Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers receive life sentences
In a case that received national attention and led to an overhaul of Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law, the trio convicted of murdering Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery nearly two years ago near Brunswick was sentenced on Friday. The father and son received life in prison without the possibility of parole. The third defendant received life with a chance for parole in 30 years based on the prosecution’s recommendation.
At one point, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley asked those in the courtroom to imagine the terror Arbery must have felt as he was being chased by the three and then shot and killed. He also pointed out the callus actions of the three who walked away as Arbery lay dying on the ground.
Prior to the sentencing, Arbery’s parents and sister asked Judge Walmsley to impose the maximum sentence on the defendants. “They were fully committed to the crime,” said Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother. “Let them be fully committed to the consequences.”
In November of 2021, Greg McMichael and his son, Travis, along with neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, was convicted by a jury made up of 11 white jurors and one Black juror on a range of murder charges.
Using two pickup trucks, the trio chased Arbery, 25 down a street in February 2020 in the Satilla Shores neighborhood. They shot Arbery to death after observing him on the property of a nearby home under construction. Bryan, who drove the second truck, helped corner Arbery and Travis McMichael, who was in the truck with his father, pulled the trigger that ended Arbery’s life.
Prior to announcing the sentence, Judge Walmsley said, “The record speaks for itself. Ahmaud Arbery was hunted down and shot. He was killed because individuals in this courtroom took the law into their own hands. … Taking the law into your own hands is a dangerous endeavor.”
Judge Walmsley imposed the maximum sentence on the McMichaels and said neither showed any remorse for the murder. He also cited Greg McMichael’s threats to Arbery heard on a video of the crime shot by Bryan and the “chilling, truly disturbing” picture of Travis McMichael taking aim at Arbery with a shotgun.
Walmsley said the third defendant did demonstrate remorse by showing he had “grave concerns” about the killing at the crime scene. He took this into consideration when sentencing Bryan to life with a possibility of parole after 30 years. However, the judge said Bryan still shared responsibility for the murder by blocking Arbery’s escape with his truck.
The defense of the three, that they were conducting a citizen’s arrest, was rejected by the jury. A bill essentially repealing Georgia’s 19th-century citizen’s arrest law was quickly pushed through by Gov. Brian Kemp and the General Assembly.
In February, the trio defendants will be tried on federal hate-crime charges.