Life in prison for murderers of black men in Georgia
Three white men who they had been found guilty of murder for hunting down and killing Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced to life in prison on Friday, and the judge denied any possibility of parole for the father and son who armed themselves and began the deadly persecution of the 25-year-old black man.
The murder carries a mandatory life sentence under Georgia law, unless prosecutors seek the death penalty, something they chose not to do in this case. For Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley, the main decision was to grant Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, a possible shot at parole.
The judge ordered the McMichaels to serve life in prison without parole. Bryan was granted the possibility of parole, but must first serve at least 30 years in prison.
Walmsley said Arbery left his home for a jog and ended up running for his life for five minutes as men chased him in vans until they finally cornered him.
"Ahmaud Arbery was hunted down and shot, and he was killed because some individuals here in the courtroom took justice on their own," the judge declared.
Before passing sentence, Walmsley paused for a minute of silence to help gauge what those five minutes must have been for Arbery.
“When I thought about this, I did it from many different angles. I kept thinking about how terrified the young man running through Satilla Shores must have, ”he said, mentioning the neighborhood on the outskirts of the port city of Brunswick where Arbery was killed.
During the sentencing hearing, Arbery's family had asked the judge not to show leniency.
Arbery's sister recalled his humor, describing him as someone positive with a great personality. He told the judge that his brother had dark skin "that glowed in the sunlight", thick curly hair and an athletic complexion, factors that made him a target for the men who were after him.
“These are the qualities that led these men to assume that Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal and to pursue him with drawn weapons. For me, those qualities reflect a young man full of life and energy who looked like me and the people I loved, ”said Jasmine Arbery.
Arbery's mother said she suffered an intense personal loss that was made worse by a trial in which the men's defense was that Arbery made poor decisions that led to his death.
“This was not a case of identity confusion. They chose to attack my son because they did not want him in their community. They decided to treat him differently from other people who frequently visited their community, ”said Wanda Cooper-Jones. "And when they couldn't scare or intimidate him enough, they killed him."
The judge's sentences coincided with the recommendation of the prosecutor Linda Dunikoski. He said everyone deserved that mandatory life sentence for showing "no empathy for the trapped and terrified Ahmaud Arbery."
Robert Rubin, one of Travis McMichael's defense attorneys, argued that his client, 35, deserved the possibility of parole. He said Travis McMichael opened fire only after "Mr. Arbery walked up to him and took the gun." But Rubin also acknowledged that his client's decisions to arm himself and go after Arbery were "reckless" and "unthinking."
"They are not evidence of a soul so blackened as to deserve to spend the rest of his life in prison," Rubin said. “This was not a planned murder. This was a fight over a weapon that led to the death of Mr. Arbery ”.
Greg McMichael's attorney, Laura Hogue, said her client did not intend for Arbery to die, and that she never drew her gun until her son fired his shotgun.
"Greg McMichael did not leave his home that day with the intent to kill," Hogue told the judge. “He didn't see his son firing that shotgun with nothing but fear and sadness. What this jury found is that it was an unintentional act. "
Bryan's attorney said Bryan showed remorse and cooperated with police, turning over cellphone video of the shooting to help them get to the truth.
"Mr. Bryan is not the one with the gun," Kevin Gough said. “He was unarmed. And I think that reflects his intentions. "
Bryan is 52 years old, which increases the chances that he will spend the rest of his life in prison, even with the possibility of being paroled after serving 30 years.
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