The jurors who convicted three white men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery rendered appropriate verdicts based on the facts and evidence in the trial, said Kami Chavis, a law professor at the Wake Forest University School of Law.
“There was clear testimony from Travis McMichael that Ahmaud Arbery presented no threat to him at all,” said Chavis, who is also the director of the criminal justice program at the Wake Forest law school and a former federal prosecutor.
“You have three men who pursued Ahmaud Arbery, cornered him with their truck and brandished weapons toward him,” Chavis said. “That was very menacing, and he (Arbery) must have been very afraid.”
The convictions for Greg McMichael, his son, Travis McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan came after jurors deliberated for about 10 hours in Brunswick, Ga.
The men face minimum sentences of life in prison. It is up to the judge to decide whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole.
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The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup to pursue Arbery, 25, after seeing him running in their neighborhood outside of the port city of Brunswick in February 2020.
Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cell phone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.
District Attorney Jim O’Neill of Forsyth County said Wednesday night that Arbery case “was a totally unnecessary and avoidable tragedy.”
“I am saddened for the loss of Ahmaud’s life,” O’Neill said.
The verdicts against the three men show that the justice system “is not completely broken in this country,” said Vincent Rabil, an assistant capital defender in Winston-Salem for the state of North Carolina.
“This jury was able to listen to the evidence and follow the law in this case,” said Rabil, a former assistant district attorney in Forsyth County. “That hopefully will slow the sad and tragic drift to vigilantism in America.
“It’s a great tribute and sign that we are still a nation of laws and that the rule of law still means something in the United States,” Rabil said.
The guilty verdicts in the case are proper, said Al Jabbar, the president of the Winston-Salem NAACP.
“Justice is served (or) done as defined by Merriam-Webster (Dictionary) when proper punishment or fair treatment is given by the legal system,” Jabbar said. “While we can count this as a victory, are we really winning the war?
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated that ‘injustice anywhere is threat to justice everywhere,’” Jabbar said, “so have we received justice when just days ago a young white male murdered two white people and injured another, has become a hero to some and praised for being free?
“We the board and members of the local branch of the NAACP extend our sincere condolences to the Arbrey family as they continue to celebrate the life of Ahmaud,” Jabbar said. “While we celebrate this victory, we will continue to fight for justice for all.”
Tony Ndege, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter – Winston-Salem, said that Wednesday’s guilty verdicts for the accused murderers of Ahmaud Arbery carry the same historical significance as the guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin earlier this year.
“Black Lives Matter—Winston-Salem also strongly believes that, much like the Chauvin verdict, the guilty verdict for Arbery’s killers was not only the cumulative result of mass social pressure and the resulting intangibles that come with the power of a movement,” Ndege said.
“We think that such mass movements for social justice and the value of Black and brown lives such as the protest wave, which we were all part of last year as well as all of the smaller moments of resistance, are what truly transform our society and move history forward,” Ndege said.
“The verdicts came as a big relief as we were extremely concerned that anything less than strong guilty verdicts for all three murderers, particularly coming off the heels of the Ritternhouse verdict, would have given a societal green light to further white supremacist violence and right-wing vigilantism,” Ndege said.
“Our hearts and hugs go out to Ahmaud Arbery’s loved ones and to the demonstrators in Georgia who have remained vigilant in keeping the fire on the powers that be in Brunswick and elsewhere,” Ndege said. “No justice, no peace.”
Mohamed Taguine, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, referred to a statement issued Wednesday by the ACLU of Georgia regarding the verdicts in the Arbery trial.
“The events surrounding the killing of Ahmaud Arbery harken back to the worst practices of Georgia under Jim Crow,” the ACLU of Georgia said in its statement.
“The question before the jury was whether they believed in a Georgia that is multiracial and multicultural where every person can live freely or whether they would affirm white supremacy,” the organization said.
“With their verdict, the jury rejected the vestige of Jim Crow and the assertion of white supremacy that was at the center of this case,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia.
“This is a vitally important step, brought about because of the determination of Ahmaud Arbery’s family and his community and the public protests,” Young said. “Importantly, this movement led to the repeal of the Citizen’s Arrest law, and we must continue to work for racial equality in the state of Georgia.
“Glynn County must create an independent citizen’s review board,” Young said. “Black Georgians must have a voice in our state and local governments that fully reflects their share of the population, and we must protect the right to protest without which these men would never have even been arrested.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.