By Marcelo Wheelock
Atlanta, US, Nov 24 (EFE).- Three White men were on Wednesday found guilty of the murder of young Black man Ahmaud Arbery last year in Georgia, United States – a high-profile case that galvanized a wave of racial injustice protests.
Gregory McMichael, 65; his son Travis, 35, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, were convicted of chasing down and shooting dead 25-year-old Arbery in February 2020 while he was out jogging. They claimed they were making a citizen’s arrest of a burglar.
The three now face the possibility of life in prison without parole after the verdict was handed down by the jury of 11 White men and women and one Black man after 11 hours of deliberation.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley at the Glynn County Courthouse in the coastal city of Brunswick announced that the sentence will be handed down in the coming weeks and ordered that the three men remain in custody.
Following the verdict, a group of protesters who had gathered outside the court, including civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton, cheered and celebrated.
After leaving the courthouse with relatives, Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones thanked the crowd.
“To tell the truth, I never saw this day back in 2020. I never thought this day would come. But God is good,” she said. “Thank you, thank you for those who marched, those who prayed.”
US President Joe Biden said in a statement that “Ahmaud Arbery’s killing – witnessed by the world on video – is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country.”
“Mr. Arbery should be here today, celebrating the holidays with his mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, and his father, Marcus Arbery. Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and to his community, but the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished,” he added.
The president also said that “while the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough.”
The incident occurred on Feb. 23, last year when the McMichaels in their pickup truck pursued an unarmed Arbery who was jogging through a White neighborhood on the outskirts of Brunswick.
Bryan joined the chase and recorded a mobile phone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.
During the trial, in which the testimonies of some 30 witnesses were presented over almost two weeks, the defense maintained that his clients chased Arbery to carry out a citizen’s arrest on suspicion that he was a burglar.
The prosecution maintained that the McMichaels and Bryan killed Arbery “not because he was a threat to them, but because he wouldn’t stop and talk to them.”
During her closing arguments, lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said that under the citizen’s arrest law, “a private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge,” and the men had neither.
The law was recently repealed in Georgia but was still in effect at the time of Arbery’s death.
Arbery’s case joined several others that sparked a wave of outrage in the summer of last year, including that of African-American Rayshard Brooks, who was shot dead by a White police officer in Atlanta, and that of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who was killed by White police officer Derek Chauvin during his arrest. EFE