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Three Men Are Found Guilty of Murdering Ahmaud Arbery


BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Three white men were found guilty of murder and other charges on Wednesday for the pursuit and fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, in a case that, together with the killing of George Floyd, helped inspire the racial justice protests of last year.

The three defendants — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and their neighbor William Bryan, 52 — face sentences of up to life in prison. The men have also been indicted on separate federal charges, including hate crimes and attempted kidnapping, and are expected to stand trial in February on those charges.

The verdict suggested that the jury agreed with prosecutors’ arguments that Mr. Arbery posed no imminent threat to the men and that the men had no reason to believe he had committed a crime, giving them no legal right to chase him through their suburban neighborhood. “You can’t start it and claim self-defense,” the lead prosecutor argued in her closing statements. “And they started this.”

Credit…Pool photo by Stephen B. Morton, Sean Rayford, and Elijah Nouvelage

The outcome of the trial drew praise from Mr. Arbery’s family, who had watched the proceedings from inside the courthouse for weeks, and from civil rights leaders and activists across the country.

“I never thought this day would come, but God is good,” said Wanda Cooper-Jones, Mr. Arbery’s mother.

Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia said he hoped the verdicts would help “lead to a path of healing and reconciliation.” President Biden said the outcome reflected the justice system doing its job. But Mr. Arbery’s death, Mr. Biden said, “is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country.”

From the beginning, Mr. Arbery’s family and friends raised questions about local officials’ handling of the case. The three men who were later charged walked free for several weeks after the shooting, and were arrested only after video of the fatal encounter was released, a national outcry swelled and the case was taken over by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Until the verdicts were announced, Mr. Arbery’s family and friends were on edge. Akeem Baker, Mr. Arbery’s best friend from childhood, sat inside the courthouse with his head bowed and his eyes red from crying.

“I feel better,” he said.

Though the killing of Mr. Arbery in February 2020 did not reach the same level of notoriety as the case of Mr. Floyd, the Black man murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer three months later, Mr. Arbery’s death helped fuel widespread demonstrations and unrest that unfolded in cities across the country in the spring and summer of 2020.

The case touched on some of the most combustible themes in American criminal justice, including vigilantism, self-defense laws, the effects of widespread gun ownership and the role of race in jury selection.

The verdict came as Americans were divided over the acquittal, a few days earlier, of Kyle Rittenhouse, who asserted that he was acting in self-defense when he fatally shot two men and wounded another during protests and violence that broke out after a white police officer shot a Black resident in Kenosha, Wis.

Jurors in that case accepted Mr. Rittenhouse’s assertion that he was defending himself, a position that legal experts said can be challenging for prosecutors to overcome. But in this case, jurors clearly dismissed the contention by Travis McMichael, the only defendant who testified, that he was in a “life-or-death” situation and had no choice but to shoot Mr. Arbery in self-defense.

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Like many other recent episodes involving the killing of Black people, the confrontation was captured on video. Unlike many of the others, the video was made not by a bystander but by one of the defendants, Mr. Bryan.

Jackie Johnson, the local prosecutor who initially handled the case, lost her bid for re-election in 2020 and was indicted this year by a Georgia grand jury, accused of “showing favor and affection” to Gregory McMichael, a former investigator in her office, and for directing police officers not to arrest Travis McMichael. The case was ultimately tried by the district attorney’s office in Cobb County, which is roughly 300 miles away from Brunswick in metropolitan Atlanta.

The case brought political and legal upheaval. Mr. Kemp signed a hate crimes statute into law, and sided with state lawmakers when they voted to repeal significant portions of the state’s citizen’s arrest statute.

During the trial, defense lawyers relied on that citizen’s arrest law, which was enacted in the 19th century. They argued that their clients had acted legally when, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in February 2020, they set out in two pickup trucks in an effort to detain Mr. Arbery, an avid jogger and former high school football player who spent nearly five minutes trying to run away from them.

Eventually trapped between the two pickup trucks, Mr. Arbery then ended up in a confrontation with Travis McMichael, who was armed with a shotgun and fired at Mr. Arbery three times at close range. Mr. McMichael testified that he feared that Mr. Arbery, who had no weapon, would get control of the shotgun from him and threaten his life.

