Attorneys Rest Their Case In Trial Against Ahmaud Arbery Killers
After over a year of news coverage, online discourse, and criminal proceedings, the prosecution and defense have rested their cases in the trial against Ahmaud Arbery's killers. Keep reading for more information.
Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan were found guilty last year of shooting a young black man named Ahmaud Arbery who was running in their suburban Georgia neighborhood.
The men claim that Arbery was acting suspiciously, and they were familiar with him because he allegedly burglarized several houses in the neighborhood. Arbery was running through the residential area when the three men chased him down the street with their pickup truck and cut off his escape route. The men shot Arbery, who they claimed tried to fight them off.
According to the defendants, they tried to stop Arbery by asking him questions about why he was there. When he didn't stop, they chased him down and shot him in self-defense.
As news broke of the case, many people believed it was racially motivated. A young black man harmlessly jogging through a residential neighborhood is not a threat, nor does he deserve to be gunned down by three white men.
Despite the national uproar over the case and its racial implications, the Georgia Supreme Court was enlisted to oversee the hate crime charges against the defendants. The laws did not provide clear guidelines for these crimes, nor did they outline how these cases should be prosecuted.
Now, prosecutors and the defense have rested their case in the hate crime trial against the McMichaels and Bryan.
Prosecuting Hate Crimes
Hate crimes are complex cases to prosecute because they rely on social issues and historical disparity for context. A hate crime is defined as a crime committed based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or disability. The Department of Justice began prosecuting hate crimes after enacting the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
The Civil Rights Act defined racial prejudices against marginalized people in the workplace, on the street, and in communities across the United States. Once this law was implemented, the justice system had a framework for prosecution against crimes motivated by bias. The issue is that laws regarding hate crimes differ from state to state, which means that the final say sometimes rests with the Supreme Court.
In the case of Ahmaud Arbery, the prosecutors have to prove that his death was racially motivated and based on inherent bias against black and African American people. The crime itself isn't enough to prove that it was racially motivated, and there is a lot of evidence that must be evaluated before the jury can reach a verdict.
The prosecution brought evidence of racist and hateful calls, texts, social media posts, and conversations with coworkers to support their case. All three men had posted racist memes and Facebook posts, including Travis McMichael's post where he wished for a semi-automatic rifle to kill Black protesters. Both Greg McMichael and his son Travis have used the N-word to refer to black and African American people.
Neighbors and colleagues were also brought to the stand to discuss uncomfortable conversations with the defendants. One witness detailed a racist conversation with Greg about a black renter at one of his properties. Another recalled Travis' racist behavior during his time as a Coast Guard contractor. Prosecutors also pointed out that the military's no-tolerance policy for racism should have handled these statements.
Law enforcement and expert witnesses also weighed in on the case and told jurors about the unlikelihood that the shots were "accidents." Officers told the court about the video showing Arbery's death and their interactions with the defendants. One officer who regularly patrols the neighborhood where the murder took place said that there were no burglaries in the year before the shooting despite rumors.
What Happens Next?
All three men have been found guilty of murder, but the jury is still deciding on the hate crime charges. If found guilty, McMichaels and Bryan could face enhanced sentences. In other words, they may be sentenced to a longer prison term along with other severe penalties.
In general, hate crimes have a general punishment of fines or a short period in jail. However, because each state has a different approach to these crimes, there are no national guidelines for sentencing in these cases. If the hate crime results in serious injury or death, the accused could face felony charges associated with murder.
A Note on Hate Crimes
History and generations of personal experience prove that hate crimes exist and occur at an alarming rate. Black people, in particular, are the targets for hatred and racial violence in America, and it's obvious that despite laws like the Civil Rights Act and national awareness of the issue, these crimes have never stopped.
The violence and abuse against people of color, members of religious groups, and those with a nontraditional sexual orientation or gender identity is grotesque and tears at the fabric of our nation. These acts of hate should not go unpunished, but it is important to understand what is at stake.
In rare cases, a person may be wrongly accused of racial violence or a hate crime. These instances are few and far between, but they can ruin a person's life. Criminal accusations of any kind can destroy one's future and family, so it is so crucial that these cases go to court. The court can decide the truth based on hard evidence.
If you have been accused of a hate crime or wrongly accused of another criminal act, contact The Law Offices of Phillip T. Ridolfo, Jr. Our compassionate team can provide the guidance and support you need to pursue the justice you deserve.