Three white men in the United States were found guilty on Wednesday of the murder of black runner Ahmaud Arbery, after persecuting him in February 2020 in the southern state of Georgia, a drama that fueled massive anti-racist protests last year.
Travis McMichael, who shot Arbery, his father Gregory and his neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, who participated in the manhunt, were all convicted of murder.
The twelve jurors, including only one black man, deliberated for more than 11 hours to reach this unanimous verdict.
Now Travis McMichael, 35, retired police officer Gregory McMichael, 65, and Bryan, 52, face possible life in prison for Arbery’s murder.
A crowd gathered in front of the court in Brunswick, Georgia, burst into cheers when the verdict was delivered at the end of the high-profile trial, which lasted for a month.
In the courtroom, a family member screamed with joy when Travis McMichael was convicted.
“Black lives do matter”
A video of the shooting, in which Arbery was unarmed, went public almost three months later, scandalizing America, and making Arbery an icon of the anti-racist movement Black Lives Matter.
The case added fuel to 2020 protests in the United States against racial injustice sparked by the May murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, by a white police officer in Minnesota.
The conviction is a milestone that shows that the lives of blacks matter, US civil rights activist Al Sharpton said Wednesday.
“Let the word spread around the world, that a jury of 11 whites and one black, in the Deep South, stood in the courtroom and said: Black lives do matter.”Sharpton said outside the Brunswick courthouse.
Arrested after the images were released, the McMichaels and Bryan pleaded not guilty.
They claimed to have mistaken the broker for a thief and invoked a Georgia state law authorizing ordinary citizens to make arrests. They also argued legitimate defense, accusing Arbery of having reacted aggressively.
But prosecutors said they had no justification for trying to detain Arbery and they never told him they were trying to arrest him as he was running through the Satilla Shores neighborhood in the seaside town of Bunswick on a Sunday afternoon.
“They decided to confront him”
The young man “was trying to escape from these strangers who were yelling at him, threatening to kill him,” Dunikoski said. “And then they killed him.”
During the trial, the jury saw video of the McMichaels chasing Arbery in his truck, and Bryan chasing him in his own vehicle while filming the scene on his cell phone.
In a moment, Arbery He tries to run around the front of McMichaels’ stopped truck.
Travis McMichael, who had exited the vehicle, opens fire with a 12-gauge shotgun. A wounded Arbery is seen fighting with McMichael before being killed by another gunshot.
Guilty verdicts in the Georgia trial come just days after Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal in another closely watched case in the United States.
Rittenhouse, 18, shot dead two men and wounded another during protests and riots against police brutality in Wisconsin last year that followed the police shooting of a black man.
The teenager claimed self-defense and was acquitted of all charges on Friday. Rittenhouse and the three men he shot were white.
Travis and Gregory McMichaels and William Bryan also face federal hate crime charges in a case that will go to trial next year.