(CNN) — A jury Wednesday found three White men charged in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, guilty on multiple murder counts, as well as other charges.
The verdict, delivered by nine White men, two White women and one Black man, came after hours of deliberation spanning two days. It followed eight days of testimony, involving 23 witnesses.
The men each faced the same nine counts, and verdict were as follows:
• Travis McMichael, who fatally shot Arbery, is guilty on all charges: malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony;
• His father, Gregory McMichael, who rode armed in the bed of a pickup truck as his son pursued Arbery, is not guilty of malice murder but guilty on the other eight charges.
• And William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., a neighbor who joined the pursuit and filmed Arbery’s final moments, is guilty of three counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
The McMichaels and Bryan were arrested last year after the shooting of Arbery in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23, 2020.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges. The McMichaels claimed they were conducting a citizen’s arrest after suspecting Arbery of burglary of a nearby home under construction, and that Travis McMichael acted in self-defense by shooting Arbery. Bryan maintained he was merely a witness.
Prosecution gave rebuttal Tuesday
Attorneys for each of the three defendants offered different arguments Monday for why their clients were not guilty.
Alongside Travis McMichael’s central argument of self-defense, Gregory McMichael’s attorney Laura Hogue repeatedly claimed that Arbery was a habitual trespasser in the area, and said jurors should consider that Gregory McMichael had proper reasonable suspicion of Arbery to act.
Kevin Gough, an attorney for Bryan, said Bryan was more of a witness than anything else and that his video showing the shooting enabled the case to move forward.
Tuesday brought a rebuttal from lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, who emphasized to the jury that the men acted on suspicions alone and had no evidence Arbery had committed a crime. Travis McMichael also had inconsistencies from testimony in court when compared to statements made to police right after the shooting, she added.
Dunikoski said all three men were culpable of the charges faced because they could have de-escalated the situation by calling police or not chasing Arbery. Instead, she argued, the men committed aggravated assault with their trucks when chasing and trying to falsely imprison Arbery, leading to the moment Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery.
“If you take that out, would he be alive?” she asked the jury of Arbery. “It’s real simple. The answer is you can’t take out any of these crimes. If you take out any one of these crimes that they committed and he’s still alive. All of the underlying felonies played a substantial and necessary part in causing the death of Ahmaud Arbery.”
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said Tuesday after court proceedings that Dunikoski “did a fantastic job” in her final rebuttal.
“She presented the evidence again very well. I do think that we will come back with a guilty verdict, and I want to leave with this: God has brought us this far, and he’s not going to fail us now. We will get justice for Ahmaud,” she told reporters.
Marcus Arbery Sr., Arbery’s father, said what he saw in the courtroom was “devastating,” but also expressed confidence in getting a guilty verdict.
After the jury started to deliberate, Travis McMichael’s attorney, Jason Sheffield said, “I feel very confident in the case that we have put forward. I feel very confident in the evidence of Travis’ innocence,” adding “we will accept the verdict whatever it is.”
Makeup of jury was source of contention
Nine White women, two White men and one Black man are serving on the trial jury, with two White women and one White man serving as jury alternates, according to a CNN analysis of juror data.
Only having one Black juror has been a key complaint from prosecutors and Arbery’s family, as Glynn County’s population is about 69% White and 26% Black, according to 2019 data from the US Census Bureau. Arbery was Black and the defendants are White.
The 12-member trial jury and three alternates were selected after a protracted jury selection process that lasted two and a half weeks and included summoning 1,000 prospective jurors from the South Georgia coastal community. Of those summoned, less than half showed up.
The makeup of the jury was challenged by the state at the conclusion of the jury selection process. Dunikoski claimed defense attorneys disproportionately struck qualified Black jurors and based some of their strikes on race.
Judge Timothy Walmsley said, “This court has found that there appears to be intentional discrimination,” but ruled that the case could go forward with the selected jurors because the defense was able to provide valid reasons, beyond race, for why the other Black jurors were dismissed.
Defense attorneys also took issue with there being fewer older White men without college degrees in the juror pool, saying the demographic was underrepresented.
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