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Verdicts Explained for the Three Found Guilty In the Killing of Ahmaud Arbery as They Await Possible Life Sentences; Hate Crime Case to Follow

All three white men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery while he ran through a Georgia neighborhood face life in prison.

The three men were charged with one count of malice, 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.

The McMichaels and William Bryan/ CNN

When the guilty verdicts were announced, people who crowded outside of the courtroom cheered. When the not guilty verdicts were read, they booed, local paper The Brunswick News reported. After the verdict ended, a victory celebration erupted. Arbery’s family, attorneys and supporters held hands and lifted them in jubilation.

“What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now,” the crowd chanted, along with “Say his name: Ahmaud Arbery.”

The trio claimed they were attempting a citizen’s arrest when they chased and cornered Arbery, a Black man, in February 2020 in a mostly white neighborhood near the coastal Georgia town of Brunswick. Only Travis McMichael, who shot Arbery, was convicted of the most serious malice murder and all of the other charges. 

Ahmaud Arbery with his mother, Wanda Cooper Jones (CBS YouTube Screenshot)

Malice murder is when a person causes the death of someone with the intent to kill, whether it is impulsive to premeditated. Greg McMichael was convicted of all charges except malice murder.

All of the men were convicted of felony murder and false imprisonment, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit a felony. Defendants who commit a felony that leads to someone else dying are guilty of felony murder.

False imprisonment occurs when someone illegally detains, arrests, or confines another person and takes their personal liberty away.

In Georgia, aggravated assault is assaulting someone with a weapon with the intent to commit another crime. According to state law, a person who “performs any act which constitutes a substantial step toward the commission of that crime” is guilty of criminal attempt to commit a felony.

The state can file multiple counts for charges when the defendant has taken multiple actions that constitute the crime, which would increase the penalty for the crime. In this case, the men used pickup trucks and guns as weapons.

Malice and felony murder both require a minimum penalty of life in prison. The judge must decide whether the defendants will have a chance to get parole. The sentencing date has not been set yet. 

Willam “Roddie” Bryan, who trapped Arbery with his pickup truck and recorded the event, was convicted for 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.

Travis McMichael’s attorneys said they plan to appeal. Defense attorney Jason Sheffield said holding the trial in the same community where Arbery was killed may be cause for an appeal. The Associated Press reported that the attorneys might also include evidence excluded from the trial, such as Arbery’s mental health and that he was on parole in their appeal.

“This is a very difficult day for Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael,” Sheffield said outside the courthouse. “These are two men who honestly believed that what they were doing was the right thing to do. However, a Glynn County jury has spoken. They have found them guilty. They will be sentenced.”

Arbery’s mother Wander Cooper-Jones believes her son can now rest in peace. She said outside the courtroom, “I never saw this date back in 2020. I’ve never thought this day would come. But God is good. Everybody, thank you. He will now rest in peace.”

All three men are also facing federal hate crime charges. The federal trial starts in February.

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