Ahmaud Arbery: Jury finds men who killed Black jogger guilty of hate crimes
BRUNSWICK, Ga. - A federal jury has found the three men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery guilty on all counts of interfering with the victim's civil rights Tuesday in connection to the deadly shooting of the jogger in Georgia.
Tuesday morning, the jury told Judge Lisa Godbey Wood that they found father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan guilty of violating Arbery's civil rights and targeting the 25-year-old man because he was Black. All three men were previously convicted of murder in a Georgia state court and sentenced to life in prison for the fatal shooting.
AHMAUD ARBERY'S FAMILY PLEASED MEN FOUND GUILTY OF HATE CRIMES: ‘AHMAUD’S HANDS WERE IN THIS'
All three men were found guilty of interference with Arbery's rights and attempted kidnapping. Both Greg and Travis McMichael were also found guilty of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence with Travis guilty of an additional charge of discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.
Speaking after the verdict was read, Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones thanked everyone who stood by her side during "this long stressful fight" and said she was "thankful that a good jury was selected."
"I knew Ahmaud's hands were in this from the very beginning," she said. "The way Ahmaud left here, I knew we'd get victory in the state level and in the federal level. I knew that from day one."
Ahmaud's father Marcus Arbery described his son as a "kid you can't replace" with a "heart that will be missed."
He loved this family, he called us every day. If he had one word to tell you, it was, 'I love you, pop. I love you, mama.'" he said.
The trial closed Monday just before 11 a.m. with prosecutors saying 25-year-old Arbery’s slaying on a residential street was motivated by "pent-up racial anger," revealed by the defendants’ electronic messages as well as by witnesses who testified to hearing them make racist tirades and insults.
"All three defendants told you loud and clear, in their own words, how they feel about African Americans," prosecutor Tara Lyons told the jury Monday.
Defense attorneys insisted that past racist statements by their clients offered no proof they violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because he’s Black. They urged the jury to set aside their emotions.
"It’s natural for you to want retribution or revenge," said Pete Theodocion, representing Bryan. "But we have to elevate ourselves ... even if it’s the tough thing."
The jury begins deliberating days before the two-year anniversary of Arbery's death. Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said on Monday she was confident in the way the Department of Justice handled the case.
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Witness testimony concluded Friday. The defense rested after calling one witness, who suggested a suspicious person two of the defendants reported to police in 2019 was likely white.
Prosecutors revealed roughly two dozen racist text messages and social media posts by the McMichaels and Bryan.
FBI analyzes texts, posts sent by McMichaels, Bryan
FBI agents uncovered roughly two dozen racist text messages and social media posts from the McMichaels and Bryan in the years and months preceding the shooting.
For instance, in 2018, Travis McMichael commented on a Facebook video of a Black man playing a prank on a white person: "I’d kill that f----ing n----r."
Some witnesses testified they heard the McMichaels’ racist statements firsthand. A woman who served under Travis McMichael in the U.S. Coast Guard a decade ago said he called her "n——r lover," after learning she’d dated a Black man. Another woman testified Greg McMichael had ranted angrily in 2015 when she remarked on the death of civil rights activist Julian Bond, saying, "All those Blacks are nothing but trouble."
The jury heard from neighbors in the Glynn County subdivision who said the February 2020 shooting shocked them.
The jury also saw cellphone video and crime scene photos of Arbery’s body before hearing excerpts of interviews the defendants gave to police.
Pete Theodocion, who represents Bryan, questioned witness Matt Albenze, who armed himself and called police when he saw Arbery enter the home under construction across the street.
"Nothing you did that day, none of the words or actions, were based on Mr. Arbery being African American, is that correct?" Theodocion asked.
"Correct," Albenze replied.
Prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein asked him if he ever drew his gun at Arbery.
"It’s not my job," Albenze said.
Opening statements in hate crimes trial
Prosecutors said the men being charged in the hate crime trial in the Ahmaud Arbery murder have been known to use racist slurs.
During opening statements in the case, prosecutors told the jury the men had histories of making racist comments or using slurs in text messages.
Defense attorneys said, while their clients had each expressed offensive opinions about Black people, their pursuit of Arbery stemmed from the suspicion that he had committed crimes, not because of his race.
"I’m not going to ask you to like Travis McMichael," Amy Lee Copeland, the defense attorney for the man who fatally shot Arbery, told the jury. "I’m not going to ask you to decide that he had done nothing wrong. But I’m going to ask you to return a verdict of not guilty to this indictment."
Hate crimes trial jury selection
U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood swore in a jury of eight white people, three Black people, and one Hispanic person was sworn in to hear the case Monday morning along with four alternate jurors.
They were all questioned about their opinions on hate crimes during the selection process.
Plea deal rejected
The McMichaels withdrew their guilty pleas after the judge rejected terms of a deal between defense attorneys and prosecutors that was criticized by Arbery's parents.
The Associated Press contributed to this report