Ahmaud Arbery’s verdict: What happens next?

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ATLANTA – The murder was captured on video and shared around the world: Ahmaud Arbery ran towards and then around a truck at idle before its driver blew him up close with a shotgun.

Shortly after Travis McMichael fatally shot Arbery on February 23, 2020, his father, Greg McMichael, told police how the couple had armed themselves, chased the young black man and captured him “like a rat”. Neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan told police he joined the chase and helped interrupt Arbery’s escape.

After a 13-day trial at the Glynn County courthouse in coastal Georgia, a disproportionate white jury found the three white men guilty of murder. Each man was also convicted on minor charges.

IN WHICH INSTITUTIONS WAS EVERYONE BEEN JUDGED?

A nine-point indictment charged all three men with one count of premeditated murder, four counts of aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of attempted felony, in this case false imprisonment.

Travis McMichael was convicted of all nine charges. Greg McMichael was convicted of all charges except murder. Bryan was convicted of three counts of aggravated murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony.

HOW MUCH PRISON DOES THEY TIME OUT?

Convictions of malice and aggravated murder both carry a minimum sentence of life imprisonment. The judge decides whether it comes with or without the possibility of conditional release. Even if the possibility of parole is granted, a person convicted of murder must serve 30 years before he is entitled. Several murder convictions are merged for the purpose of sentencing.

Murder can also be punishable by death in Georgia if the killing meets certain criteria and the prosecutor chooses to request the death penalty. Prosecutors did not do that in this case.

Each case of aggravated assault carries a prison sentence of at least one year but not more than 20 years. False imprisonment is punishable by one to ten years’ imprisonment.

WHEN WILL THEY BE JUDGED?

It’s not clear yet. Supreme Court Justice Timothy Walmsley will set a date for the verdict.

WILL THERE APPEAL?

Appeals are almost certain in this case, says Ron Carlson, professor emeritus of law at the University of Georgia.

A probable ground for appeal may be the exclusion of certain evidence from the trial, he said. Defense attorneys had tried to present evidence of Arbery’s criminal record, records of his mental health and the fact that he was on probation. They also wanted an expert on the use of force to testify. But the judge did not decide to admit any of that evidence.

“They will claim that relevant evidence that was helpful to the defense was ruled out by the trial judge and that it was a mistake,” Carlson said.

It is also possible that appeal lawyers can find other reasons for appeal after reviewing transcripts and the jury’s instructions and talking to judges.

ARE THERE STILL NO FEDERAL FEES PENDING?

Yes. McMichaels and Bryan are still facing federal charges.

Months before the three were put on trial for state murders, a federal grand jury indicted them in April for hate crimes. It is a completely separate case that is not affected by the outcome of the state trial.

U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood has scheduled for the February 7 jury trial to begin on February 7. All three men are charged with a case of civil disobedience and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels were also accused of using, carrying and waving a firearm during a violent crime.

The federal prosecution says the men targeted Arbery because he was black.

Correction:

This story was updated on November 25, 2021 to correct that William “Roddie” Bryan was convicted of three counts of aggravated murder, not two.

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