Over the 10 days of testimony in the trial, prosecutors challenged the idea that an unarmed man who never spoke to his pursuers could be considered much of a threat at all.

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

“What’s Mr. Arbery doing?” Linda Dunikoski, the lead prosecutor, said in her closing argument. “He runs away from them. And runs away from them. And runs away from them.”

The men each faced a nine-count indictment. For each count, they were charged individually and as “parties concerned in the commission of a crime.” The counts included malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit the felony of false imprisonment.

Under Georgia law, malice murder is applied when a person is found to have deliberately set out to kill someone. The charge of felony murder applies when a death results in the course of another felony — regardless of whether the person intended to kill someone. Both carry a sentence of up to life in prison.

The jury found Travis McMichael, the man who shot Mr. Arbery, guilty on all nine counts, including malice murder and felony murder.

Gregory McMichael was found not guilty of malice murder, but guilty of all other counts he faced, including felony murder.

Mr. Bryan was found not guilty of malice murder. He was found not guilty of one count of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault, but guilty of three counts of felony murder and three other charges.

The lawyers for Travis McMichael told reporters that they respected the jury’s decision but planned to appeal the verdict, which they described as “disappointing and sad.”

“This is a very difficult day for Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael,” Jason Sheffield, one of the lawyers, said, adding that both of them “honestly believe what they were doing was the right thing to do.”

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Kevin Gough, a lawyer for Mr. Bryan, said he intended to file a motion for a new trial next week.

Before the verdict, some observers worried that the racial makeup of the jury — which included 11 white people and one Black person — would skew the outcome in the defendants’ favor.

When Judge Timothy R. Walmsley approved the selection of the nearly all-white jury, he noted that there was an appearance of “intentional discrimination” at play, but he said that defense lawyers had given legitimate reasons unrelated to race when they moved to exclude eight Black potential jurors in the final stages of the selection process.

Mr. Arbery’s family said he was out jogging on the day of his death, but defense lawyers said no evidence had emerged to show that Mr. Arbery jogged that day into the defendants’ neighborhood of Satilla Shores, just outside of Brunswick, a small coastal city.

Video footage showed Mr. Arbery, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, walking into a partially built house in the neighborhood shortly before he was killed. It was a house he had walked into numerous times before. Each time, surveillance video showed him wandering around the property, but not taking or damaging anything. The owner of the house told the police that items had been stolen from a boat that was sometimes stored on the property, though he was not sure the boat was there when the thefts occurred.

General concerns about property crime in Satilla Shores were widespread in early 2020, residents testified at the trial.

Travis McMichael told the police that he had seen Mr. Arbery outside the partially built house 12 days before the shooting. During that evening encounter, Mr. McMichael said, Mr. Arbery put his hands in his waistband, as if reaching for a gun. Mr. McMichael called 911. Mr. Arbery ran away.

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

On the day of the shooting, a neighbor across the street saw Mr. Arbery in the house and called the police. Mr. Arbery left the house soon after, and ran down the street. Gregory McMichael spotted him and, along with his son, jumped into a truck and gave chase. Moments later, the third defendant, Mr. Bryan, began chasing Mr. Arbery as well.

At the trial, defense lawyers sought to show that the men were acting that day out of a “duty and responsibility” to detain a man who they felt they had reasonable grounds to believe was a burglar, as Robert Rubin, a lawyer for Travis McMichael, put it. In her closing argument, Laura D. Hogue, a lawyer for Gregory McMichael, noted that Mr. Arbery had been on the property before and said he had become “a recurring nighttime intruder — and that is frightening, and unsettling.”

Travis McMichael was the only defendant to take the stand. He told the court he took his shotgun out during the pursuit because his U.S. Coast Guard training had taught him that showing a weapon could de-escalate a potentially violent situation.

He testified that he believed he had little choice but to shoot Mr. Arbery once they clashed. “It was obvious that he was attacking me, that if he would have gotten the shotgun from me, then this was a life-or-death situation,” he said. “So I shot.”

