The verdict is being read in court as this article is being written. As of this moment, the jury has come back with a guilty verdict against Travis McMichael on one count of malicious murder and four counts of felony murder. He will spend the rest of his life in prison if the verdict stands. He is also facing federal charges related to hate crimes in the case. Those charges are pending the result of the state murder trial.
The case broke when one of the defendants, William “Roddie” Bryan released a video of the men chasing Arbery in a pickup truck with guns. As of now, Bryan was found guilty on one count of felony murder but acquitted of malice murder. He too faces federal hate crime charges. The same can be said of McMichael’s son who was found guilty of felony murder charges.
Understanding the defense
The defense of the men was based on a centuries-old law that allows Georgia citizens to initiate citizen’s arrests when they suspect that something illegal is happening. The men claimed they saw Arbery around a house that was under construction and believed he was stealing. They found no evidence that Arbery had taken anything from the house despite the fact that they detained him. Much of the defense centered around whether the detention was legal under Georgia law. Georgia repealed the law after the Arbery case as outrage poured out over the apparent lynching.
Well, the prosecutors were very careful in this case not to make it about race. In fact, they avoided the issue entirely until closing arguments. This made several people look askance, but things operate in Georgia differently than they do elsewhere. The defense was able to exclude many black jurors from the pool based merely on the fact that they were black. This is illegal in most places, but again, Georgia does things differently. The fact that there was only one black juror did not, however, improve the defendant’s chances.
The men claimed that Arbery reached for a gun or had a gun of his own, but no gun or weapon was found on him after he was killed. The men claimed on the stand that they thought he had a gun maybe, but they weren’t quite sure, so they wanted to say that they did.
Instead of playing up the racial components of the crime, the prosecution focused on the men’s conduct, whether the stop was illegal, whether their conduct was illegal, and whether or not they had a right to initiate the confrontation with Arbery. The jury has found that they did not. Further, they have found that Travis McMichael acted with malicious, hateful intent in committing the murder. The federal government will play up the racial components of the case, but the prosecution made a strong case without playing the race card in front of a mostly-white Georgia jury.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a serious crime, the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at the Skier Law Firm, P.A. can help you defeat the charges in court. Call today and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.