Ahmaud Arbery trial: Breaking down the Arbery verdict and what’s next

Morning In America

ATLANTA (NewsNation Now) — It was the killing captured on video and circulated around the world: a Black man running toward and around a pickup truck before its driver shot and killed him at close range with a shotgun.

Soon after Travis McMichael fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020, his father, Greg McMichael, told police how the pair had armed themselves, chased the young Black man and trapped him “like a rat.” Neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan told officers he joined the pursuit and helped cut off Arbery’s escape.

After a 13-day trial at the Glynn County courthouse in coastal Georgia, a disproportionately white jury found the three white men guilty of murder. Each man was also convicted on lesser charges.

Here’s a breakdown of what could happen next:

HOW MUCH PRISON TIME ARE THEY FACING?

Murder convictions carry a minimum penalty of life in prison. The judge decides whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole. Even if the possibility of parole is granted, a person convicted of murder must serve 30 years before becoming eligible. Multiple murder convictions are merged for the purposes of sentencing.

Each count of aggravated assault carries a prison term of at least one year but not more than 20 years. False imprisonment is punishable by a sentence of one to 10 years in prison.

WHEN WILL THEY BE SENTENCED?

That’s not clear yet. Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley will set a sentencing date.

What are the experts predicting?

Attorney James White weighed in on the potential sentences the defendants could get on “Morning in America,” calling the McMichaels’ behavior “so egregious under the circumstances.”

“I expect them [Travis and Gregory McMichaels) to spend the rest of their lives in prison,” said attorney James White on “Morning in America.” “I would not be surprised if Mr. Bryan was given some opportunity to parole at some point in time.”

Why would BRYAN get parole?

White said it comes down to the fact that while Bryan participated, he did film the video that led to the convictions.

“Most people do not video themselves committing a crime if they think it’s gonna come back to haunt them.
said White on “Morning in America.” “He played a role. He cornered this man and he participated and he deserves to be punished for that participation. But I would not be surprised at all if he is allowed to parole at some time, in contrast to the McMichaels.”

Are APPEALS expected?

Appeals are almost certain in this case, said University of Georgia law professor emeritus Ron Carlson.

One likely basis for appeal could be the exclusion of certain evidence from the trial, he said. Defense attorneys had sought to introduce evidence of Arbery’s criminal record, as well as records about his mental health and the fact that he was on probation. They also wanted to have a use-of-force expert testify. But the judge ruled against admitting any of that evidence.

“They’ll argue that relevant evidence helpful to the defense was excluded by the trial judge and that was an error,” Carlson said.

It’s also possible that appellate attorneys could find other grounds for appeal after scouring transcripts and jury instructions and speaking with jurors.

ARE fEDERAL CHARGES still PENDING?

Yes. The McMichaels and Bryan still face federal charges.

Months before the three stood trial on state murder charges, a federal grand jury in April indicted them on hate crimes charges. It’s an entirely separate case that’s not affected by the state trial’s outcome.

U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood has scheduled jury selection in the federal trial to start Feb. 7. All three men are charged with one count of interference with civil rights and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels were also charged with using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.

The federal indictment says the men targeted Arbery because he was Black.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

You can see the full interview with White and NewsNation’s Adrienne Bankert in the player above.

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