In her final arguments, Ms. Dunikoski, the lead prosecutor, pushed back against the idea that an unarmed man running down the street would constitute a threat to three men, two of whom were armed, in a pair of pickup trucks.

The men began their attack on Mr. Arbery, she said, “because he was a Black man running down the street.”

During the trial, influential civil rights leaders including the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson appeared in the public gallery of the courtroom with members of Mr. Arbery’s family. Mr. Gough, the defense lawyer, tried repeatedly to persuade Judge Walmsley to bar “Black pastors” from attending the trial, arguing that their presence was unduly influencing the jury.

The comments caused widespread outrage, culminating with a large demonstration outside the courthouse by activists including Martin Luther King III, son and namesake of the nation’s most revered civil rights leader.

Allen Booker, a city commissioner in Brunswick, took some measure of solace from Wednesday’s verdicts. “I am hopeful — now more than ever — 11 white people could see the evilness of this crime and convict on the clear evidence of wrongdoing.”

Credit…Pool photo by Stephen B. Morton

Of the three men found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, two were convicted under Georgia’s felony murder law, which allows for people to be charged with murder even if they did not directly kill anyone.

Statutes like the one in Georgia, which carries a mandatory life sentence, have been denounced by some critics who say that they can lead to overly harsh punishments for accomplices to murder. But supporters of the laws argue that they allow prosecutors to adequately punish people who contributed to another’s death.

In the killing of Mr. Arbery, only Travis McMichael, who fatally shot Mr. Arbery, was convicted of malice murder, meaning jurors found that he intended to kill Mr. Arbery. The other two defendants — Travis McMichael’s father, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan, their neighbor — were convicted of felony murder, meaning jurors concluded that the men caused Mr. Arbery’s death while committing another felony.

Jurors found that although neither Gregory McMichael nor Mr. Bryan had shot Mr. Arbery, they had nonetheless contributed to his death by committing crimes including aggravated assault. The felony murder charge carries the same sentence as malice murder — life in prison — and a judge will decide at a sentencing hearing whether any of the men will be considered for parole after 30 years in prison.

In some notorious felony murder cases, people who intended to commit less serious felonies, such as buying drugs or robbing a house, were charged with murder when someone was unexpectedly killed during the encounter. Several states have abolished or restricted felony murder laws, including California in 2019. At least three people have been executed for convictions under felony murder or similar laws since 2009, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

But Guyora Binder, a professor at the University at Buffalo School of Law, said the conviction in this case was far removed from more extreme uses of the law.

“This is not the sort of scenario that reflects why felony murder is a controversial offense,” Mr. Binder said.

Some critics said the laws allowed for unfairly harsh punishments and did not deter people from committing crimes because many are unaware of felony murder. They also say that the laws, like many criminal statutes, are disproportionately used to imprison Black and Latino people.

The laws can be used to “scoop up a large number of defendants who have varying levels of accountability and basically charge them all with the highest and most serious crime in the land,” said Jobi Cates, the executive director of Restore Justice, a criminal justice reform organization in Illinois.

Melissa D. Redmon, a former prosecutor in Georgia and an assistant professor at the University of Georgia, said she supported the state’s law, in part because it was narrowly tailored to allow convictions only of people who committed a dangerous felony that also contributed to the cause of a person’s death.

Nate Schweber

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

There were modest demonstrations in cities like New York after Wednesday’s verdicts against the three men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery. A small group in Times Square carried signs and shouted slogans, with several tourists joining in as Emma Kaplan chanted through an electric bullhorn: “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!”

Ms. Kaplan, a spokeswoman for the New York City Revolution Club, called the verdicts a “celebration” of justice.

“It’s righteous that they found these guys guilty,” she said. “But it’s an indictment of the system that it could have gone either way.”

Some people handed out fliers, while two men next to Ms. Kaplan shared their sentiments on signs. “A taste of victory,” read one. The other used a profanity to say, “The whole system is still guilty.”

LaTonia Campbell, a firefighter visiting from Memphis who stopped to take in the demonstration, said she had followed the trial closely because “too many of our Black men are being killed.”

