Two white men, 66-year-old Gregory McMichael, and 35-year-old Travis McMichael have bagged life in prison without parole for killing 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, a black young man. The father and son, together with 52-year-old neighbor William Bryan, chased and killed Arbery on February 23, 2020, while jogging through the neighborhood in Brunswick, south Georgia, CNN reports.
The McMichaels, armed with a handgun, pursued Arbery through the neighborhood on a fateful day before catching up with him and shooting him in the chest. In their defense, they claimed they thought the black young man had committed a crime and was running, so they engaged in citizens’ arrest. Bryan did not know why the McMichaels were chasing Arbery, but he joined in the pursuit and recorded everything with his phone, including the shooting.
“I think it is readily clear that while Mr. Bryan has disputed and continues to dispute whether things that he did that day constituted crimes, he has never questioned the tragedy of this death,” Kevin Gough, Bryan’s attorney, stated.
While Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced the McMichaels to life imprisonment without parole, he sentenced Bryan to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. Bryan will be eligible for parole after serving 30 years in jail under the laws of Georgia. Gregory and Travis McMichaels were also handed an additional 20 years in prison for other felonies, while Bryan was handed another 15 years for a felony, but this was suspended.
Judge Walmsley said the sentencing may not necessarily bring closure to Arbery’s family, but it will demonstrate that there is recompense for all actions – referring to the convicts.
“Instead of closure, maybe it would be best to see today’s proceeding as an exercise in accountability,” the judge said. “We are all accountable for our own actions. Today demonstrates that everybody is accountable to the rule of law. Taking the law into your own hands is a dangerous endeavor.”
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, who had asked for the maximum sentence possible, expressed relief that her son got justice.
“I made a promise to you the day I laid you to rest,” she said, speaking directly to her late son. “I told you I love you, and someday, somehow, I would get you justice. Son, I love you as much today as I did the day you were born. Raising you was the honor of my life, and I’m very proud of you.”
Lawyers for the McMichaels and Bryan said their clients are sorry for Arbery’s death and will appeal their sentencing as too harsh.