The three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, in Georgia were sentenced Friday to life in prison.
The sentences for Travis McMichael, who shot Arbery; and his father, Gregory McMichael, do not carry the possibility of parole. Their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan will be eligible, however, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley said.
All three men were convicted of murder and other charges by a Glynn County jury in November in the pursuit and fatal shooting of Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020.
Walmsley called Arbery’s killing “callous” and said it occurred because “confrontation was being sought.”
Before announcing the sentences, the judge asked the courtroom to sit in silence for one minute to illustrate, he said, a fraction of the estimated time Arbery was running in terror from the men before he was killed.
“He left his home to go for a run and ended up running for his life,” the judge said.
The sentences are in line with the request from prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, who recommended that Bryan get a chance at parole and that the McMichaels be denied that possibility. Dunikoski said the father and son showed no remorse or empathy for “the trapped and terrified Ahmaud Arbery.”
Defense attorneys argued in favor of parole for all three men.
An attorney for Travis McMichael said he “should have the opportunity to show that he’s grown, to show that he’s changed.” The attorney, Robert Rubin, said that a parole board should determine if and when Travis McMichael is released from prison.
Arbery’s parents and sister, who spoke before the sentences were handed down, asked the judge to give the men the maximum punishment allowable.
“The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every single day next to his father. I’ll never get that chance to sit next to my son ever again. Not at a general table. Not at a holiday. And not at a wedding,” Ahmaud Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, said before the sentence was announced. “His killers should spend the rest of their lives thinking about what they did and what they took from us and they should do it behind bars because me and my family have to do it for the rest of their life.”
The McMichaels armed themselves and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after seeing him running in their neighborhood, Satilla Shores. Bryan joined the pursuit in his pickup truck and recorded video of the fatal encounter on his cellphone.
The McMichaels and Bryan had been charged with one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count each of false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
Travis McMichael, who fired at Arbery three times at close range, was convicted of all nine charges. Gregory McMichael was convicted of all charges except malice murder. Bryan was convicted of three counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
The nearly all-white jury deliberated for about 10 hours before delivering its verdict.
The malice murder and felony murder convictions both carry a minimum penalty of life in prison. Attorneys for all three men have said they intend to appeal the convictions.
Prosecutors said Arbery ran from the men for five minutes. Arbery was eventually trapped between the two pickup trucks and ended up in a confrontation with Travis McMichael, who was armed with a shotgun.
The McMichaels and Bryan were free for several weeks after the shooting. They were arrested only after the video that Bryan recorded was released and the case was taken over by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
From the beginning, the handling of the case by local officials was called into question by Arbery’s family and friends. Arbery’s killing, along with that of George Floyd, sparked protests against racial injustice in America and beyond.
Attorneys for the men, each of whom had their own defense team, had argued that the men suspected Arbery was a burglar in an area that they claimed was “on edge.” Arbery was recorded on security camera video visiting a partially built home in the neighborhood several times. The videos did not show him taking anything from the property. The last video was recorded the afternoon he was killed. The defense had sought to convince the jury that the McMichaels and Bryan were trying to execute a citizen’s arrest, which was legal at the time in the state.
But lead prosecutor Dunikoski challenged that narrative. In her closing argument, she said Arbery had not committed an offense in the presence of any of the men and that they decided to “attack” him “because he was a Black man running down the street.”
“Who brought the shotgun to the party?” she said. “You can’t create the situation and then go, ‘I was defending myself.'”
Prosecutors did not argue that race motivated the killing but all three face federal hate crime charges.