The three white men who were convicted of killing 25-year-old Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery two years ago in Brunswick, Georgia, were sentenced to life in prison on Friday.
Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael were sentenced to life in prison without parole by Glynn County Judge Timothy Walmsley. William “Roddie” Bryan was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.
“As we understand it, he [Ahmaud Arbery] went for a run and he ended up running for his life,” Walmsley said moments before he said the sentencing.
Walmsley then sat in silence for one minute in silence, which served as a representation of a “fraction of the time” that Arbery was running from the McMichaels and Bryan in the Satilla Shores neighborhood.
Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and Bryan were all convicted on Nov. 24, 2021, of murdering Arbery in February 2020, by a jury composed of 11 white people and one Black man. Arbery’s murder sparked national protests over race and criminal justice.
During the trial, a defense attorney in the courtroom complained about the presence of Black pastors inside and out of the courtroom.
“The day has finally come that we will get justice for ‘Quez’ [Arbery]. The day that my family has finally prayed for has come,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said Friday outside of the courtroom before the sentencing of the three men who murdered her son took place.
During victim statements, family members of Arbery spoke and called for the life sentences of all three men involved in his murder before Judge Timothy Walmsley.
The first was Marcus Arbery, the father of Arbery, who emotionally described his suffering since his son was gunned down nearly two years ago.
“The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every day and sat next to his father. I’ll never get the chance to sit next to my son again,” Marcus Arbery said in front of Walmsley.
Next was Jasmine Arbery, his sister, who broke down in tears almost immediately while talking. Jasmine Arbery said her brother was loving and funny, and since he was killed he would never be able to live out his dreams since his life was cut short.
“Ahmaud had a future that was taken from him in an instance of violence,” she said with tears falling down her cheeks.
Cooper-Jones was the last family member to speak, where she mentioned although the verdict and sentencing does not bring her son back, it does bring “closure to this very difficult chapter in my life.”
All three members called for life imprisonment for all the men convicted in killing Ahmaud.
Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski in the case of the McMichaels and Bryan asked for the father and son to be sentenced to life without parole and for Bryan to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Dunikoski says that neither Travis McMichael or Gregory McMichael showed any “remorse” when they chased and fatally shot Arbery during the encounter in the Satilla Shores neighborhood.
“There were so many opportunities to stop, to think,” Dunikoski said in the courtroom.
Dunikoski called the act of murdering Arbery as vigilantism and that it should not “prevail” in any of the three men’s sentencing.
Defense Attorney Jason Sheffield defended his client Travis McMichael, stating that he did not wake up intending to kill anyone the day Arbery was murdered. He asked for Travis McMichael to be granted life with the possibility of parole if earned.
Travis McMichael, the only one who pulled a trigger and shot Arbery, was convicted of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
His father, Gregory McMichael, 65, was convicted on all charges except malice murder. Bryan, 52, was convicted on three counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
The sentencing comes exactly a month before the McMichaels and Bryan are set to face a federal trial for hate crime charges in the murder.
The three men face charges of one count of interference with rights and attempted kidnapping. Travis McMichael and his father are also charged with using, carrying and brandishing a gun during and in relation to a crime. Travis McMichael is also charged with firing the weapon.
If convicted of hate crime charges, the McMichaels and Bryan could be sentenced to death, a life sentence or another lengthy prison sentence for the crimes they are charged with.
Jury selection for the federal trial is set to begin on Feb. 7 in Savannah, Georgia.