Arbery’s killers were found guilty in their hate crime trial today. Here’s what it was like inside the court.
From CNN’s Kevin Conlon, Inside the courtroom
A jury found the three White men who killed Ahmaud Arbery guilty on all counts in the federal hate crimes trial this morning.
After the verdict was read, there was no discernible reaction from the three defendants, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan.
Judge Lisa Godbey Wood addressed each of the defendants and their attorneys to inform them they have 14 days to file any post-trial motions and that the US probation office would conduct a pre-sentencing interview before the sentencing hearing is scheduled. When defendants went before judge all three responded by either saying, “yes” or “yes ma’am.” When Gregory McMichael returned to his seat, he let out an audible sigh.
The jury foreperson — one of the three Black jurors — was emotional during the court’s reading the verdict and while the jury was being polled, wiping away tears.
According to the pool, Wanda Cooper-Jones, the mother of Arbery, remained attentive during the reading of the verdict, looking ahead. Marcus Arbery Sr., Arbery’s father nodded his head, swayed back and forth, and at times, clasped his hands together as the clerk went through each of the counts.
Leigh McMichael, mother of Travis McMichael and wife of Gregory McMichael, remained stoic. After the verdict came down, the only person that remained sitting was Leigh McMichael. The Arbery family, supporters and the prosecuting attorneys were on their feet, embracing and congratulating each other.
Judge Wood thanked the jury and acknowledged the attorneys in the case telling prosecutors that they had a “difficult task” due to the nature of the charges. She also told defense counsel that although they were appointed by the court, they represented their clients “zealously”. She adjourned saying no one need wonder whether they got a fair trial or whether the attorneys were skillful — they did and they were.
Court adjourned at 10:55 a.m. ET. Jurors deliberated for about 3 hours and 40 mins, according to the pool.
Garland: No one should fear being killed “because of the color of their skin”
From CNN’s Mike Hayes
US Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke to the press following today’s verdict.
Garland said that Arbery was “targeted, chased, shot and killed” by the three men charged in this case while he was “running on a public street.” Garland said that it was “racism that fueled them” during their pursuit and murder of Arbery.
Garland called Arbery’s death an “enduring trauma” for his family and loved ones. “My heart goes out to his parents,” the attorney general said, adding, that it is an “unimaginable loss they have endured.”
Garland said that “hate crimes have a singular impact” because of the “terror and fear that they inflict on entire communities.”
He said that nobody in this country should fear that “when they go out for a run they will be targeted and killed because of the color of their skin.”
“Ahmaud Arbery should be alive today,” Garland said.
The attorney general was asked about comments made after the verdict today by Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, in which she criticized the DOJ for originally accepting a plea deal for Arbery’s killers in this case.
“I cannot imagine the pain that a mother feels” to have their son gunned down like Arbery, Garland said in response. “My heart goes out, that’s really all I can say.”
After guilty verdict, mother of Ahmaud Arbery criticizes DOJ prosecutors’ previous plea deal for son’s killers
From CNN’s Mike Hayes
Speaking outside the courthouse after the verdict was announced, Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, called out the US Department of Justice for originally agreeing to accept a plea deal from her son’s killers in federal court.
“I now want to address the members of the DOJ. I’m very thankful that you guys brought these charges of hate crime, but back on January 31, you guys accepted a plea deal with these three murderers who took my son’s life,” Cooper-Jones said.
Cooper-Jones continued: “[Arbery’s father] Marcus and two of Ahmaud’s aunties stood before the courts and begged the judge not to take a plea deal. That the DOJ, that the DOJ went before the judge and asked them to take a plea deal with these guys.”
Cooper-Jones said that she spoke to DOJ prosecutors and “begged them” to not take the plea deal in the case.
“They ignored my cry. I begged them. Even after the family stood before the judge and asked them, asked the judge to not take this plea deal, the lead prosecutor, Tara Lyons, stood up and asked the judge to ignore the family’s cry. That’s not justice for Ahmaud.”
Arbery’s mother said that today’s verdict wouldn’t have happened “if it wasn’t for the fight that the family put up.”
“What the DOJ did today, they were made to do today. It wasn’t because of what they wanted to do. They were made to do their job today.”
Some more context: On Jan. 31, a federal judge rejected the plea deal reached by prosecutors and Travis McMichael on hate crime charges, an agreement that would have precluded his federal trial in Arbery’s killing.
McMichael had agreed to plead guilty to a single hate crime charge – interference with rights – in exchange for prosecutors recommending he serve 30 years in federal prison.
Under the agreement, McMichael, 36, would have been transferred from a state prison to federal custody.
After completing the federal sentence, he would’ve been returned to Georgia to finish his sentence of life in prison without parole. Five of those final years would have counted toward his supervised release from federal prison.
US District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood said she was not comfortable with the sentencing guidelines.
After the plea deal was rejected, McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, changed their pleas from guilty to not guilty.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, was outraged by the proposed deal and said she felt betrayed by US Justice Department lawyers. She told the court a state judge gave the McMichaels exactly what they deserve – life in prison – and urged Wood not to accept the federal plea.
“Please listen to me,” Cooper-Jones told the judge. “Granting these men their preferred conditions of confinement would defeat me. It gives them one last chance to spit in my face after murdering my son.”
