during the silence, according to a reporter present in the courtroom. The silence was broken only by the sound of journalists typing, the reporter said.
“When I thought about this, I thought from a lot of different angles,” Walmsley said, “and I kept going back to the terror that must have been in the mind of the young man running through Satilla Shores.”
Walmsley sentenced Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He sentenced Bryan to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Bryan will be eligible for parole under Georgia law only after he has served 30 years in prison, because he was convicted of violent felonies.
Walmsley drew attention for other comments he made earlier in the trial, perhaps most notably late in the jury selection process. At the time, Walmsley said there appeared to be “intentional discrimination” when the 12-person chosen panel included only one black member.
The two-and-a-half-week selection process ended in mid-November when prosecutors accused defense attorneys of disproportionately questioning qualified black jurors and basing some of their hits on race.
While it ultimately ruled that the case could go forward as the defense could provide “valid reasons, beyond race, why the jurors were removed,” Walmsley said, “this court has found that there appears to be intentional discrimination. “.
Trends Wide’s Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.