Ahmaud Arbery: 3 charged with killing jogger found guilty of murder

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Jurors on Wednesday found three men charged with killing 25-year-old jogger Ahmaud Arbery guilty on several charges in the February 2020 shooting, including felony murder.

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Jurors got the case against father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, on Tuesday morning and deliberated for about six hours before breaking for the night. They returned to the courthouse Wednesday morning and deliberated for about five hours before reaching their verdict.

>> See the latest on WSBTV.com and ActionNewsJax.com

>> Related: Ahmaud Arbery case: What is next for Greg and Travis McMichael, William Bryan

Update 5:11 p.m. EST Nov. 24: In a statement, Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday’s verdicts sent “an important message.”

“Today, the jury rendered its verdicts and the three defendants were found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery,” the statement said. “Still, we feel the weight of grief. Ahmaud Arbery should be alive, and nothing can take away the pain that his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, his father Marcus Arbery, and the entire Arbery family and community feel today. I share in that pain.”

Update 3:25 p.m. EST Nov. 24: Defense attorney Jason Sheffield, who represents Travis McMichael, said Wednesday that the three men convicted of murder in the February 2020 death of Arbery are sorry for their actions leading up to the deadly shooting.

“I’ve lived with these men for the last year and a half, day in and day out. I’ve looked into their hearts; I’ve looked into their souls,” Sheffield said.

“I’ve had very deep conversations with them that stemmed back to their childhood and their upbringing, and I can tell you honestly that these men are sorry for what happened to Ahmaud Arbery. They are sorry that he is dead, they are sorry for the tragedy that happened because of the choices they made to go out there and try to stop him.”

Update 3:20 p.m. EST Nov. 24: Defense attorney Robert Rubin said Travis McMichael was “very stoic” Wednesday after jurors found him guilty of several charges in the February 2020 death of Arbery, including malice and felony murder.

“I was right next to him, feeling his body next to mine and (I) was ready for him to react and I really didn’t feel any reaction,” Rubin said. “He’s a strong man. He understood the potential consequences in this and whatever he was feeling he was holding into himself.”

Update 3:10 p.m. EST Nov. 24: Jason Sheffield, a defense attorney representing Travis McMichael, said Wednesday was “a very difficult day” for his client and his father, Greg McMichael, after jurors found them guilty of murder for killing Arbery in February 2020.

“These are two men who honestly believe that what they were doing was the right thing to do,” Sheffield told people gathered outside the courthouse. “However, a Glynn County jury has spoken, they have found them guilty, and they will be sentenced.”

He said the verdict was “disappointing,” but added that he and other defense attorneys “recognize that this is a day of celebration for the Arbery family.”

“We cannot tear our eyes away from the way that they feel about this, and we understand that they feel that they have gotten justice today,” he said. “We respect that, we honor that because we honor this jury trial system.”

Attorneys said they plan to appeal.

Update 2:55 p.m. EST Nov. 24: In a statement released Wednesday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he hoped that the verdict announced earlier by jurors in the killing of Arbery will help people heal going forward.

“Ahmaud Arbery was the victim of a vigilantism that has no place in Georgia,” Kemp said. “As legal efforts continue to hold accountable all who may be responsible, we hope the Arbery family, the Brunswick community, our state and those around the nation who have been following his case can now move forward down a path of healing and reconciliation.”

Update 2:50 p.m. EST Nov. 24: President Joe Biden said in a statement Wednesday that the Arbery case serves as “a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country.”

“Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and to his community, but the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished,” the president said.

“While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin.”

Update 2:44 p.m. EST Nov. 24: People cheered as lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski addressed the crowd gathered Wednesday outside the courthouse after jurors found the McMichaels and Bryan guilty of murdering Ahmaud.

Dunikoski emphasized that Wednesday’s convictions were a team effort. She thanked the Arbery family for their faith in prosecutors and said the trial proved that “the jury system works in this country.”

“The verdict today was a verdict based on the facts, based on the evidence, and that was our goal was to bring that to that jury so that they could do the right thing,” she said. “The jury system works in this country and when you present the truth to people and they can see it, they will do the right thing. And that’s what this jury did today in getting justice for Ahmaud Arbery.”

