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Ahmaud Arbery: Killed jogger's murderers face life in prison

Justice for Ahmaud Arbery protest in Boston

Image source, Getty Images

The family of a murdered black jogger has called for the harshest possible punishments against the three white men convicted of killing him.

The verdict will help bring “closure”, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother told the court on Friday during a sentencing hearing.

In November, a jury found Travis and Gregory McMichael and their neighbour, William Bryan, guilty of murdering Mr Arbery in February 2020.

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The case has raised questions about racial justice in the US South.

Arbery, 25, a resident of Brunswick, Georgia, was out jogging in an adjacent, predominantly white neighbourhood when the trio chased and cornered him in pick-up trucks before the younger McMichael shot him during a struggle.

The defendants argued they acted in self-defence while attempting to make a citizen’s arrest of a suspected burglar, but prosecutors argued race was a factor.

Gregory McMichael, 66, his son Travis, 35, and Bryan, 52, who filmed the incident, were found guilty of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony.

The three life sentences, though the judge will issue a decision on Friday on whether any of them can seek parole in 30 years.

In court, members of the Arbery family delivered powerful victim impact statements as they called for life sentences without the possibility of parole for the three men.

“Ahmaud never said a word to them, he never threatened them, he just wanted to be left alone,” said his mother Wanda Cooper Jones.

“They were fully committed to their crimes, so let them be fully committed for the consequences.”

Ms Jones, who sat in the courtroom throughout the trial, also spoke directly to her late son.

“This verdict doesn’t bring you back, but it does help bring closure to this very difficult chapter of my life,” she said.

“I made a promise to you the day I laid you to rest: I told you I love you and someday, somehow, I would get you justice.”

Jasmine Arbery recalled her younger brother’s love of the outdoors, his athletic build and “dark skin that glistened in the sunlight like gold”.

“These are the qualities that made these men assume Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal and chase him with guns drawn,” she said.

“To me those qualities reflected a young man with life and energy who looked like me and the people I love.”

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Arbery’s father Marcus lamented how he would never spend another day with a child who changed his life.

Defence attorneys argued for some leniency for the men, with attorney Kevin Gough arguing that for Bryan, his client, a life sentence would be “unconstitutionally cruel and disproportionate”.

Lawyers for the all three have said they plan to appeal the verdicts. They also face a federal hate crimes trial next month, alleging that they targeted Arbery because he was black.

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