BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — All three men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery were convicted of murder Wednesday.
The jury reached its decision after more than 10 hours of deliberations following a trial in which prosecutors argued that the defendants provoked a confrontation with Arbery and defense attorneys said their clients were acting in self-defense.
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Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue the 25-year-old Black man after seeing him running in their neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick in February 2020. Their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded a cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.
Arbery’s killing became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice after the graphic video leaked online two months later. Though prosecutors didn’t argue that racism motivated the killing, federal authorities have charged all three men with hate crimes, alleging they chased and killed Arbery because he was Black. All three defendants are white. They are scheduled to go on trial in February.
The men were charged with murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and attempted false imprisonment.
The jury came to its verdict after resuming deliberations for a second day Wednesday. During deliberations, jurors reviewed the cellphone video of Arbery being blasted with a shotgun on a residential street in coastal Georgia.
The jury sent a note to Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley soon after returning to court Wednesday morning asking to view two versions of the shooting video — the original and one that investigators enhanced to reduce shadows — three times apiece.
The jury returned to the courtroom to see the videos and listen again to the 911 call one of the defendants made from the bed of a pickup truck about 30 seconds before the shooting.
The disproportionately white jury is weighing charges of murder and other crimes against father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan. It received the case around midday Tuesday and spent about six hours deliberating before adjourning without a verdict.
The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a fleeing burglar when they armed themselves and jumped in a pickup truck to chase him on Feb. 23, 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit when they passed his house and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery at close range with a shotgun as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for the weapon.
On the 911 call the jury reviewed, Greg McMichael tells an operator: “I’m out here in Satilla Shores. There’s a Black male running down the street.”
He then starts shouting, apparently as Arbery is running toward the McMichael’s idling truck with Bryan’s truck coming up behind him: “Stop right there! Damn it, stop! Travis!” Gunshots can be heard a few seconds later.
Arbery’s killing became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice after the graphic video of his death leaked online two months later and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, quickly arresting the three men. Each of them is charged with murder and other crimes.
Defense attorneys contend the McMichaels were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest when they set off after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.
Travis McMichael testified that he shot Arbery in self-defense, saying the running man turned and attacked with his fists while running past the idling truck where Travis McMichael stood with his shotgun.
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Prosecutors said there was no evidence Arbery had committed crimes in the defendants’ neighborhood. He had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing at the time to study to become an electrician like his uncles.