Gregory McMichael (65), Travis McMichael (35) and William “Roddie” Bryan (52) have all been found guiltyAhmaud Arbery was shot to death by McMichael’s younger brother. The three had cornered Arbery and attempted to make a citizen’s arrest.
Three men were convicted for felony murder, assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to felony. The younger McMichael was also convicted.
Even though the case attracted national attention, there was little media coverage. Jackie Johnson, a former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Court Attorney, directed police to not charge Travis McMichael. Johnson allegedly gave preferential treatment to the father and son pair because Gregory McMichael was once her employee. After she was removed, Johnson resigned. But the prosecutor she recruited to replace her, Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George E. Barnhill, also had a conflict of interest—his son had worked with McMichael on a prosecution against Arbery, and before him taking over, Johnson failed to disclose that Barnhill had already told police not to place the men under arrest. Her September indictment was for breaching her oath to office and obstruction, while an ongoing investigation was underway into Barnhill.
Bryan McMichaels, Bryan followed Arbery on their truck in February 2020. After seeing Arbery trespassing at a construction site, they assumed he was responsible for a number of burglaries. In the week leading to Arbery’s death, there had not been any such robberies.
Following Arbery’s capture, there was a struggle. Travis shot his shotgun into Arbery close to the target. Arbery had no weapons.
For almost 80 days no movement was made on the case, but cellphone footage that captured Arbery’s final moments went viral. After Arbery’s mother discovered his conflict of interests, Barnhill was forced to resign in April. In June 2020, the men were brought to trial.
Last week, a jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin, accepted the verdict that Kyle Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense after he injured and killed two other men during an evening of civil unrest. These proceedings became a microcosm of debates about the U.S. penal justice system in America, especially as it relates to race.
What? ThisTrial was where these conversations took place. Arbery, who was of African descent, claimed McMichael acted in self defense when he pursued Arbery around a neighborhood and shot him down. It seemed less plausible than Rittenhouse. McMichael admitted that Travis McMichael was motivated racially. Bryan said to investigators, “Fucking nigger,” as Travis McMichael shot Arbery.
And while prosecutorial misconduct was rightfully at the center of the conversation around Rittenhouse—with Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger coming under fire multiple times for bending the rules—so, too, should that have been a main topic of discussion in this case, and even more so. To face a prosecutor CriminalIt’s rare for a job-related crime to be charged. But that is exactly what happened in this case. Johnson and Barnhill might not have been able to prevent the death of Arbery from becoming public knowledge if there was a viral clip.
Three men are facing life imprisonment.