Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan Jr. were convicted of murder in the 2020 killing of Ahmaud Arbery on Wednesday.
All three defendants were convicted on charges of felony murder, in which someone commits a felony that results in the death of another person. Each defendant was also convicted on charges of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and attempt to commit a felony.
The jury also convicted Travis McMichael, who shot Arbery, of malice murder. Under Georgia law, malice murder indicates an intent to kill, or can be “implied” malice if the killing occurs “where no considerable provocation appears and where all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.”
“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 Glenn County Courthouse after the verdicts were announced. “I never thought this day would come, but God is good.”
The charges stemmed from a February 2020 incident during which prosecutors said the defendants, who are white, chased after Arbery, who was black, and shot him. The McMichaels, father and son, were charged in May 2020, after lawyers for Arbery’s family released footage of the incident in which defendants confronted Arbery, with Travis eventually shooting him. William Bryan, who joined the McMichaels in pursuit of Arbery and filmed the shooting, was charged soon afterward.
The three defendants claimed that they believed Arbery could be responsible for a spate of burglaries in the neighborhood. The defense cited Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law, which stated that a citizen can make an arrest “if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.” (The citizen’s arrest law was repealed in May of this year.)
However, the prosecution claimed that the defendants’ actions were not covered under that law, because the defendants didn’t inform police of any specific crime Arbery committed on the day of his shooting.
“That is not sufficient for a citizen’s arrest. This is not probable cause,” lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told the jury during closing arguments. “This is, I don’t know what in the world this guy was doing, but he’s running down the street real fast.”
Dunikoski later said the defendants “made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a black man running down the street.”