BRUNSWICK, Ga. — As the first verdict was read by the judge – Travis McMichael, guilty of the malice murder of Ahmaud Arbery – a cheer from Arbery’s father was heard in the courtroom. There was a large crowd in the room that overflowed, where they could see the verdicts live. They were cheered on. As deputies called out for order, people embraced each other and wept.

Watchers next door tried to control their excitement as each verdict was read. They raised their hands, nodded, and hugged one another. Others silently cheered.

In all, 27 verdicts were reached, nine for each defendant. Travis McMichael was the one who fired the shots and was found guilty of all nine charges, as well as malice murder. Gregory McMichael’s father was not found guilty of malice killing and was found guilty of seven other crimes. Their neighbor, William “Roddie Bryan,” who recorded video of the killing, was found guilty of three counts of felony murder and three other charges.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, sobbed and repeated, “We finally got justice.”

Verdicts, explained:Which verdicts were given in Ahmaud Abery’s murder for malice and felony?

Arbery family supporters were exuberant, emotional and outgoing outside of the courthouse. There was an audience waiting for family members to speak and prosecutors. They cheered behind bars and shouted Arbery’s Name. 

Inside, Travis McMichael mouthed “love you” to his mother, Leigh McMichael, who was crying.

“I’m floored, floored with a capital ‘F,’” Laura Hogue, one of Gregory McMichael’s lawyers, told Leigh McMichael as she sat in the courtroom gallery, the room emptying around her, her face red with tears.

Attorney Bob Rubin said Travis McMichael was “stoic” after the verdict was read. “He’s a strong man. This was something he understood. Whatever he was feeling he was holding into himself,” Rubin said.

“This is a very difficult day for Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael. These are two men who honestly believed what they were doing was the right thing to do,” said Jason Sheffield, another defense attorney.

“That is a very disappointing, sad verdict,” he said, adding, “But we also recognize that this is a day of celebration for the Arbery family.”

Many people who were watching the event in the overflow area spilled out into the hall, and many of them cried as they embraced their family. Arbery’s aunt, Theawanza Brooks, removed a jacket to reveal a bright orange shirt that read “state penitentiary,” with the defendants’ mug shots on the back as she made her way outside ahead of the rest of the crowd. 

The courthouse was surrounded by media and supporters holding “Justice for Ahmaud” signs, bearing the image of Arbery smiling in a baseball cap that prosecutors presented in court, and waving flags.

The crowd chanting Arbery’s name and “no justice no peace” fell silent as Arbery’s parents and Rev. Al Sharpton addressed the crowd, and then they broke out in cheers as they closed.

“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. Cooper-Jones assured the crowd that God is great. Truth be told, I didn’t see this happening in 2020. This day never came to me. God is great.”

As prosecutor Linda Dunikoski approached the microphone, the crowd cheered and called her “Auntie Linda.”

“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,” she said.

Leaders in civil rights:Ahmaud Abery verdict represents “progress” towards “true justice.”

Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud Arbery’s father, thanked supporters for “pulling together” to deliver justice.

“We conquered that lynch mob. We got that lynch mob,” he said.

The verdicts received by observers were seen as a “step forward”

Nadirah, 24 year old, said she raced to the courthouse upon hearing the verdict. She said after watching the trial, she wasn’t expecting the jury to find the McMichaels and Bryan guilty.

“I’m amazed,” she said. “Right now, it’s just emotion. Very emotional.”

Sherine McKenzie, who was also in the crowd, called the guilty verdicts a “relief.”

“I think as minorities we feel we slip through the cracks all the time. When will this time ever end? McKenzie said. ” At least in Brunswick, Georgia, that time is today.”

People react outside the Glynn County Courthouse following guilty verdicts for the defendants in the trial of the killers of Ahmaud Arbery on November 24, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia.

Carolyn Ruff from Chicago said that she flew to Brunswick last week from Kenosha (Wisconsin) and that she saw the trials of Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse had been convicted of shooting two people during a demonstration for racial justice last summer. 

Ruff stated that she was there “due” to stand in front the tables set up by demonstrators, laden with snacks and Arbery’s portrait. Ruff couldn’t breath as the verdicts were being read.

“I was overwhelmed with joy,” she said “I was jumping, I was shouting, I was doing everything.”

Soon, the crowd began marching toward downtown Brunswick from in front of this courthouse. They stopped near a Arbery mural. Dozens of people marched, chanting “Whose streets? Our streets,” before returning to the courthouse.

The crowd was reminded by a speaker that the murderers are also facing federal hate crime charges and other charges in connection to Arbery’s death. The trial is scheduled to begin February.

Bryan and McMichaels are still to be sentenced. All three face the possibility of life imprisonment.

Grace Hauck USA TODAY Contributing



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