She had been deeply unsettled, she said, by what she perceived as bias from the judge who oversaw the trial in which Kyle Rittenhouse — the teenager who fatally shot two men in Kenosha, Wis. — was acquitted.

“I wasn’t surprised about Rittenhouse,” she said. “But I was relieved about this one.”

Credit…Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

The three men who were convicted on Wednesday of murdering Ahmaud Arbery must be sentenced to life in prison, according to Georgia law, and a judge will decide whether they can be considered for parole beginning in 30 years or if they instead must die in prison.

All three men — Travis McMichael; his father, Gregory McMichael; and their neighbor William Bryan — were taken to the Glynn County jail after they were convicted of murder in Travis McMichael’s fatal shooting of Mr. Arbery in February 2020.

Each defendant faced one charge of malice murder and four counts of felony murder. Jurors convicted only Travis McMichael of the malice murder charge, which means they concluded that he intended to kill Mr. Arbery. They acquitted the other two men on that charge but found them both guilty of felony murder, which applies when someone commits a felony and causes someone’s death.

Both types of murder charges carry the same penalty, which requires a judge to issue a life sentence but allows the judge to decide whether a defendant should have an opportunity for parole. Even if the judge grants the possibility of parole, the defendants would not be eligible under Georgia’s laws until they have been in prison for 30 years. Both charges can also result in the death penalty, but prosecutors did not seek it in this case.

Judge Timothy R. Walmsley, who oversaw the trial, will decide the men’s sentences after a hearing, which has not been scheduled. At the hearing, prosecutors and lawyers for the men will be able to argue for their preferred sentence, and relatives of Mr. Arbery may also deliver a victim impact statement to the court.

“The judge has seen the whole case,” said Sarah Gerwig-Moore, a professor at the Mercer University School of Law, in Macon, Ga. “There’s evidence that the jury never heard about that the judge did, and he could take that into account in the sentencing.”

In sentencing the men, the judge will consider a range of aggravating and mitigating factors. Experts said it was unlikely that the jury’s decision to acquit Gregory McMichael and Mr. Bryan on malice murder would have a serious effect, though the judge might take into account that it was Travis McMichael, and not the other two men, who pulled the trigger.

“The fact that they didn’t actually shoot could be considered,” said Melissa D. Redmon, a former prosecutor in Fulton County, Ga., who is now an assistant professor at the University of Georgia School of Law. “Still, under the law, they have the same culpability.”

Even if the judge allows any of the men to seek parole after 30 years, Ms. Redmon said, it is rare for people serving life sentences to be granted parole as soon as they become eligible. At that point, people serving those sentences are considered for parole at least every eight years.

The three men, all of whom are white, are also facing federal hate crime charges after Justice Department prosecutors charged them with interfering with the right of Mr. Arbery, who is Black, to use a public street because of his race. They also charged all three men with attempted kidnapping, and they charged Travis and Gregory McMichael with using, carrying and brandishing a firearm. That trial has been scheduled for February.

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transcript

‘I Never Thought This Day Would Come,’ Arbery’s Mom Says

Ahmaud Arbery’s mother and father expressed their gratitude to the demonstrators outside the Glynn County Courthouse. They were joined by the Rev. Al Sharpton and the civil rights lawyer Ben Crump.

[demonstrators chanting] “It’s been a long fight, it’s been a hard fight, but God is good. I never saw this day back in 2020. I never thought this day would come. Thank you for those who marched, those who prayed, and most of all, the ones who prayed.” “Yes, Lord.” “Thank you, guys. “And we don’t want to see nobody go through this. I wouldn’t want to see no daddy watch their kid get lynched and shot down like that. So, it’s all our problem. It’s all our problem. So, hey, let’s keep fighting. Let’s keep doing it, and making this place a better place for all human beings.” “Amen.” “Let us, more than anything, thank the mother and father —” “Yeah!” “— of Ahmaud, they lost a son.” “That’s right.” But their son will go down in history as one that proved that if you hold on, that justice can come.” “We — we together did this, we all together, Black, white, activists, faith members, lawyers, prosecutors. We did this together. We said, ‘America, we will make us better than what we saw on that video.’”

