June 15, 2024

Ahmaud Arbery’s killers get a March court date to argue appeals of their hate crime convictions

3 min read

by RUSS BYNUM Associated Press

Three white men convicted of hate crimes for chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery in a Georgia neighborhood in 2020 will have their appeals heard by a federal court in March.

The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments in the case for March 27 in Atlanta. Attorneys for father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, are asking the court to throw out hate crime convictions returned by a jury in coastal Brunswick in 2022.

Arbery, 25, was chased by pickup trucks and fatally shot in the streets of a subdivision outside the port city of Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020. His killing sparked a national outcry when cellphone video Bryan recorded of the shooting leaked online more than two months later.

The McMichaels armed themselves with guns and pursued Arbery after he was spotted running past their home. Bryan joined the chase in his own truck and recorded Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range with a shotgun.

The McMichaels and Bryan stood trial on hate crime charges in U.S. District Court less than three months after all three were convicted of murder in a Georgia state court. Federal prosecutors used social media posts, text messages and other evidence of past racist comments by all three men to argue they targeted Arbery because he was Black.

Attorneys for Greg McMichael and Bryan have argued in court filings that they chased Arbery because they mistakenly believed he was a criminal, not because of his race. Travis McMichael’s appeal argues a technicality, saying prosecutors failed to prove that Arbery was pursued and killed on public streets as stated in the indictment used to charge the three men.

Prosecutors contend the defendants considered Arbery suspicious in large part because of his race. They say he was shot on a street maintained by the county government, proving it’s a public road.

Greg McMichael told police he initiated the chase because he recognized Arbery from security camera videos that in prior months showed the young Black man entering a neighboring home under construction. None of the videos showed him stealing, and Arbery was unarmed and had no stolen property when he was killed.

Bryan joined in after seeing the McMichaels’ truck pursuing a running Arbery past his house.

Prosecutors argued at the trial that the McMichaels and Bryan chased and shot Arbery out of “pent-up racial anger.”

Evidence showed Bryan had used racist slurs in text messages saying he was upset that his daughter was dating a Black man. A witness testified Greg McMichael angrily remarked on the 2015 death of civil rights activist Julian Bond: “All those Blacks are nothing but trouble.” In 2018, Travis McMichael commented on a Facebook video of a Black man playing a prank on a white person: “I’d kill that f—-ing n—-r.”

Both McMichaels received life prison sentences in the hate crimes case, while Bryan was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Also pending are appeals by all three men of their murder convictions in Glynn County Superior Court.

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