The February 2020 murder brought limited notice at first. But when a video of the shooting came online, Arbery’s death quickly became another case in the nation’s reckoning of racial injustice in the way Black people are treated in their everyday lives.
Now the men all face a potential sentence of life in prison. The judge will determine whether their sentences are served with or without the chance of parole.
As the first of 23 guilty verdicts were read, Arbery’s father had to leave the courtroom after jumping up and shouting. At the delivery of the last criminal count, Arbery’s mother dropped her head and quietly pumped her fists.
“He didn’t do anything but run and dream,” Marcus Arbery Sr. said of his son. Outside the courthouse, dozens of Black supporters hugged and cried.
The jury deliberated for about 10 hours before condemning Greg McMichael, son Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan.
The McMichaels took guns and jumped in a pickup truck to follow the 25-year-old Arbery after observing him running outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick. Bryan joined the pursuit in his truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael killing Arbery.
The father and son told police they suspected Arbery was a run-away burglar. But the prosecution claimed that the men provoked the fatal encounter and that there was no evidence Arbery perpetrated any crimes in the neighborhood.
“We commend the courage and bravery of this jury to say that what happened on Feb. 23, 2020, to Ahmaud Arbery — the hunting and killing of Ahmaud Arbery — it was not only morally wrong but legally wrong, and we are thankful for that,” said Latonia Hines, Cobb County executive assistant district attorney.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski added: “The jury system works in this country. And when you present the truth to people and they see it, they will do the right thing.”
Travis McMichael, 35, stood for the verdict, his lawyer’s arm around his shoulder. At one point, he lowered his head to his chest. After the verdicts were read, as he stood to leave, he mouthed “love you” to his mother in the courtroom gallery.
Greg McMichael, 65, hung his head when the judge read his first guilty verdict. Bryan, 52, bit his lip.
Speaking outside the courthouse, Ben Crump, attorney for Arbery’s father, repeatedly said that “the spirit of Ahmaud defeated the lynch mob.”
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, praised the crowd who assembled for the verdict and said she did not think she would see this day.
“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. But God is good,” she said, adding that her son would now rest in peace.