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Ahmaud Arbery’s mother and father expressed their gratitude to the demonstrators outside the Glynn County Courthouse. They were joined by the Rev. Al Sharpton and the civil rights lawyer Ben Crump.CreditCredit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

From the moment the first guilty verdict was uttered inside a Georgia courtroom, a cascade of tears and shouts of vindication coursed across the country. Black parents called their children, weeping. Activists choked up, embracing what they called a rare instance of justice.

In a country whose cavernous divides over race, guns and vigilante violence have been on display recently in courtrooms from Kenosha, Wis., to Charlottesville, Va., to Brunswick, Ga., the guilty verdicts on Wednesday against three white men who pursued and killed Ahmaud Arbery were hailed by political leaders and many Americans across the political spectrum.

Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican, said he hoped the verdicts would help the country “move forward down a path of healing and reconciliation.” President Biden said the verdict showed the “justice system is doing its job,” but said Mr. Arbery’s murder and the chilling videotape that recorded it were a measure of the country’s persistent racial inequities.

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

The widespread exclamations of support for the jury’s verdict over what some activists called a 21st-century lynching stood in stark contrast to the deeply polarized response to the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, the white 18-year-old who fatally shot two people during the unrest in Kenosha following the police shooting of a Black man last year.

Many conservatives embraced Mr. Rittenhouse’s acquittal last week as a victory for self-defense and gun rights while liberals worried it would encourage armed vigilantism as a response to racial justice protests.

“The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict is the America I expect — the Arbery verdict is the America I fight for,” said the Rev. Lenny Duncan, 43, a Black pastor in Portland, Ore., who attended many of the demonstrations that roiled the city last year after the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans.

The conviction of all three defendants charged in Mr. Arbery’s February 2020 killing — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and their neighbor William Bryan, 52 — drew few rebukes or protests.

The lawyers for Travis McMichael told reporters that they respected the jury’s decision but planned to appeal the verdict, which they described as “disappointing and sad.”

“This is a very difficult day for Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael,” Jason Sheffield, one of the lawyers, said, adding that both of them “honestly believe what they were doing was the right thing to do.”

The men also face federal hate crimes charges and are expected to stand trial on them in February.

Credit…Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

The verdict came as a relief to some Black Americans who had watched the trial with sadness and dread. Many had urgently hoped for a guilty verdict, but worried that the overwhelmingly white jury would side with defense lawyers who portrayed the three white defendants as neighbors worried about a rash of crimes in their neighborhood when they took off in pursuit of Mr. Arbery as he ran in the street.

“Thank God for this verdict today,” said Warren Stewart Jr., a Black clergyman and political activist in Phoenix. “I started calling a few friends and they’re crying on the phone. It’s bittersweet. Having two Black sons, this is scary. This is real life for us.”

Mr. Stewart’s 18-year-old son, Micaiah, had been paying rapt attention to the trial, and the family tried to balance its hopes and prayers for a guilty verdict against a long history of high-profile killings of Black men and women that have been declared justified by the legal system.

“It happens too often, that they get away with it,” Micaiah Stewart said. He said Mr. Arbery’s killing on a public street seemed to confirm his own fears of simply going outside as a young Black man in the United States.

Some Black Americans said the trial had posed a make-or-break test for their frayed trust in the legal system. They said the video showing how an unarmed Black man had been chased, cornered and shot had left little room for doubt in their minds that Mr. Arbery’s death was murder.

“We look forward to the day when it’s not a question when a person is lynched by a racist that it is murder,” said Hawk Newsome, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Greater New York, who called the guilty verdicts a “partial victory.”

Mr. Newsome said the convictions in Mr. Arbery’s killing juxtaposed against Mr. Rittenhouse’s acquittal in the shooting of three white men protesting the police shooting of a Black man added up to a “mixed message.”

“You can’t outright chase down and murder Black people and those who support them,” he said. “But if you make it look like self-defense, you got a shot.”

