Judge sentences men convicted of Arbery murder to life in prison
The three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man chased down and killed while jogging in their Georgia neighborhood in February 2020, were all sentenced to life in prison on Friday in a dramatic courtroom sentencing — two of them without the possibility of parole.
Travis McMichael, who fatally shot Arbery and was found guilty on nine charges including malice murder, and his father Gregory McMichael were both sentenced to life without parole.
William “Roddie” Bryan, who videotaped part of the incident, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Judge Timothy Walmsley paused the courtroom for one minute as he remarked on the trial, a moment he acknowledged was theatrical but that he suggested was important to show how quickly the McMichaels and Bryan decided to chase down Arbery and kill him.
He noted it was just a fifth of the time — five minutes — that the men had chased after Arbery in pickup trucks. He called the incident chilling, and suggested he did not believe the McMichaels had shown remorse for the killing.
“As we understand it, [Arbery] left his home apparently to go for a run, and he ended up running for his life,” Walmsley said of the fatal shooting.
The Chatham County Superior Court judge called the shooting a “killing” and “callous” and suggested that the one of the takeaways from the tragedy was that “in assuming the worst in others, we show our worst character. Assuming the best in others is always the best course of action.”
In addition to giving each of the men life sentences, Walmsley gave both McMichaels an added 20 years in prison regarding charges related to assault and false imprisonment. The judge had also given Bryan an added 10 years in prison but noted the counts for those sentences would be suspended.
During the sentencing, the Chatham County Superior Court judge noted that Bryan’s case was different from that of the McMichaels, saying that “it is obvious from the beginning that he questioned the tragedy that had occurred at the scene.”
The sentencing came after members of Arbery’s family spoke in front of the court earlier on Friday, mourning the loss of their brother and son.
“These men have chose to lie and attack my son and his surviving family. They each have no remorse and do not deserve any leniency. This wasn’t a case of mistaken identity or mistaken fact. They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community,” his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones said. “They chose to treat him differently than other people who frequently visited their community and when they couldn’t sufficiently scare him or intimidate him, they killed him.”
The Georgia judge noted that instead of seeing Friday’s sentencing as closure, he suggested the sentencing be viewed as “an exercise in accountability” instead.
Updated 4:29 p.m.