BRUNSWICK, Ga. – A jury found three white Georgia men guilty Wednesday of an array of charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery early last year.
Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan each faced a total of nine counts: one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Travis McMichael who shot Arbery was found guilty of all charges by the jury. Gregory McMichael pled guilty to all charges except malice murder. Bryan was found guilty on six of the nine charges. This includes three counts of felonious murder.
Defense attorneys argued that the men are not guilty of all the charges because they were attempting to make a citizen’s arrest and that Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense. The prosecution argued that Arbery was chased by the three men because they saw a Black male running through their tiny coastal area on Feb. 23, 2020.
Though the prosecutors were not explicit in arguing that racism drove the killing, federal authorities have filed hate crimes charges against them, alleging that Arbery was Black and that they chased him down to kill him. The case will go on trial in February.
Verdict:Judge convicts 3 white men of killing Ahmaud Abery in fatal shooting
Let’s find out what these charges are.
Malice and felony murder
Georgia does not have degrees of murder but has malice and felony murder.
Malice murder is a crime that causes death in Georgia. It can be either unlawfully or with malice before it occurs, whether expressly implied or explicit.
Express malice involves a “deliberate intention” to take the life of another human. When the murder is not provoked and all the circumstances surrounding the killing are unfavourable, it is considered malice.
When a person is responsible for the death or serious injury of another person, they are guilty of felony murder. In order to be convicted of felony murder, the person must be convicted of the underlying felony.
Prosecutors say the men committed four felonies: two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. So the men faced four counts of felony murder.
False imprisonment and aggravated assault
First, the charge of aggravated attack was with a firearm or deadly weapon. According to prosecutors, that’s when Travis pointed the 12-gauge shotgun at Arbery.
The second count was an assault with “an object, device and instrument, which when used offensively against a person are likely to result in serious bodily injury.” That’s when Arbery was assaulted with the two pickup trucks, prosecutors say.
The judge instructed the jury Tuesday that for aggravated assault, “actual injury to the alleged victim need not be shown.”
Prosecutors say the men committed false imprisonment when they violated Arbery’s personal liberty by confining and detaining him without legal authority, using their pickups. Because they tried to detain him on another street, they also were charged with one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, prosecutors say.
Arrest of Citizen
The judge stated that these conditions were necessary for Arbery to be taken into custody.
- If an offense was committed while they are present or with their “immediate knowledge”, a person may make a citizen’s bail. Or, based on “reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion,” if the crime is a felony and the suspect is escaping or attempting to escape.
- It is not possible to arrest a citizen based on unsupported statements made by other citizens.
- This must occur immediately following the offense.
- An individual cannot be arrested using “excessive force, or an illegal degree of force”.
- A person placed under an unlawful citizen’s arrest “has the right to resist the arrest with such force as is reasonably necessary.”
Prosecutors argued the defendants didn’t have immediate knowledge that Arbery had committed a crime but instead made assumptions based on neighborhood rumors.
The defendants also claimed that none of them told Arbery nor the police they wanted to arrest a citizen on February 23. However, Judge Timothy Walmsley The jury was informed that a citizen can be arrested even though they have not been told.
In Georgia, a person can threaten or use deadly force if they reasonably believe it’s necessary to protect themselves or another person from “imminent” death or serious bodily injury or to prevent the commission of a “forcible felony.”
Defense attorneys claimed that Arbery could have used one of his fists to attack the victim. Walmsley told jurors a person can use their fist to commit aggravated assault, which would be considered a “forcible felony.”
Walmsley stated that self-defense cannot be claimed if a person is committing a crime, inciting another person to use force or being the “unjustified and initial aggressor”.
Walmsley declared, “A person who does not act as aggressor need not retreat.”
Contributing: The Associated Press