In Atlanta, Chris Stewart, a lawyer who has represented several families of Black people killed by white police officers, fought back tears as he reflected on the verdict in Georgia.

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

“It’s good to see racism lose,” said Mr. Stewart, whose clients have included the family of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old Black man shot in the back in 2015 by a South Carolina police officer. “This case will be remembered for many years. You can’t overstate how big this is.”

Mr. Stewart said that had the verdict gone the other way, “It would have broken me — I would have lost faith in the system.” He said the jury’s decision “shows African Americans that justice is possible.”

But only sometimes, many said. The three defendants were not arrested until several weeks after the shooting, and only once a video of Mr. Arbery’s last moments generated nationwide outrage and anger.

“They had no choice but to convict them,” said Wilburt Dawson, 68, as he and a friend sat at Dugan’s restaurant and bar in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, reflecting on the verdict.

“But without the video none of this happens,” his friend, Curtis Duren, 64, said. If the men had been acquitted, “There would’ve been such an uprising,” Mr. Duren said. “It would’ve destroyed the moral fabric of America.”

In Brunswick, local officials and activists largely heralded the verdict. Allen Booker, a city commissioner who represents a majority of Brunswick’s Black residents, said he was overjoyed for Mr. Arbery’s family while acknowledging that nothing could bring Mr. Arbery back.

Bobby Henderson, a co-founder of A Better Glynn, a local organization created in the wake of Mr. Arbery’s death to push for more diversity in local leadership, said that he was gratified Mr. Arbery’s family got accountability, but that more work was needed “to combat the system that failed Ahmaud on that day.”

The courthouse in Brunswick where the trial unfolded became a scene of tearful celebration.

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Outside, where activists and Mr. Arbery’s supporters embraced and cried and clasped each other’s hands in a gesture of victory, John Howard, 60, a white man from Hazlehurst, Ga., said that justice had been served.

He called the killing “a lynching.” Mr. Howard said it seemed as if race relations were better when he was young. He grew up in the countryside and called his Black elders “uncle” and “auntie.” The divide now is deeper, he said, but it felt like people were coming together to protest injustice. “Black and white citizens are getting fed up with it,” he said. “Enough is enough.”

Theawanza Brooks, Mr. Arbery’s aunt, said, “Thank God” as the judge read each guilty verdict. Another of Mr. Arbery’s aunts, Diane Arbery Jackson, simply said, “This is amazing.”

They were both in tears. The day had been emotional, with family members crying when the video of Mr. Arbery’s killing was replayed for the jury in the morning. At various times during deliberations, those gathered in the overflow room prayed together for a guilty verdict.

As the judge finished reading the verdict, people in the room raised their fists. Mr. Arbery’s childhood best friend, Akeem Baker, was silent as the verdict was read. His head was bowed and his eyes red from crying. “I feel better,” he said.

Reporting was contributed by Rick Rojas, Sergio Olmos, Nate Schweber, Robert Chiarito, Ana Facio-Krajcer and Christian Boone.

Credit…Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

Politicians in Georgia are reacting to the jury’s decision to convict three white men of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

For months, the country watched as protests and public outcry, spurred by a widely shared video of Mr. Arbery’s death, led to the eventual arrest of Travis and Gregory McMichael — and later of William Bryan, the man who filmed the encounter.

The trial also brought Brunswick, a small coastal suburb in Georgia, into the national spotlight. And it is local lawmakers who are contending with the case’s legacy for the state.

“This is jubilation,” Cornell Harvey, Brunswick’s mayor, said in an interview after the verdict on Wednesday. “We showed the world here that, even in a small town in Georgia, that we are good people here.”

Mr. Harvey found the verdict particularly poignant considering that the jury had only one Black juror — the other 11 members were white.

“There has to be a new reckoning, and a new normal,” he said. “And I’m sure there will be some changes.”

Shortly after the verdict, Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, released a statement.

“Ahmaud Arbery was the victim of a vigilantism that has no place in Georgia,” he said.

While Mr. Kemp expressed his approval of the verdict, he added that he hoped everyone who had been following the case “can now move forward down a path of healing and reconciliation.”

