Each of the men has been convicted of multiple murders, assault and wrongful imprisonment, and all three face life imprisonment with no parole. However, only Travis McMichael was convicted on all nine charges brought against each of them.
“I never thought that day would come,” said Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones after the verdict. “But God is good.”
Travis McMichael’s attorney said his client was about to appeal.
The Arbery case came to the attention of the public for a number of reasons, including the racist implications of several armed white men pursuing a black man, and also because the deadly shootout took place in the political battlefield state of Georgia. Attention to the case exploded in early May 2020 when Bryan’s cell phone video of the attack surfaced online and each of the three men was subsequently arrested – more than two months after Arbery’s death.
President Joe Biden called the Arbery murder “a devastating reminder of how far we must go in the struggle for racial justice in this country.”
“The guilty verdicts reflect that our judicial system is doing its job, but that alone is not enough. Instead, we must renew our efforts to build a future of unity and mutual strength where no one fears violence because of their skin color, ”said in a statement.
The White House declined to comment on the murder trial in the days leading up to the verdict and continued a practice used during the Kyle Rittenhouse trial earlier this month. The Illinois teenager was cleared of all charges by a jury after claiming he was defending himself when he fatally shot and wounded two men and wounded another during a chaotic nighttime protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Earlier this year, the president posted a tweet on the anniversary of Arbery’s death. And as a presidential candidate last year he called the attack a “serious injustice” and characterized it as a lynching.
Following the Rittenhouse ruling, Biden expressed solidarity with those angry about his acquittal on all counts and upheld the juries as the foundation of the American criminal justice system.
“The jury system works and we have to stick to it,” said Biden on November 19th.
Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) Said shortly after Wednesday’s ruling that it “maintains a sense of accountability but not true justice”.
“True justice looks like a black man who doesn’t have to worry about getting hurt – or killed – while jogging, sleeping in his bed, while leading a very long life.” Warnock tweeted, who became the first black Georgian to be elected to the US Senate earlier this year.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, said Arbery “was the victim of a vigilance that has no place in Georgia”.
The issue of race was almost inextricably linked to the rest of the Arbery trial, although prosecutors largely avoided referring directly to her potential role in the episode.
The jury was disproportionately white, with only one black juror among the 12 selected. At the beginning of the trial, one of the defense lawyers tried unsuccessfully to limit the number of black clergymen on the courtroom rostrum and filed a wrongful trial on Monday over concerns that the noisy crowd outside the courthouse might affect the jury.
Outside the courthouse, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton praised activists who raised the case last year and “showed that we can unite and beat the lynch mob that killed Ahmaud.” But he added that it wouldn’t fill Arbery’s “empty chair”.
“Ahmaud won’t be at Thanksgiving tomorrow,” Sharpton said, turning to Arbery’s parents. “And even if it turns out to be a sober and solemn Thanksgiving, thank God you haven’t let your boy down.”
Sharpton was one of the Black Pastors – along with Rev. Jesse Jackson – whose presence in the courtroom’s public gallery was cited by Bryan’s attorney Kevin Gough during his failed attempt to limit the presence of black clergy in the courtroom’s public gallery.
Wednesday’s verdict does not end the legal ramifications of Arbery’s assassination.
Arbery’s estate has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit over his murder and the investigation by the local authorities. Each of the three defendants also face federal hate crime charges due to go on trial in February, and a former local prosecutor was charged in September for using her office to help the men linked to Arbery’s death to “favor”.
The jury deliberated a little over a day before bringing back their convictions for the three men and closing before the Thanksgiving holiday. The trial began on November 5th.
Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, was instructed to leave the courtroom by Judge Timothy Walmsley after he cheered openly when the first of the cascade of convictions was read out loud, temporarily disrupting the trial.