Three convicted of murdering Arbery in US
Three white men have been convicted of murder for chasing and shooting a black man named Ahmaud Arbery as he ran in their neighbourhood, with a Georgia jury rejecting a self-defence claim.
The verdict was delivered by the jury, consisting of one black man and 11 white men and women, after about a two-week trial in the coastal city of Brunswick in a case that hinged on whether the defendants had a right to confront the unarmed 25-year-old avid jogger last year on a hunch he was fleeing a crime.
Gregory McMichael, 65, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbour William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, 52, were charged with murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony.
They face a minimum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole. Defence lawyers said they will appeal.
Jurors reached their verdict on the second day of deliberations.
US President Joe Biden said the convictions showed America’s criminal justice system is “doing its job”, though the killing was “a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country”.
“Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the colour of their skin,” the president said in a statement.
There was never any dispute that the younger McMichael fired his pump-action shotgun three times at Arbery at close range on February 23, 2020, in the suburban community of Satilla Shores.
It was captured on a graphic mobile phone video made by Bryan, stoking outrage when it emerged more than two months later and the public learned none of the three men had been arrested.
Lawyers for the McMichaels argued the killing was justified after Arbery ran past the McMichaels’ driveway in a neighbourhood that had experienced a spate of property thefts.
Both McMichaels grabbed their guns and jumped in their pick-up truck in pursuit, with Bryan, unarmed, joining moments later.
Prosecutors said the defendants had “assumed the worst” about a black man out on a Sunday afternoon jog.
He was chased by the defendants for about five minutes around the looping streets.
Arbery’s name was added to those invoked in nationwide anti-racism protests in 2020 that erupted after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both of whom were black.
“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. But God is good,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said outside the courthouse.
Earlier, her head sunk into her chest as she wept upon hearing the verdict, with civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton gripping her hand.
Arbery’s father Marcus Arbery leapt up and cheered before sheriff’s deputies told him he had to leave.
In reacting to the verdict, Marcus Arbery later told reporters, “We conquered the lynch mob”.
There was jubilation outside the courthouse when the verdicts were rendered as a crowd of more than 100 people cheered and yelled “justice”, some waving flags including one for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“A jury of 11 whites and one black stood up ... in the Deep South and said, ‘Black lives do matter’,” Sharpton said.
The prosecution was widely seen as another test case in how the US justice system handles instances of unarmed black people killed by white people.
During the trial, there was almost no evidence presented or discussion of race as a motive.
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