A jury has found the three white men charged with the killing of 25-year-old unarmed African American Ahmaud Arbery guilty of murder in the highly-publicized case that has been among those at the forefront of nationwide protests for racial justice.
Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan were found guilty of murder by a mostly white jury on Wednesday after around 10 hours of deliberation. Additionally, they were each convicted of lesser charges.
“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. But God is good,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said, as reported by The Associated Press. She said her son “will now rest in peace.”
President Joe Biden released a statement soon after the verdict was announced, saying that Arbery’s killing in February 2020 was “a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country.”
“Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and to his community, but the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished,” stated Biden.
“While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin.”
On Feb. 23, 2020, 25-year-old Arbery was shot to death while jogging outside the city of Brunswick, Georgia, after being chased by two armed white men.
In a widely-shared video leaked by Greg McMichael to a local radio station, Arbery was shown being chased by a white Ford pickup truck as he ran through a neighborhood in Satilla Shores. Arbery then briefly disappeared off-camera, with a gunshot heard in the background.
Two more shots rang out as Arbery appeared back in the footage before falling to the ground. He was unarmed and deceased by the time that the police arrived at the scene.
The defense argued that Travis McMichael was trying to make a citizen's arrest of Arbery, whom they suspected of burgling a nearby home under construction. The defense also argued the shooting was an act of self-defense because Arbery was resisting McMichael's attempt at an arrest.
The circulation of the video online drew national outrage and led to the arrests of the McMichaels more than two months after Arbery's murder. The delayed arrests drew national criticism for the Brunswick District Attorney's Office and spawned debate about the extent to which vigilantism should be legal in the U.S.
Evangelical figure Franklin Graham, the son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, said that the Arbery verdict is a "reminder that our justice system works."
"My prayers are with this young man’s family, and I pray that there will be healing in the community of Brunswick, GA, and across our country," he wrote in a Facebook post.
Former NFL player and evangelical author Benjamin Watson, a pro-life advocate who wrote a book on racial issues, told followers not to "confuse justice with public pressure."
"The prosecutors covered it up," he said in a statement. "Only a leaked video, months later led to these convictions. YOUR righteous outrage made this happen."
Shane Claiborne, a progressive Christian activist who co-founded the organization Red Letter Christians, said in a statement that that verdict is a "step in the right direction."
"I want to live in a country that is uncomfortable, yes even outraged, when a person is murdered, especially because of racism and hatred," he said. "I want to live in a world where black lives matter as much as white lives."
Former NFL player Emannuel Acho, who hosts the social media show "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man," said that the verdict should not necessarily be seen as "justice" but rather "accountability."
"Justice implies true restoration, which is impossible in this case, but this is accountability which is the first step towards justice," he tweeted.
In an opinion column published in 2020, Russell Moore, then-president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, stated that “under any Christian vision of justice, there is no situation in which the mob murder of a person can be morally right, nor grounds for a person to be chased down and shot by private citizens.”
Moore added that “the Bible tells us, from the beginning, that murder is not just an assault on the person killed but on the God whose image he or she bears."