A few months before the George Floyd affair, the death of Ahmaud Arbery had already shocked the United States. In February 2020, three white men killed a 25-year-old black American who was jogging, believing he was a burglar. They were sentenced to life imprisonment on Friday.
Travis McMichael, 35 and perpetrator of the fatal shots, and his father Gregory McMichael, 66, were given life sentences without the possibility of early release.
Their neighbor William Bryan, 52, who participated in the prosecution by filming it, may hope for early release after 30 years in prison. They were convicted of murder on November 24 in Brunswick, Georgia, after debates marked by the issue of racism and the right to self-defense.
Ahmaud Arbery left his home “to jog and he ended up running for his life,” said Judge Timothy Walmsley as he delivered the sentence on Friday in this coastal city in the southeast of the United States. The young man was “hunted down and killed because the individuals in this room made the law themselves,” he explained.
He felt that Gregory McMichael had instigated his son and his neighbor to pursue the young man, while admitting after the fact that he was not sure he was really a burglar. He also castigated the attitude of Travis McMichael who “is worried about his baby (left alone at home, editor’s note) and himself, while the victim lies on the ground”.
A long-awaited verdict
The family of Ahmaud Arbery, who had called for “maximum punishment” for the three men, welcomed these heavy sentences. “I knew we would come out of court with a victory, I never doubted,” said her mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones. Earlier, she had told Judge Walmsley that the three men had “targeted (her) son because they didn’t want him in their neighborhood.”
This verdict “was very important” for the “responsibility” to be assumed, added one of the lawyers for the family, Lee Merritt. “It was important for the family to see these men being put in prison.”
Ben Crump, famous African-American lawyer, paid homage “to all the black men who have been lynched in the history of America and Georgia, and to whom justice has never been done”.
It is a video of the drama, made public nearly three months later, which scandalized the United States and Ahmaud Arbery had become an icon of the anti-racist movement Black Lives Matter (black lives matter).