Update 2:40 p.m. EST Nov. 24: A representative for prosecutors praised Arbery’s family and investigators and and thanked jurors after they handed down guilty verdicts Wednesday for the McMichaels and Bryan.

“We’d like to also say thank you and we commend the courage and the bravery of this jury to say that what happened on Feb. 23, 2020, to Ahmaud Arbery – the hunting and killing of Ahmaud Arbery – it was not only morally wrong, but legally wrong, and we are thankful for that,” said Latonia Hines, an executive Cobb County assistant district attorney.

Update 2:35 p.m. EST Nov. 24: Ahmaud Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, thanked people gathered outside the courthouse while saying that Wednesday was “a good day” and urging people to “love everybody.

“This is history today,” he said. “All life matters, not just Black children – we don’t want to see (anybody) go through this. I don’t want to see (any) daddy watch his kid get left and shot down like that. So, it’s all our problem. … Let’s keep fighting, let’s keep doing it and making this place a better place for all human beings.”

Judge Timothy Walmsley asked that Marcus Arbery leave the courtroom earlier Wednesday after he cheered news of Timothy McMichael’s conviction on a charge of malice murder.

“He could not contain it any further because -- think about how long he and Wanda have been enduring all the innuendo, all the allegations, all the character assassinations,” Marcus Arbery’s attorney, Ben Crump, said Wednesday.

“He could not contain himself because Marcus as a father -- they see their job as to protect their children, and you can’t experience the pain of a mother and a father who witnessed what they witnessed not being there to protect their child.”

Update 2:29 p.m. EST Nov. 24: Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, thanked people who marched, gathered outside the courthouse and prayed for her family after jurors found three men guilty of murdering her 25-year-old son.

“To tell you the truth, I never saw this day back in 2020. I never thought this day would come, but God is good,” she said Wednesday. “Thank you guys, thank you. Now Ques – which you know him as Ahmaud, I know him as Ques, he will now rest in peace.”

Update 2:20 p.m. EST Nov. 24: People cheered Wednesday as Arbery’s family members and pastors lifted their joined hands while exiting the courthouse after jurors returned guilty verdicts for the McMichaels and Bryan.

The Rev. Al Sharpton thanked prosecutors, supporters, activists and God after the verdict was read.

“Let the word go forth all over the world that a jury of 11 whites and one Black in the Deep South stood up in the courtroom and said that ‘black lives do matter,’” Sharpton said.

“Let it me clear that almost 10 years after Trayvon (Martin), God used Wanda and Marcus’ son to prove that if we kept marching and kept fighting, we would make you hear us. We’ve got a lot more battles to fight, but this was an important battle today.”

Update 2:15 p.m. EST Nov. 24: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Wednesday she was “grateful” for the jury’s verdicts against the McMichaels and Bryan, calling Arbery’s murder “senseless” in a statement.

“I am hopeful that this verdict gives Mr. Arbery’s family, and people across America, some level of comfort in knowing that these men are being held accountable for taking the life of an innocent young man.”

Jurors heard from nearly two dozen witnesses over the course of the trial, which began Nov. 5. They deliberated for about 11 hours over two days before finding the McMichaels and Bryan guilty of several charges, including felony murder.

A sentencing date was not immediately set.

Update 2:05 p.m. EST Nov. 24: People cheered, celebrated and chanted outside the courthouse Wednesday after jurors returned guilty verdicts for the McMichaels and Bryan.

Travis McMichael, who fired the shot that killed Arbery, was found guilty of all charges, including malice murder and four counts of felony murder. Jurors found his father, Greg McMichael -- who chased after Arbery with his son -- guilty of four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and a charge of criminal attempt to commit a felony. Bryan, who followed Arbery in his pickup truck and filmed the deadly encounter between the 25-year-old and Travis McMichael, was found guilty of three counts of felony murder and one count each of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.

