Ahmaud Arbery Case Concludes. Is It Self-defense if You Started It?

Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black male was empty-handed and jogging around a Georgia subdivision when he was shot three times after being chased by three white men: Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan. The three men were faced with nine charges and were convicted for the murder with a mandatory life sentence in prison on Wednesday, November 24. 

“He didn’t do nothing but run and dream,” Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr. said as he stood outside of the courtroom due to having to leave the courtroom after leaping up and shouting as the first 23 guilty verdicts were announced. 

Ahmaud Arbery, a former high school football star, was a good, generous young man with a big heart, according to his father, who added that his son would often jog and exercise around the area. 

Ahmaud was out for an afternoon jog on February 23, 2020. In the past, Gregory McMichael had filed police reports that there were several local break-ins around the area and that Arbery was the culprit to the break-ins. However, police replied to McMichael that no reports were filed regarding the supposed break-ins in the area. McMichael and his son Travis jumped in their pickup truck the next time they saw Arbery in the neighborhood. They were armed with a pistol and a shotgun. Bryan decided to join their pursuit in his own pickup truck and recorded video footage on his cellphone of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery. 

Travis McMichael testified during the trial that he tried to have a conversation with Arbery as he and his father were still in their vehicle. The father and son also told police that they suspected Arbery was a burglar fleeing from getting caught. The prosecution, however, argued that the three men provoked the confrontation and that there was not a single piece of evidence Arbery had committed any crimes in the neighborhood. Travis then got out of the truck armed with his shotgun and fired three fatal shots at Arbery. Travis McMichael claimed he fired his gun out of self-defense, saying that Arbery was about to grab a firearm out of the waistband of his running shorts.

Arberys’ murderers were arrested more than two months after Arberys’ death. 

Controversy stirred around the McMichaels and Bryan’s arrests and local authorities were criticized for how long it took to make an arrest. The Glynn County Police Department claimed the Brunswick District Attorney Office who handled Arbery’s case told them to make no arrests, but it was later revealed that some attorneys at Brunswick were connected to the McMichaels, specifically the now former Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson who showed bias to Gregory McMichael due to past connections with one another. She attempted to obstruct law enforcement by directing that they not arrest Travis McMichael. Fortunately, her unlawful actions were caught, though only after the video of the shooting went viral and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case.

Another debate sparked later in the case with the trial’s jury selection. After a two-and-a-half week process to select jurors, the jury consisted of 11 white members and only 1 Black member. Regarding the final selection, Judge Timothy Walmsley stated, “This court has found that there appears to be intentional discrimination,” yet he allowed the trial to move forward. Despite the heavy racial bias in the jury, it is a relief to American minorities that the three men were found guilty, proving that there was hope in a fully nondiscriminatory justice system.

While the three men were convicted, they still plan to continue fighting. Travis McMichael believes they were serving as vigilantes. But in reality, were the men acting as vigilantes or was it a hate crime against Black people? Their attorneys have already begun appealing and calling for a mistrial. The McMichaels’ and Bryan’s attorneys found new information that they believe will help their case including Arbery’s mental health records, his past encounters with the police, and his probation status, but so far the judge has denied them all. Rightfully so because the new evidence their defense is bringing about has nothing to do with the actual case. Ahmaud Arbery’s case has nothing to do with his character, as he was the victim, but it is about what is considered self-defense and vigilantism.