Criminal Justice

Self-defense argument fails as three men are convicted of murder in death of Ahmaud Arbery

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From left, Travis McMichael, William

Travis McMichael (from left), William “Roddie” Bryan and Gregory McMichael were found guilty of murder Wednesday in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Pool file photos/The Associated Press.

Lawyers defending three white men accused of murder in the death of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery failed in their citizen’s arrest and self-defense arguments when jurors returned guilty verdicts on Wednesday.

The Brunswick, Georgia, jury, which included only one Black person, found all three defendants guilty of felony murder, report the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today and CNN.

The defendants were the shooter, Travis McMichael, and his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, who had made a cellphone video of the February 2020 confrontation.

Jurors also found Travis McMichael guilty of malice murder but acquitted the other two men of the charge.

Malice murder in Georgia requires “malice aforethought, either express or implied,” according to USA Today. The law defines express malice as having a “deliberate intention” to take the life of another. Malice is implied when the killing is unprovoked and “all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.”

Felony murder requires commission of a felony that results in death.

The three men also were convicted on other charges that included aggravated assault and false imprisonment. They could be sentenced to up to life in prison.

Sentencing has not been scheduled.

Defense lawyers had argued their clients were making a citizen’s arrest, and Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense when Arbery tried to grab his shotgun. Arbery died because he “chose to fight,” defense lawyer Laura Hogue argued.

But prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said the McMichaels jumped to conclusions about Arbery stealing from homes under construction, which wasn’t supported by surveillance footage. She argued that Travis McMichael pointed his gun at Arbery although he was not a threat.

“All he’s done is run away from you. … And you pulled out a shotgun and pointed it at him,” Dunkoski said.

The three men still face federal hate crimes charges.

Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who represents Arbery’s family, released a statement after the verdict.

“After nearly two years of pain, suffering and wondering if Ahmaud’s killers would be held to account, the Arbery family finally has some justice,” Crump said. “While today is not one for celebration, it is one for reflection. This case, by all accounts, should have been opened and closed. The violent stalking and lynching of Ahmaud Arbery was documented on video for the world to witness. But yet, because of the deep cracks, flaws and biases in our systems, we were left to wonder if we would ever see justice. Today certainly indicates progress, but we are nowhere close to the finish line.”

See also:

ABA Journal: “Prosecutorial ethics are in the spotlight after the death of Ahmaud Arbery”

ABA Journal: “Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and America’s cruel justice equation” “Former Georgia district attorney indicted over handling of shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery” “Laws said to encourage vigilante justice still in effect in most states”

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