The convictions mean the McMichaels and Bryan face a minimum penalty of life in prison, according to The Associated Press. It will be up to the judge to determine whether the defendants will be eligible for parole. If the judge decides to grant them the possibility of parole, the McMichaels and Bryan will first have to serve at least 30 years of their sentences, the AP reported.

Update 1:43 p.m. EST Nov. 24: Jurors found Bryan not guilty of malice murder, a count of felony murder and a count of aggravated assault on Wednesday and returned guilty verdicts on the other charges he faced, including three other counts of felony murder.

Update 1:41 p.m. EST Nov. 24: Jurors returned a not guilty verdict against Greg McMichael on one count of malice murder and found him guilty of the other charges against him, including four counts of felony murder.

Update 1:39 p.m. EST Nov. 24: Jurors found Travis McMichael guilty of all charges against him in the Feb. 23, 2020 killing of Arbery, including one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder and false imprisonment.

Update 1:38 p.m. EST Nov. 24: Cheers were heard in court Wednesday as Judge Timothy Walmsley announced that jurors found Travis McMichael guilty of malice murder in the Feb. 23, 2020, death of Arbery.

Update 1:27 p.m. EST Nov. 24: Jurors have reached a verdict in the trial of the McMichaels and their neighbor, Bryan, WJAX-TV reported.

Update 9:58 a.m. EST Nov. 24: Jurors have resumed their deliberations in the trial of the McMichaels and Bryan after reviewing video of the deadly Feb. 23, 2020, shooting and listening to a 911 call placed that day by Greg McMichael.

Judge Timothy Walmsley said he will give attorneys a 10-minute warning once jurors have reached a verdict.

Update 9:50 a.m. EST Nov. 24: Judge Timothy Walmsley brought jurors back into the courtroom Wednesday morning after they asked to review video and a 911 call submitted into evidence in the trial of the McMichaels and Bryan.

“‘We the jury request to see the following video three times each: one, original video, short version; two, enhanced high-contrast version,’” Judge Timothy Walmsley said in court Wednesday, reading a request from the jury. “‘We would also like to listen to the 911 call on 2/23 by Greg McMichael’ -- and then they’re asking if they can just spread out in the gallery also, signed by the foreperson.”

He asked jurors to clarify what videos they wanted to review and then allowed for them to play in court as requested. The videos showed the moment when Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery.

Original report: The defendants face charges including malice murder, felony murder and false imprisonment.

Jurors heard from nearly two dozen witnesses over the course of the trial, which began Nov. 5.

>> Related: Ahmaud Arbery: No verdict after 1st day of deliberations in trial of 3 charged with killing jogger

Prosecutors argued that the Feb. 23, 2020, shooting was racially motivated, a result of “driveway decisions” and assumptions about Arbery, who was Black, WSB-TV reported.

Defense attorneys said the McMichaels and Bryan, who are white, suspected Arbery of burglarizing a home in the neighborhood and that they were trying to hold Arbery under a citizen’s arrest. Travis McMichael, who took the stand last week, told jurors that he shot Arbery in self-defense amid a struggle over his gun.

>> Related: Ahmaud Arbery: Defense concludes closing arguments, court adjourned until Tuesday

“He had my gun. He struck me,” the younger McMichael testified. “It was obvious that he was … attacking me, that if he would’ve gotten the shotgun from me – it was a life-or-death situation.”

In final remarks on Wednesday, prosecutors said Arbery had no obligation to talk to the defendants, who chased and confronted him while in their pickup trucks, and that they had no right to perform a citizen’s arrest on Arbery based on Georgia law.

>> Related: Ahmaud Arbery: Defense rests for 3 charged in death of jogger

“You can’t base your citizen’s arrest on that sort of stale information from unreliable sources,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said. “Facebook does not alone give you probable cause to go arrest somebody. Rumors in the neighborhood do not give you probable cause alone to go and arrest somebody.”

>> Related: Former district attorney indicted over handling of Ahmaud Arbery case

Authorities brought charges against the McMichaels and Bryan months after the shooting amid public outcry after graphic footage of the deadly shooting appeared online. In September, a grand jury indicted former Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson on charges related to the handling of the case.

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