The two main defendants accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery in 2020 have been sentenced to life in prison. Their co-defendant will be sentenced later this week.
The two men, father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, are accused of having chased down and murdered Arbery in a 2020 attack that prosecutors argue was racially motivated. Arbery was jogging in a suburban neighborhood in Georgia when prosecutors say the McMichaels and their friend, William Bryan, chased him down with weapons and fatally wounded him.
Travis McMichael, a 36-year-old former US Coast Guard Mechanic, and his father, Gregory McMichael, a former police officer, were found guilty of federal hate crimes earlier this year. Bryan, their alleged co-conspirator, aided them by blocking Arbery with his own vehicle while the McMichaels ran him down in their own truck and attacked him with weapons.
During their murder trial, the McMichaels’ attorneys argued that the men acted in self-defense when they loaded up into their vehicle with weapons and assaulted an unarmed man jogging in their neighborhood. They reportedly attempted to kidnap Arbery before the situation became chaotic and they fired their weapons at him, taking his life.
“I’m sure my words mean very little to you but I want to assure you I never wanted any of this to happen,” Greg McMichael said in an official statement to Arbery’s surviving family members. “There was no malice in my heart or my son’s heart that day.”
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, told reporters that she wasn’t moved by McMichael’s words. “I think he realizes that he made some horrible decisions. Unfortunately, his apology doesn’t bring back my son,” she plainly stated.
Arbery’s murder occurred during the height of a massive racial justice movement in the US. The Black Lives Matter movement protested police brutality and vigilante justice throughout 2020 following the police murders of both George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
US District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood observed the irony during the trial, stating “And it’s not lost on the court that it was the kind of trial that Ahmaud Arbery did not receive before he was shot and killed.”
Gregory McMichael’s lawyers appealed his life sentence in Georgia state prison earlier this year, arguing that his life would be in danger in the general population of a maximum security state prison. The judge overruled these complaints and sentenced McMichael to life in prison in a Georgia state facility.