In a precedent-setting decision, the U.S. appellate court sentenced double murderers Gregory and Travis McMichael to life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for their 2016 rampage that left four people dead, marking one of the first times a judge has used LWOP against perpetrators who were under 18 when they committed murder. The two teens killed UCLA student Blaze Bernstein’s parents and brother with force at an off campus park before murdering him after he entered into his car to escape them.
The three men found guilty of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder were sentenced to life in prison on Friday. Travis McMichael, 35, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, were both given life sentences with no chance of release.
Before becoming eligible for parole, their next-door neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, will have to spend 30 years of his life sentence. The three White males were found guilty in November of murdering Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, in Georgia in February 2020.
Judge Timothy Walmsley of the Superior Court highlighted how the McMichaels pursued Arbery when Gregory McMichael noticed him racing down the street and exclaimed, “Let’s go.” “Ahmaud Arbery was then sought down and shot, and he was slain because persons in this courtroom took the law into their own hands,” the judge said.
Arbery was “gunned down” after a five-minute pursuit, according to Walmsley. To provide an idea of the length of time, the judge sat in quiet for one minute. The shooting was caught on smartphone footage, which was shown to the jury during the trial.
“This was a murder,” Walmsley said before delivering the prosecution’ recommendations for punishment. “It was callous, and it happened because conflict was wanted, as far as the court is concerned based on the facts.”
During their trial in Brunswick, Georgia, Travis McMichael, William “Roddie” Bryan, and Gregory McMichael are shown from left. All three were found guilty of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was tracked down and fatally shot while running through their neighborhood. AP
During the long hearing on Friday, the McMichaels’ counsel pleaded with the court to allow their clients to earn parole, while Bryan’s lawyer pleaded with Walmsley to let the parole board determine when Bryan may be freed.
Arbery’s family testified that the accused should be sentenced to the greatest penalty permitted.
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, told Walmsley, “They individually have no remorse and do not deserve any mercy.” “This wasn’t a matter of misidentification or misinformation. They targeted my kid because they didn’t want him in their neighborhood. They decided to treat him differently than other individuals who came to their community on a regular basis, and when they couldn’t terrify or intimidate him enough, they murdered him.”
When the penalties were read, Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery, Arbery’s father, were seen sobbing in the courtroom.
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, talks with supporters after Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan were sentenced in the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, on Jan. 7, 2022. Pool/AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton
Arbery was out jogging when the guys pursued him across the area, finally boxing him in with their vehicles before Travis McMichael fired the deadly rounds, according to prosecutors. The guys assumed Arbery was a burglary suspect, according to the defense team, and they responded in self-defense.
Travis McMichael was found guilty on all charges, including malice murder, felony murder, and aggravated assault, after just 10 hours of deliberation. Gregory McMichael and Bryan were found guilty of felony murder and other crimes, but not of malice murder.
The McMichaels and Bryan have also been charged with federal hate crimes. On February 7, a second trial in the federal case is set to begin.
According to Arbery family lawyer Lee Merritt, the Department of Justice contacted Cooper-Jones about a plea offer in which the McMichaels would serve 30 years in jail if they admitted that their actions were motivated by hatred.
Cooper-Jones said Friday on “CBS Mornings” that she rejected the settlement because she wanted the guys to face charges in court.
“I believe the federal crimes are equally as serious as the state allegations, and I believe they should be tried for them as well,” Cooper-Jones said.
McMichaels sought for a plea agreement, according to the Arbery family… 05:26
Clare Hymes contributed to this story.