S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s mother, previously called federal prison “a country club compared to state prison,” saying the facilities are less populated, have better funding and are “generally more accommodating” than state holding facilities, according to tweets from his account.
The Arbery family was displeased prosecutors had agreed to the deal without the family’s consent, Merritt told CNN.
The Justice Department said she respected the court’s decision not to accept the plea agreement, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said, but added in a statement that prosecutors “entered the plea agreement only after the victims’ attorneys informed me that the family was not opposed to it.”
Emotions were high in the courtroom as the verdict was read in the hate crimes trial for Arbery’s killers
From CNN’s Ryan Young
As the verdict convicting the three White men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery of a federal hate crime, attempted kidnapping charges and firearms charges were read, the Arbery family could be seen holding each other and crying in the courtroom.
Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., could be seen swaying back and forth, and Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, was emotional, reports CNN’s Ryan Young, who was in the courtroom.
Several members of the jury were also seen wiping tears away from their faces while the verdict was announced.
Young reports that there were people standing in the back of the courtroom praying.
Arbery’s parents and their attorneys emerged from the courthouse with their arms raised in victory before speaking to members of the media.
Judge adjourns court
From CNN’s Mike Hayes
After the verdict was read and Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan were found guilty on all counts, the judge remanded the three men back to custody.
The judge informed the three men that they have 14 days to file any appeals in the case. The McMichaels were found guilty of three counts each; Bryan was found guilty of two counts.
The judge said that she would schedule sentencing in the case after pre-sentencing reports are filed.
Before adjourning the proceedings, the judge complimented the lawyers on both sides. She said that the prosecutors had the “difficult task” of proving the “racial motivation of hate crimes” and did so in a “skillful” and “professional manner.” The judge noted that the defense attorneys “did not volunteer” to take the defendants’ case — rather they were appointed. She said that the defense attorneys represented their clients “zealously.”
“No one need wonder whether they got a fair trial, they did,” she said.
Tomorrow is the second anniversary of Ahmaud Arbery’s death
Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 marks two years since Ahmaud Arbery was killed in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia.
Moments ago, a jury found Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan guilty of all counts in the federal hate crimes trial in Arbery’s killing. The defendants are already serving life sentences in prison after being convicted of murder in state court last year.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said this week that the timing of the close of the federal civil rights trial is “great” as it nears the two-year anniversary of Arbery’s death.
“The anniversary date is the 23rd, and hopefully we’ll have a good verdict by the 23rd,” she said.
Ahmaud Arbery’s killers found guilty on all counts in federal hate crime trial
From CNN’s Mike Hayes
Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan have been found guilty of all counts in the federal trial of the three men charged with violating Ahamud Arbery’s civil rights.
All three men were convicted of interference of rights, which is a federal hate crime, and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels were also found guilty of an additional firearms charge for using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.
Some more context: The men attempted to chase Arbery and attempted to unlawfully confine him using their trucks as he jogged through their neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia, in February 2020, the jury has found.
They could now receive sentences of up to life in prison for the federal convictions.
The men were previously convicted of murdering Arbery in a separate trial in November. They are currently serving life sentences for those convictions.
What you need to know about the federal hate crimes trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers
The three White defendants – Travis McMichael, 36; his father, Gregory McMichael, 66; and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52 – were convicted last November of felony murder and other charges for Ahmaud Arbery’s February 2020 killing in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia.
Video of the fatal shooting sparked nationwide outrage after it was released in May 2020, weeks before the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis that set off a summer of widespread protests against racial injustice.
After a state trial last November that largely avoided discussions of race, the McMichaels and Bryan were sentenced to life in prison – with Bryan eligible for parole once he serves 30 years – for their conviction on a raft of charges, including felony murder.
In the federal trial in Brunswick, Georgia, the three men were each charged with interference with rights – a hate crime – and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels also each face a weapons charge.
Federal prosecutors and Arbery’s family have said he was out for a jog when he was killed. Defense attorneys in the state trial contended the McMichaels, suspecting Arbery of trespassing multiple times at an under-construction home, pursued him through neighborhood streets to conduct a citizen’s arrest. Travis McMichael argued he shot Arbery in self-defense as they wrestled over McMichael’s shotgun. Bryan had pursued Arbery with his own vehicle and recorded video of the pursuit and shooting.
The McMichaels initially agreed to plead guilty, but the judge overseeing the case rejected the plea deal because of concerns about the agreed-upon sentence. The three men then decided to plead not guilty.
The defendants are already serving life sentences in prison for the murder convictions, although they have said they plan to appeal the verdicts. Convictions in this trial could bring steep fines and more life sentences.
Ahmaud Arbery’s killers were already sentenced to life in prison for murder in a state criminal trial
A jury has reached a verdict in the federal hate crime trial of Travis McMichael, 35, his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan. It will soon be read in court.
But the three White men who chased and murdered 25-year-old Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in south Georgia were sentenced to life in prison on Friday, Jan. 7 with two having no chance of parole.
The McMichaels and Bryan were convicted in November on a raft of charges, including felony murder, for Arbery’s death.
Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced the McMichaels to life in prison without the possibility of parole, while Bryan was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. The 52-year-old will be eligible for parole under Georgia law only after he has served 30 years in prison because he was convicted of serious violent felonies.
Read more about the state criminal trial here.