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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Ahmaud Arbery’s killers face sentencing today, but this huge legal saga doesn’t end anywhere

Travis McMichael, 35, his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, and neighbor William “Roddy” Bryan, 52, were indicted on multiple charges including felony in the 2020 murder of a 25-year-old black jogger. Sentencing proceedings are expected to begin at 10 a.m. ET.
Although murder is punishable by death in Georgia, prosecutors have said they will seek life without parole. According to Georgia law, even if Judge Timothy Walmsley grants parole, it will not be considered for 30 years.

Following the November ruling, Walmsley said he would give lawyers “time to put together whatever evidence they can show in the state from enhancement or defense to mitigation.”

Arbery’s family will be able to testify intended to deliver harsher sentences, while supporters of the McMichaels and Brian can present character witnesses to press for lighter sentences. Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, intends to make a statement, said her attorney, S. Lee Merritt.

Walmsley may consider other factors, such as Travis McMichael being the one who shot Arbery.

No matter the sentence, the vast legal saga is not over: the men’s lawyers say they will appeal the verdict; A federal hate crime trial is scheduled for next month; Arbery’s mother has filed a civil suit; And the original prosecutor faces charges for his alleged handling of the case.

jailed for decades

The men believed Arbery had committed the crime on February 23, 2020, in his Satilla Shores neighborhood outside Brunswick, they told police. The McMichaels were armed and gave chase, and Bryan later joined the chase, recording it from his pickup. Brian’s video shows Travis McMichael getting out of his truck and confronts Arbery, who fights with Travis over a shotgun, before fatally shooting the younger McMichael.
The McMichaels claimed they were making a civilian arrest and were acting in self-defense. Bryan said he took no part in the murder. Officials did not immediately make any arrests. According to criminal defense attorney Alan Tucker, the men were so confident in their defense, they released Brian’s video to the public in May 2020.
This helped undo them. The 36-second video sparked outrage that soon followed the murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

The McMichaels were arrested two days after the video went viral. Brian was arrested two weeks after the McMichaels. The men pleaded not guilty.

At trial, prosecutor Linda Danikoski drilled holes in claims of self-defense and civilian arrest, insisting on Travis McMichael to admit to never having seen Arbery armed and never heard Arbery threatened anyone. He pointed to discrepancies between his testimony and what he initially told investigators, prompting him to testify that he was “mixed” and traumatized when police arrived.

Danikowski apparently questioned how Arbery could have been an attacker when he was unarmed on foot and repeatedly tried to pull out three men, two of whom were armed, in trucks.

A jury of nine white women, two white men and one black man heard from 23 witnesses over eight days. During the 11-hour deliberation, the jurors were asked to watch two clips of the video.

Travis McMichael was indicted on all counts: felony murder, four counts of felony, two counts of felony assault, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of criminal attempt to commit a crime. His father was convicted of all counts except malice murder, and Bryan was found guilty of all charges except one count of felony murder, one count of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault.

Appeals coming, defense lawyers say

With the death penalty off the table, each murder sentence commands a sentence of life in prison, with or without parole. The maximum punishment is 20 years for grievous assault, 10 years for false imprisonment and five years for attempt to commit a felony.

In addition to parole eligibility, Walmsley will decide whether the men serve their sentences all at once or continuously, meaning they must finish each sentence before starting the next.

Following the verdict, Travis McMichael’s lawyers said his client was “sorry for what happened to Ahmaud Arbery,” and they plan to appeal. One of the father’s attorneys, Laura Hogg, is “stuck” by the verdict and intends to appeal, she said. Brian’s attorney, Kevin Gough, said he thinks the “appeals courts will overturn this conviction.”
Race was a constant factor, and not just because of the color of the defendants’ and Arbery’s skin. Walmsley expressed concern about the jury’s makeup, and Gough and Hogg were accused of making insensitive remarks, later dehumanizing Arbery by raising their “long, dirty toes” during the closing of arguments. imposed on.

During jury selection, Gough complained of a lack of older white men without college degrees. Glynn County is 69% white and 27% black.

Race may have been a component of the appeals process, as Gough repeatedly called for mistrials because prominent black clergy accompanied the family in the courtroom and participated in the “prayer wall” outside the courthouse during the trial.

Danikowski alleged that Gough’s complaints about black clergy in the court led to the Wall of Prayer.

He said, “It’s a good lawyer right there because now he’s made a motion for wrongdoing on the basis of something he did.” Later, Dunnikowski added Gough “Deliberately and strategically, I believe what he did was in an attempt to potentially put some error in the case if he lost the case and it went on appeal.” Gone.”

Many more court dates to come

The defendant has maintained his innocence on federal hate crime charges, which include rights interference and attempted kidnapping. McMichaels was also charged with using, carrying and brandishing a firearm in the course of and in connection with a crime of violence; And Travis McMichael was charged with discharging a firearm.

Federal prosecutors say the defendants “used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use a public road because of his race.”

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Travis McMichael’s defense team said: “We are deeply disappointed that the Justice Department has purchased the false story propagated by the media and state prosecutors.”

A federal trial is scheduled for February 7, a month after the men’s sentencing. Since he has been in the Glynn County Detention Center since his arrest, there have been no federal bond hearings. If convicted of interfering with weapons charges or rights count, he faces an additional penalty of up to life in prison, along with a possible six-figure fine.
Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, has also filed a civil suit targeting the men and police and prosecuting officers. Among the officers is former District Attorney Jackie Johnson, who lost his November 2020 re-bid after a decade overseeing the five-county circuit.
After the Arbery shooting, Gregory McMichael called Johnson, for whom he served as an investigator until 2019, saying he needed advice. Glynn County police officers who responded to the scene also reached out to Johnson for advice. No one was arrested for two and a half months.
Johnson was indicted in September of breaching the oath of office and obstructing law enforcement. According to the indictment, he is accused of instructing officers not to arrest Travis McMichael, “contrary to the laws of that state” and “showing favor and affection to Greg McMichael during the course of the investigation”. She distanced herself from the case the day after the murder, citing her connection to Gregory McMichael.
CNN’s efforts to reach Johnson have been unsuccessful. She denied any wrongdoing in the October 2020 debate during her election campaign, saying, “It’s a tragedy for the family. I’m sorry for how things went. I’m sorry a lie started and I’m going to keep it.” Couldn’t return.”

Cooper-Jones applauded Johnson’s indictment.

“He didn’t pull the trigger, but he is as accountable as the three people who actually did this to Ahmed,” she said.

Cooper-Jones has asked supporters to remember her son as a vehicle for change, highlighting how his murder has swayed the state’s hate crime law and Georgia’s Civil War-era civil arrest law. Changed in.

In this report, CNN’s Alta Spell, Devon M. Sayers and Ryan Young contributed.

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