“I’m grateful to the jury for their service and for a verdict that says Ahmaud Arbery’s life mattered,” Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter. “He was a son, a nephew, a child of God, and he did not deserve to die in this way. I’m praying for Ahmaud’s family as they begin the difficult journey towards healing.”

Other lawmakers called for another investigation into why it took so long for the arrest, and eventual conviction, of the three men.

“There was nearly impunity for this murder, and further investigation is necessary to determine how and why officials initially refused to pursue the case,” Senator Jon Ossoff, Democrat of Georgia, said in a statement.

And while the three defendants will still have to face federal hate crime charges, Brunswick’s mayor is taking his time to reflect on this moment.

“We realize that we have been caught up in history,” Mr. Harvey said. “But we realize, too, that we here in Brunswick had the opportunity to write our own history, instead of having it written for us. We will feel this for a while. It’s a good day.”

Tariro Mzezewa

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

After walking Ahmaud Arbery’s family to their cars, about 60 people marched through the streets of Brunswick, chanting Mr. Arbery’s name and “Whose streets? Our streets!”

Stopping in front of a mural of Mr. Arbery, several in the group said they saw Wednesday’s guilty verdict as a moment in the fight for social justice.

Gerald Griggs, a civil rights attorney, said the verdict was justice. “You know why?” he said, “Because it happened in a court of law, and someone was held accountable.”

Mr. Arbery’s aunt, Theawanza Brooks, wearing an orange outfit similar to a prison uniform with images of the defendants, thanked local activists and residents for supporting her family.

“Y’all showed up outside,” she said. “Y’all been showing up every day for the rallies, for the protests, for the marches. Y’all been here.”

“The fight doesn’t end here, and there’s so much work to do.”

As the group began its march back to the courthouse, Porch’se Miller, an activist and organizer, urged everyone to take a moment to breathe.

“This time, we’re walking slowly,” she said. “This is a victory lap.”

Credit…Pool photo by Stephen B. Morton

Hours before 12 jurors found three men guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, they had a request for the judge. They asked to see the video of Mr. Arbery’s killing again, three more times.

The graphic cellphone video of the killing, filmed by William Bryan as he pursued Mr. Arbery in his truck, brought the world’s attention to the case in the months after the incident.

It sparked nationwide protest and prompted the State Legislature to make significant changes to Georgia criminal law, including passage of the state’s first hate crimes statute. It propelled the indictment of the former county district attorney on charges including that she directed police officers not to arrest Travis McMichael, who shot Mr. Arbery.

And ultimately, the video appeared to play a crucial role in the jury’s decision on Wednesday to convict Mr. Bryan, along with Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, of murder.

“The defendant’s own video shows that Mr. Arbery wasn’t armed, that he was jogging,” said Sarah Gerwig-Moore, a professor at Mercer University School of Law in Macon, Ga. “It shows that he was fighting for his life.”

The ubiquity of cellphone videos from bystanders and body camera videos from police officers has elevated video evidence to the center of many recent trials, often superseding other ways of convincing juries, including witness testimony and lawyers’ arguments.

“We lawyers, we don’t have a lock on the story anymore,” said Mary Fan, a professor of law at the University of Washington and a former prosecutor. “It doesn’t matter how dramatically I do my openings or closing or how my witnesses tell their accounts, because the jury is going to look at the visual evidence and my words are just going to be words. I can never match the drama of a video.”

In the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, which ended in a decision of not guilty just days before the verdict in the Arbery killing case, the defense’s argument centered on bystander videos of the moments before the first shooting. That footage appeared to show that Mr. Rittenhouse was chased into a parking lot by Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man he shot and killed, which defense lawyers said supported their argument that Mr. Rittenhouse had acted reasonably in self-defense.

It was a cellphone video of George Floyd’s death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer — captured and uploaded to Facebook by a then 17-year-old bystander — that ignited international protests over racism and police violence. The video was critical in the trial that found the former officer, Derek Chauvin, guilty on two counts of murder.

Some legal experts said that videos offer objectivity, especially when compared with testimony, which can be unreliable.

