Ahmaud Arbery trial: When is sentencing and how long are his killers likely to be jailed?
In a historic decision on November 24, 2021, a nearly all-White jury has found three men guilty for the killing of Black man Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. Travis McMichael, George McMichael, and William Bryan Jr were all found guilty over Arbery's death, leading to celebrations online and offline, after months of agony for Arbery's family.
Arbery was shot twice in the chest and once in the head after the McMichael's chased him on suspicion of being a burglar. It took two months for police to arrest the duo and Bryan Jr., which led to widespread condemnation and protests. The trial of the three men, like that of Derek Chauvin and Kyle Rittenhouse, became a major flashpoint for Black Lives Matter protestors.
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The 13-day trial finally came to an end on November 24, with the jury finding the three guilty of murder, and guilty of lesser charges as well. Bryan Jr.'s attorney said his client planned to appeal, but it's unclear if the McMichael's will as well. Here's what's next for the three men, including how long they could possibly be jailed.
Sentencing for the killers
All three men were charged with 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 a felony. Travis McMichael, the man who actually shot Arbery was the only one found guilty of malice murder, as well as all the other eight counts. Greg McMichael was convicted on all counts barring malice murder. Bryan Jr. was convicted on two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony.
The malice and felony murder convictions carry a life sentence in Georgia, with the judge deciding whether the men will be eligible for parole. Given that all three were convicted of felony murder, it's very likely they will spend the rest of their lives in prison unless they are granted parole. Notably, parole can be granted only after serving 30 years in the state, so it's very likely the three men are going to be in prison for a long time.
Adding to that, the aggravated assault charge carries a prison sentence of 1-20 years, and the false imprisonment charge a term of 1-10 years. All three men are expected to appeal, given that the judge chose to exclude evidence like Arbery's criminal record, and mental health record from the trial. It's not clear though what chances they have of succeeding. Sentencing for the three has not yet been scheduled, but Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley is expected to make an announcement in the coming days on that.
Federal charges pending
Even if the McMichael's and Bryan Jr. manage to have their convictions overturned on appeal, they are still facing federal hate crime charges. They were indicted by a grand jury in April, with the trial to begin on February 7, 2022. The case is independent of the state trial where the three were found guilty. All three were charged with one count of interference with rights and with one count of attempted kidnapping, while the McMichael's were also charged with one count each of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Travis was also charged with discharging a firearm by the Department of Justice.
With the large of charges to fight there as well, the future for the three men seems difficult at best. Jail time does look like a possibility, but how much is the question. We'll also cover the federal case and bring you all the updates as they happen.