Ahmaud Arbery case: jury found three perpetrators guilty

US state of Georgia
After the murder of the African American Ahmaud Arbery: Jury finds three perpetrators guilty

People react outside the Glynn County courthouse after the defendants were found guilty in the Arbery case

© Sean Rayford / Getty Images / AFP

More than a year and a half ago, the Afro-American Ahmaud Arbery was shot while jogging. Now the three white perpetrators have been found guilty. US President Biden welcomed the verdict.

The three white defendants were convicted of murder after the fatal shots captured on video at the black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in the US state of Georgia. The jury found the shooter Travis McMichael, his father Gregory and their neighbor William Bryan guilty of murder and other charges on Wednesday after just under twelve hours of deliberations. The three men face life imprisonment; the exact sentence will be determined at a later date.

US President Biden applauds the verdict

After the convictions, cheers broke out outside the Brunswick City Courthouse, where supporters of the Arbery family had gathered. The people shouted, “Say his name – Ahmaud Arbery.”

“It was a long fight, it was an uphill battle,” said Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, outside the courthouse. Well-known civil rights activist Al Sharpton said the convictions showed that “the lives of blacks matter”. Black Lives Matter is the motto of anti-racism protests in the United States.

US President Joe Biden welcomed the verdict, but stressed that the US still has a long way to go in the fight against racism. “The convictions show that our judicial system is doing its job, but that alone is not enough,” said the president. The US must “build a future of unity and shared strength, in which no one is afraid of violence because of the color of their skin.”

His administration will work to ensure that equal treatment before the judiciary for all US citizens becomes a “reality”, said Biden. Vice President Kamala Harris – the first African American woman in office – also stressed that the US still had “work” ahead of it.

Convicts had followed and shot Arbery in the car

Arbery’s death, captured on video, had caused outrage and horror over the past year. The now convicted men had followed the African American on February 23, 2020 in a suburb of Brunswick with two cars. They believed the 25-year-old jogger was a burglar and cited a Georgia law at the time that allowed citizens to arrest suspects.

A video recorded by Bryan shows 35-year-old Travis McMichael and his 65-year-old father blocking the path of running Arbery with their pickup truck. An argument breaks out between Travis McMichael, who is armed with a rifle, and Arbery. The African American is then hit by several gunshots to the ground. Travis McMichael later protested in court that he acted in self-defense because Arbery attacked him.

A jury of twelve – including one black

The case was politically charged: Arbery’s death – together with the death of the black George Floyd in a brutal police operation in Minneapolis in May 2020 – led to the nationwide anti-racism protests in the summer of last year. There was outrage that the judiciary only became active against the three white men when the video of the incident became public months later. Most recently, there was criticism that there was only one black juror on the twelve-person jury.

The trial ended a few days after the controversial acquittal for 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse, who shot two demonstrators and seriously injured a third on the sidelines of anti-racism protests in August 2020, was acquitted on all charges on Friday. His lawyers had successfully pleaded self-defense in court.

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