A jury has found the three White men who killed Ahmaud Arbery guilty on a federal hate crime charge, backing prosecutors’ case that the men chased the 25-year-old through the streets of the Satilla Shores neighborhood, because he was Black.
Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan were all found guilty of one count of interference of rights, a federal hate crime charge.
They could now receive up to life in prison for the federal convictions.
[Previous story, published at 10:17 a.m. ET]
The verdict — coming after more than three hours of deliberations Monday and Tuesday — is expected to be read around 10:30 a.m. ET in federal court in Brunswick, Georgia.
In the current federal trial, the three men are each charged with interference with rights — a hate crime — and attempted kidnapping, with prosecutors trying to prove they acted out of racial animus. The McMichaels also face charges related to the use of firearms during a violent crime.
During closing rebuttal arguments on Monday, prosecutor Tara Lyons emphasized the state’s position that Arbery was killed two years ago because he was Black.
“On February 23, 2020, the three defendants did not see 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery as a fellow human being,” Lyons said in federal court in Brunswick.
Defense attorneys have not denied the use of such language — yet argued the facts of the case show their response to Arbery was not due to his race.
The jury is made up of eight White jurors, three Black jurors and one Hispanic juror, according to details provided in court. Three White people and one Pacific Islander have also been selected as alternates.
Closing statements wrapped on Monday
Prosecutor Christopher J. Perras spoke at the start of the prosecution’s closing arguments Monday by going through some of the evidence presented during trial, including Facebook posts made by Greg McMichael, texts and posts by Travis McMichael, and Bryan’s use of a derogatory phrase in messages to friends.
“This wasn’t about trespassing. This wasn’t about neighborhood crimes, either. It was about race — racial assumptions, racial resentment, and racial anger,” Perras said.
Perras argued Bryan’s pursuit of Arbery — after seeing Arbery running from the McMichaels’ truck — was based on race, citing testimony that Bryan didn’t know precisely what was happening or asked what the pursuit was about.
“He didn’t ask Ahmaud, ‘Are you OK.’ … (He assumed) the Black man was in the wrong and the White guys were in the right. … That’s how hard-wired his racial assumptions were,” Perras said.
Defense attorneys on behalf of each of the three men also spoke Monday in closing remarks, pushing back against prosecutors’ arguments.
J. Pete Theodocion, a defense attorney for Bryan, countered that Arbery never asked for help, and said Bryan would have joined the pursuit regardless of Arbery’s race. What Bryan saw was two people — in a truck he recognized from the neighborhood — asking Arbery to stop, and Arbery wasn’t stopping.
“It was entirely reasonable” to assume the person being chased did something wrong, Theodocion said. Bryan “absolutely” had “enough evidence” to follow in his own vehicle at a slow speed and record video, the lawyer said.
Amy Copeland, a defense attorney for Travis McMichael, said there is no evidence her client used a racial slur on the day Arbery was murdered, no evidence he was part of a hate group, no evidence of racial violence committed by McMichael and no evidence he talked about Arbery’s death in racial terms.
The defense attorney for Greg McMichael, attorney A.J. Balbo, told the jury his client had tenants who were people of color.
“Those are his private facilities,” Balbo said. “Gregory McMichael invited people of color, African Americans to make use of his private facilities.”
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, was seen overcome with emotion in the courtroom during the defense’s closing arguments, including when Balbo detailed the moments leading up to the fatal attack.
“He described Ahmaud as turning toward Travis and attacking Travis, which we all know now that wasn’t true,” she told reporters outside the courthouse during Monday’s lunch break. “When Ahmaud turned to Travis, Travis already had that shotgun pulled toward him.”
The timing of the closing of the trial is “great,” Cooper-Jones said, as it nears the two-year anniversary of Arbery’s death. “The anniversary date is the 23rd, and hopefully we’ll have a good verdict by the 23rd,” she said.
After recounting what Balbo claimed about her son, she said, “this has been very draining, and I’m thankful that it’s almost over.”
The prosecution in the murder trial conceded surveillance videos did show Arbery at the construction site multiple times, including the day he was killed, but always without taking anything.
In closing arguments Monday, Perras said Arbery’s reason for being there was irrelevant to the legality of the defendants’ pursuit of him, and stressed the property owner’s testimony that nothing was taken. “Maybe Ahmaud was interested in seeing the progress … (or) to clear his mind … to get away from it all. … We’ll never know for sure” because he was killed, Perras said.
CNN’s Pamela Kirkland, Kevin Conlon, Maria Cartaya, Alta Spells and Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.