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Why only one defendant in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery was convicted of the most serious charge


Travis McMichael was the only one convicted of malicious murder because, under Georgia law, he had a "deliberate intention to take the life of another human being."

By Erik Ortiz -

NBC News

Legal experts are not surprised that a Georgia jury on Wednesday reached guilty verdicts for the crime of murder and other charges against the three white men tried for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who had been chased around his neighborhood on Wednesday. last year.

But Travis McMichael, 35, the man who wielded the shotgun and pulled the trigger, was found guilty of an additional charge - willful manslaughter - while his co-defendants, his father, Gregory McMichael, 65, and a neighbor William


Bryan, 52, were not.

["It's been a long time coming": Ahmaud Arbery's family celebrates the conviction of three men for his murder]

Page Pate, a Georgia activist attorney who is unrelated to the case, explained that the jury's decision makes sense.

Treachery, he said, is similar to a first-degree murder charge in other states.

Under Georgia law, it means that someone had a “deliberate intention to take the life of another human being” in which they were unprovoked and demonstrated “an evil and abandoned heart” - or essentially, it was done out of ill will.

The prosecution successfully argued that Travis McMichael maliciously fired the gun and his charge carries a life sentence.

Prosecutors also made it clear that malicious murder can be committed in a split second and relied on the notion that Travis McMichael got angry when Arbery ignored his orders to stop.

The three defendants were found guilty of several counts of treacherous murder, a charge that is usually brought against someone who was an accessory to the death of a person but did not physically kill them.

One of those accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery says he shot in self-defense

Nov. 18, 202100: 35

The McMichael and Bryan had chased Arbery, 25, in pickup trucks before the confrontation turned fatal.

Bryan also recorded the encounter with his mobile phone.

Defense attorneys alleged that the McMichaels pursued Arbery because they suspected him of being a burglar who had been videotaped inside a nearby home under construction.

They say Travis McMichael feared for his life when he shot Arbery while they were fighting for a shotgun.

[A third arrest in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery: the man who filmed the shooting of the young African American]

Prosecutors and Arbery's family have said he was an avid runner who had been running through the Satilla Shores neighborhood.

The defendants alleged self-defense, as well as that they acted within their rights under Georgia's Citizen Detention Law, which was legal at the time but was later modified in the wake of the shooting.

Bryan was found not guilty of one of the murder charges, as well as one count of aggravated assault.

In closing arguments, his attorney, Kevin Gough, tried to distance him from the McMichaels' actions, telling the jury that his "presence is absolutely superfluous and irrelevant to the tragic death of Ahmaud Arbery" and that it was Bryan's decision to record the last moments of Arbery's life which became a fundamental test.

All three defendants face minimum sentences of life in prison.

The fact that juries did not reach a finding of guilt or innocence in all of the three men's cases shows how meticulous they were in considering each charge, according to Pate.

Defendant Travis McMichael watches a video that the jury asked to see as part of their deliberation during the trial of McMichael, his father Greg McMichael, and his neighbor, William 'Roddie' Bryan, on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in Courthouse. Glynn County in Brunswick, Georgia Stephen B. Morton / AP

The start of the trial had also drawn scrutiny when a jury of 11 white people and one black sat in one jurisdiction, Glynn County, where nearly 27% of the population is black.

Arbery's relatives feared that the lack of racial diversity could have a negative effect on the process.

But Pate said the unanimous guilty verdicts indicate that this was not the case.

[The prosecutor alleges that the defendants killed Ahmaud Arber

and because he was "a black man running down the street"]

“An almost all white jury found these white defendants guilty of murder.

It is a good sign for our community and our country, and I think it indicates that we support self-defense and the Second Amendment in the rural south, but when it is defended correctly, ”he opined.

The lawyers in the case largely left the issue of race out of trial.

With self-defense at the center of the defendants' case, the onus was on prosecutors to rebut the defense's argument beyond a reasonable doubt, which can be an uphill battle overall, said former Connecticut prosecutor Mike Lawlor. , associate professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven.

But Lawlor said the video evidence clearly helped frame the prosecution's narrative that it was Arbery, and not the defendants, who ran for his life and then defended himself in his final moments.

The defense "tried to color that Arbery had previous encounters with the law and that he entered a house that was under construction, somehow deserving what happened to him," he added.

“They did everything possible to influence the perception of the jurors, but in the end the sequence of events could not be refuted.

There wasn't much to discuss. "

[A man is released after spending more than 40 years in jail for three murders he did not commit]

The outcome of the Georgia trial runs counter to another high-profile self-defense case running at the same time involving Illinois teenager Kyle Rittenhouse.

A jury found Rittenhouse, white, innocent of killing two men and wounding a third, all white, during a night of protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year.

Although there was also video evidence in the Rittenhouse case, the prosecution could not convince the jury that he was an "aspiring soldier" who did not have to open fire.

But the defendant alleged that he feared for his life when one of the men chased him and went to get his pistol and caused him to kill him.

Rittenhouse was then separately beaten by another man with a skateboard, which, according to the defendant, led him to use his weapon again.

Finally, a third man approached the young man with a pistol in his hand, and Rittenhouse shot him.

The man was injured but survived.

The verdict in the politicized case sparked outrage from some who agreed with Rittenhouse's comparisons to a vigilante by prosecutors.

[Following the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, will there be more recourse to 'own hand justice'?]

While the fear among anti-violence groups and gun control advocates is that last week's verdict in Wisconsin may bolster people who believe they can arm themselves and take justice into their hands with impunity, the decision in Georgia may help curb that idea of ​​vigilante justice, according to Lawlor.

"If the verdict had been in the opposite direction, one might wonder if in our society we are giving the green light to this type of behavior," he said.

"However, I hope that this ruling helps to reinforce that people must fully understand what can and cannot be done with a weapon."

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2021-11-25

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