Arbery murder hate crime trial will bring racism to the fore



Sentenced to life in prison for murder, the three white men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery will soon face trial on federal hate crimes, in which juries will have to decide whether the killing whether or not black people have racist motives.

Sentences handed down by a judge Friday in Glynn County Superior Court concluded the Georgia criminal case in the murder of Arbery, 25, in which the jury returned verdicts sin the day before Thanksgiving.

A month from now, on February 7, a federal judge has scheduled jury selection to begin in the second trial of the three men in US District Court. And evidence of racism that state prosecutors chose not to present at the murder trial is expected to be central.

An indictment last year accused father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, of violating Arbery’s civil rights when they pursued a man in a pickup truck and cut him off. cut his way out of their neighborhood. Bryan captured a cell phone video of the chase’s deadly end, when Travis McMichael shot Arbery at close range with a shotgun.

On February 23, 2020, the murder just outside the port city of Brunswick became part of a larger national scheme for racial injustice when the video was leaked online two months later. Although an investigator testified at the pre-trial hearing that Bryan said he heard Travis McMichael utter a racist slur as Arbery lay dead on the street, prosecutors state has never presented that information to a jury in the murder case.

That evidence should be key in the federal trial, where McMichaels and Bryan are accused of targeting Arbery because he is black.

At Friday’s hearing, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced both McMichaels to life in prison with no chance of parole. The judge sentenced Bryan to life in prison with the possibility of parole after he served 30 years.

Despite those harsh punishments, Arbery’s family says the hate crime case is still important. At the time of his death, Arbery was enrolled in a technical college and was preparing to study to become an electrician like his uncles.

“They killed him because he was black,” Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, told reporters outside Glynn County courthouse on Friday.

Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s mother, said it was important for the federal case to expose the racist motives behind the murder because “there’s an ongoing racial problem in the country.” this. It has come front and center and it needs to be discussed. ”

Special Agent Richard Dial of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation testified in June 2020, more than a year before the state trial, that Bryan told investigators he heard Travis McMichael say “f — ing n — er.” ” after shooting Arbery. Attorneys for Travis McMichael have denied he made the statement.

State prosecutors and investigators never mentioned it during the murder trial. Georgia law does not require establishing a motive to convict someone of murder. It only requires proof that a victim was killed with malice or during the commission of another felony.

Despite that, issues of race still surfaced during the murder trial in connection with Arbery’s death. McMichaels and Bryan were not charged in the Negro’s murder until the video was made public two months later.

“Your son made history today, because we have people responsible for the arrest of a black man in America,” said Benjamin Crump, civil attorney for the Arbery family. , told the parents of the man who was killed after the sentencing hearing.

Defense attorneys in the trial argued that the men pursued Arbery because they believed he had committed burglaries in the vicinity. Travis McMichael stood before the witness to testify that he opened fire in self-defense after Arbery ran into him and tried to get his handgun.

“He and Greg McMichael thought they were helping their community, thought they were helping the police catch someone,” said Robert Rubin, an attorney for Travis McMichael.

Defense attorneys said they plan to appeal the conviction for murder and other state crimes within 30 days.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley called the killing “callous” and noted that when Arbery fell to the street bleeding, the McMichaels “turned their backs on, to present a disturbing image, and they walked away.”

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Aila Slisco

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