AHMAUD ARBERY: JURY DECLARES KILLERS GUILTY ON FEDERAL HATE CRIME CHARGES

AHMAUD ARBERY: JURY DECLARES KILLERS GUILTY ON FEDERAL HATE CRIME CHARGES

Jurors found the defendants targeted Ahmaud Arbery, 25, because of his race. The defendants Gregory McMichael, 66, his son Travis, 36, and their neighbour, William Bryan, 52, had been found guilty last year of Arbery’s murder. The Tuesday’s verdict was over another whole separate set of federal charges filed by the US justice department.

 

Arbery was jogging in the coastal city of Brunswick when he was approached and then was shot dead by the three men in February 2020.

The jurors in the latest trial was a panel of eight white people, three black people and one Hispanic person. They considered five separate federal charges and found the defendants all guilty on every count.

 

The first two involved federal hate-crime statutes, and charged the three men with using force and threats to deprive Arbery of his right to use a public street because of his race. The third count charged the men with kidnapping.

 

The McMichaels also faced firearms charges. Travis McMichael was convicted of discharging a shotgun and his father was convicted with brandishing a revolver.

They might be sentenced to life in prison. In addition to the life sentences they received in January for Arbery’s murder.

 

During the closing arguments on Monday, the lawyers for the three defendants argued that the men had pursued Arbery because they believed he was involved in criminal activities and not because of any racial motivated purpose.

“Would Travis McMichael have grabbed a gun and done this to a white guy?” asked defense lawyer Amy Lee Copeland at trial. “The answer is yes.”

The jurors accepted the prosecution’s argument that the McMichaels and Bryan were driven by “racial assumptions, racial resentment and racial anger”.

 

Later that Tuesday at a news conference, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said the justice department will use its resources to “confront unlawful acts of hate”.

“No-one in this country should have to fear the threat of hate-fueled violence,” he said, adding “no-one should fear that if they go out for a run they will be targeted and killed because of the colour of their skin”.

 

It’s hard not to overemphasize the importance of this guilty verdict for his family when it almost didn’t happen.

During the murder trial for the three defendants last year, state prosecutors deliberately chose not to focus on evidence that the McMichaels and Bryan pursued and killed Arbery because he was black. Instead, that evidence was saved to be used at the federal hate crimes trial.

For weeks the jurors heard evidence about all the three men’s history of “racial resentment” ranging from the frequent use of racial slurs, to texts and social media posts that urged violence against black Americans.

On Tuesday, that same jury returned a guilty verdict. In America, it’s very difficult to secure convictions for hate crimes because evidence of racial motivation has to be presented “beyond a reasonable doubt”. And what constitutes “a reasonable doubt” can often be subjective.

In fact, Georgia didn’t pass a state hate crimes law until after Arbery was killed in 2020. Wednesday will mark the second anniversary of his murder, and an end to his family’s fight for justice.

Speaking after the verdict was announced, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, reiterated how important it was that the world now knows her son was killed because he was black.

“We got a victory today but there’s so many families out there who don’t get victories,” she said.

 

Esther Anochie