Jurors reach verdict in Ahmaud Arbery trial

Jurors have reached a verdict in the racially charged, high-profile trial of the three white men accused of killing black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.

The defendants — Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. — are charged with murder, false imprisonment and other felony offenses in the shooting of Arbery, 25, who was jogging through their neighborhood just outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020.

Defense lawyers have contended that the three men were trying to make a lawful citizen’s arrest against Arbery, who they believed had been burglarizing a local under-construction home when Gregory spotted him looking around inside it.

Travis McMichael speaks from the witness stand during his trial Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.
AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool, File
Dozens of Black Lives Matter and Black Panther protesters gather outside the Glynn County Courthouse where the trial of Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan is held, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021
Dozens of Black Lives Matter and Black Panther protesters gather outside the Glynn County Courthouse, where the trial of Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan is held, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021.
AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton
Defense attorney Jason B. Sheffield presents a closing argument to the jury
Defense attorney Jason B. Sheffield presents a closing argument to the jury.
AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool

The McMichaels hopped into their pickup and began chasing after Arbery. Travis, 35, testified at trial that he tried to “de-escalate” the eventual confrontation between the trio but was forced to make a “life-or-death” decision to shoot Arbery when the man grabbed his gun.

Bryan, a neighbor of the McMichaels, helped in the chase and recorded cellphone video of the pursuit and shooting.

Prosecutors said Arbery’s only crime was being black and daring to run away from his assaulters.

Pastor Jamal Bryant, bottom center, leads a group prayer for to nearly 750 pastors, supporters and family of Ahmaud Arbery gathered outside the Glynn County Courthouse during a Wall of Prayer event, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021
Pastor Jamal Bryant leads a group prayer for nearly 750 pastors, supporters and family of Ahmaud Arbery gathered outside the Glynn County Courthouse during a “wall of prayer” event, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.
AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File
Dozens of Black Lives Matter and Black Panther protesters gather outside the Glynn County Courthouse where the trial of Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan is held, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021
Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan are charged with the February 2020 slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.
AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski presents a closing argument to the jury
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski presents a closing argument to the jury.
AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool

The defendants “can’t claim self-defense under the law because they were the original unjustified aggressors,” special prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said in closing arguments.

She added that the men had no right to make a citizen’s arrest because they didn’t have knowledge of Arbery committing a crime.

“They don’t know what he’s done. They don’t know why he’s out there running. They don’t have immediate knowledge. They have no knowledge. They have speculation because he is running down the street,” Dunikoski said.

Defense attorney Kevin Gough speaks during the trial
Defense attorney Kevin Gough speaks during the trial, Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, in Brunswick, Ga.
Octavio Jones/Pool Photo via AP
William "Roddie" Bryan, center, sits next to his attorney Kevin Gough, left, during the trial of Greg McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan in the Glynn County Courthouse, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021
William “Roddie” Bryan sits next to his attorney Kevin Gough during the trial of Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and Bryan in the Glynn County Courthouse, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021.
AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley addresses an objection by the defense during the trial of Greg McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan in the Glynn County Courthouse, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley addresses an objection by the defense during the trial of Greg McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021.
AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool

Jason Sheffield, a lawyer for Travis McMichael, argued that while his client  “wishes” the fatal encounter unfolded differently, it “does not mean that his actions on that day weren’t rooted in the law.

“You are allowed to use force that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if you believe it’s necessary,” he said.

All three defendants face a minimum sentence of life in prison if convicted of the murder charges.