Murder is sentenced to life imprisonment under Georgia law unless prosecutors call for the death penalty, which they chose to kill Arbery. For Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley, the primary decision will be whether to give father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan a possible parole.
Arbery’s mother asked for the maximum sentence, saying she suffered a personal, intense loss that was made worse by a trial in which the men argued that Arbery made bad choices that resulted in his death.
“This was not a case of false identity or false fact. They chose my son because they didn’t want him in their church. They chose to treat him differently from other people who frequented their community, ”said Wanda Cooper-Jones. “And when they couldn’t scare or intimidate him enough, they killed him.”
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski called for the judge to have life imprisonment without parole for Travis and Greg McMichael and a parole for Bryan. But she said everyone deserved this mandatory life sentence for showing “no compassion for the captured and frightened Ahmaud Arbery”.
Claiming the McMichaels still believed they did nothing wrong, Dunikoski announced on Friday that Greg McMichael gave Bryan’s cell phone video of the shooting to a lawyer who leaked it.
“He thought it would relieve him,” said the prosecutor.
Whether the judge grants probation amounts to a harsh sentence. Even if the judge allows parole, the McMichaels and Bryan must first serve at least 30 years in prison.
For 35-year-old Travis McMichael, the possibility of parole could mean hope of a release in his 60s, said Robert Rubin, one of his lawyers. He argued that Travis McMichael only opened fire after “Mr. Arbery walked up to him and grabbed the gun. ”But Rubin also admitted that his client’s choices to arm himself and hunt Arbery were“ ruthless ”and“ thoughtless ”.
“You are not evidence of a soul so blackened it deserves to spend the rest of its life in prison,” said Rubin. “This was not a planned murder. This was a fight for a weapon that resulted in the death of Mr Arbery. ”
Greg McMichael recently turned 66 and Bryan is 52, which increases the chances that they would spend the rest of their lives in prison even if given a parole.
Greg McMichael’s attorney Laura Hogue said her client has health issues and admitted he will likely never get out of jail. But he said giving him a parole would show that he had no intention of dying to Arbery and never draw his gun until his son has fired his shotgun.
“Greg McMichael didn’t leave his house that day to kill,” Hogue told the judge. “He didn’t see his son fire that shotgun with anything other than fear and sadness. What this jury found was that this was an unintended act. “
Bryan’s attorney said he should be given a parole for showing remorse and cooperating with the police by filming the cell phone video of the shooting to help them clarify the truth.
“Mr. Bryan is not the one who brought a gun,” said Kevin Gough. “He was unarmed. And I think that reflects his intentions.”
The convictions of the men the day before Thanksgiving resulted in a victory ceremony outside the Glynn County courthouse for those who viewed Arbery’s death as part of a larger national reckoning of racial injustice.
All three men were also convicted of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a false prison term. The maximum prison sentences for these counts range from five to 20 years. The judge would likely allow these additional sentences to be served at the same time as the life imprisonment for murder.
The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped into a pickup truck to chase 25-year-old Arbery after seeing him in their neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick, Georgia on Feb.23, 2020. Bryan joined the chase in his own truck, tapping cellphone video of Travis McMichael firing shotguns at close range at Arbery while he punches and reaches for the gun.
The murder went largely unnoticed until two months later, when the graphic video leaked online and sparked a national outcry. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took the case from local police and soon arrested all three men.
Defense lawyers have announced that they will appeal the convictions. You have 30 days after the conviction to file it.
Next month, McMichaels and Bryan face a second trial, this time in US District Court, on federal hate crime charges. A judge has hired Jury selection from February 7th. Prosecutors will argue that the three men violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him for being black.