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Georgia jury finds 3 men guilty of murder of Ahmaud Arbery

By Don Jacobson & Danielle Haynes
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Georgia jury finds 3 men guilty of murder of Ahmaud Arbery
Media gathers outside the Glynn County Courthouse on Wednesday as Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan are found guilty of murder for the death of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga. Photo by James Gilbert/EPA-EFE

Nov. 24 (UPI) -- A Georgia jury on Wednesday found three men guilty of murder for killing Ahmaud Arbery last year.

The verdict came after about 9 hours of deliberations over the course of two days.

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Travis McMichael, 35, fired the shot that killed Ahmaud Arbery while he was out for a jog Feb. 23, 2020. He and his father, Greg McMichael, 65, and neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, 52, chased down Ahmaud Arbery in their pickup trucks, boxing him in before the younger McMichael fired the fatal shots.

They each faced a single count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

RELATED Closing arguments to begin Monday in murder trial of 3 in Ahmaud Arbery killing

Travis McMichael was convicted on all charges, Gregory McMichael was convicted of all but the malice murder charge, and Bryan was convicted of all but malice murder and one count of felony murder. Each of the men faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jason Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael, told reporters he plans to appeal the verdict.

"This is a very difficult day for Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael," he said outside the Brunswick, Ga., courthouse. "These are two men who honestly believed that what they were doing was the right thing to do. However, a Glynn County jury has spoken. They have found them guilty. They will be sentenced."

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An attorney for Gregory McMichael, Frank Hogue, said he also plans to appeal the verdict, CNN reported citing a pool report.

All three men were transported to Glynn County jail after the verdict was read. The sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.

Outside the courthouse, Ahmaud Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery Sr., welcomed the verdict. He shouted out in court after hearing the first guilty verdict for Travis McMichael and was ordered to leave the courtroom.

RELATED Defendant Travis McMichael testifies for 2nd day in Ahmaud Arbery murder trial

"For real, all lives matter," Marcus Arbery Sr. told reporters after the verdict was read. "Not just Black children. We don't want to see nobody go through this. I wouldn't want to see no daddy watch their kid get lynched and shot down like that."

Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud Arbery's mother, said she "never thought this day would come."

"I just want to say, thank you, guys. Thank you. Thank each and every one of you who fought this fight with us. It's been a long fight. It's been a hard fight. But God is good," she said.

President Joe Biden released a statement saying the murder case shows "how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country."

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"While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin. My administration will continue to do the hard work to ensure that equal justice under law is not just a phrase emblazoned in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans," he said.

The New York Times reported that dozens of people marched through Brunswick to celebrate the verdict, shouting: "Whose streets? Our streets!"

In closing arguments on Monday, defense attorneys argued that the three men had carried out a lawful "citizens arrest," believing that Ahmaud Arbery was a "recurring intruder" in the Brunswick, Ga., neighborhood when he was shot.

Prosecutors sought to argue that the men's actions did not constitute a lawful citizens arrest because they never actually witnessed Ahmaud Arbery committing a crime. Instead, they contend, the men decided to attack him because "he was a Black man running down the street."

Defense attorney Jason Sheffield told jurors that Travis McMichael thought Ahmaud Arbery was a burglar because he'd seen him in the neighborhood before -- and only shot him when he felt a need to defend himself.

Prosecutors said the three men "created the situation" and tried to justify Arbery's death with claims of a danger that did not exist. Photo courtesy the Family of Ahmaud Arbery/UPI
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McMichael said as much on the witness stand last week, saying that he felt it was a matter of "life or death" when he reached for his gun to shoot Ahmaud Arbery. He claimed that Ahmaud Arbery attacked him and reached for his rifle.

The attorney for Bryan argued that his client did not contribute to Ahmaud Arbery's death, even though he and the other two were chasing him.

Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski attacked the defense's assertion that the men had "probable cause" stop Ahmaud Arbery "based on gossip and rumor" of a serial neighborhood intruder.

"The bottom line [is] they assumed he must have committed some crime that day because he's running real fast down the street. They did not call 911. They wanted to stop him and question him before they called 911," she said.

Dunikoski said the three men "created the situation" and tried to justify Arbery's death with claims of a danger that did not exist. Arbery, she said, never threatened anyone.

The verdict in the Ahmaud Arbery case follows that of another high-profile homicide case in Kenosha, Wis., where Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on Friday on several criminal counts for killing two men and wounding a third during unrest last year over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

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