“What you are doing in a trial is you are trying to put the jury in that time, that place and in those circumstances that the witness is testifying about,” Melissa Redmon, assistant professor at the University of Georgia School of Law, said. “When you have a visual aid to do that, it makes it just much easier.”

But as video evidence plays an increasingly bigger role in jury deliberations, some experts warn that it can be prone to some of the same vulnerabilities as other forms of evidence.

“When we see video, it has this kind of seductive way of making us think, ‘Hey, I’ve seen what happened,’” Ms. Fan said. But just as with other types of evidence, it can fail to capture the full picture. Depending on a person’s prior background, she added, that same footage leads our eyes to “follow different details, we notice different things, amplify different things,” leading juries to fill in the gaps in the story “in very different ways.”

Jack Rice, a criminal defense attorney based in St. Paul, Minn., said the outcome of a case often comes down to which side’s lawyers can lead the jury to view the video in a way that is favorable to their argument.

“The undeniable nature of video means that if you can turn it to support your narrative, it could very well make your narrative undeniable,” he said. “From an advocacy standpoint, that is magnificent. You can’t ask for more than that.”

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs contributed reporting.

Rick Rojas

Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia praised the verdict and noted the hurdles the case had to overcome, including earlier prosecutors who did not believe a crime had been committed. “A historic civil rights mobilization was necessary for the killers to face prosecution at all.” He called for further investigation into how the case was initially ignored.

Richard Fausset

The New York Times used security footage, cellphone video, 911 calls and police reports, to reconstruct the 12 minutes before Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead in February 2020.

Rick Rojas

The defendants were taken to Glynn County jail immediately after the verdict, where they will stay until sentencing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Richard Fausset

The New York Times wrote the first national story about this case, following the important work of the local paper, The Brunswick News. We were all following the clamor of hyper-local activism here in Brunswick, where Ahmaud’s family and friends refused to let any of this go. We learned, through a public records request, that a local D.A. was telling the police to make no arrests, because, he argued, these three men had done nothing illegal.

Rick Rojas

Chris Carr, Georgia’s attorney general, said that the verdict “brings us one step closer to justice, healing and reconciliation for Ahmaud’s family, the community, the state and the nation.”

Rick Rojas

Robert Rubin, another lawyer, said he was glad that the jury wanted to rewatch the video because he believed it illustrated that Travis McMichael was acting in self-defense. “He was very stoic,” Rubin said of Travis McMichael’s reaction to the verdict in the moment. “He understood the potential consequences going into this. Whatever he was feeling, he was holding it to himself.”

Rick Rojas

The lawyers for Travis McMichael told reporters that they respect the jury’s decision but do plan to appeal the verdict, which they described as “disappointing and sad.” “This is a very difficult day for Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael,” Jason Sheffield, one of the lawyers, said, adding that both of them “honestly believe what they were doing was the right thing to do.”

Credit…Pool photo by Stephen B. Morton
Richard Fausset

Supporters of the Arbery family stopped in an empty lot under a mural of Ahmaud Arbery. Gerald Griggs of the Atlanta NAACP praises the residents who kept the pressure on authorities for weeks while the three men, now convicted of murder, walked free. “We just sent a message to the entire world,” he said. “we just showed the world how you force this system to be fair to all of its people.”

Giulia Heyward

President Biden weighed in after the verdict. He said the case is a “devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country.” He added, that “the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished.”

Tariro Mzezewa

A group of activists marched through the streets surrounding Brunswick chanting Ahmaud Arbery’s name and “Whose streets? Our Streets. We shut it down.”

Rick Rojas

All three of the men — Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan — have been ushered out of a side door of the courthouse in handcuffs and were driven away. Their sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

Richard Fausset

Ahmaud Arbery’s parents leave the courthouse grounds, trailed by a second line of joyous celebrants, cellphones raised. “Whose court?” they chant. “Our court!”

Rick Rojas

Latonia P. Hines, one of the prosecutors, told the crowd outside the courthouse that the verdict demonstrated that “the hunting and killing of Ahmaud Arbery was not only morally wrong, it was legally wrong.”

Credit…Pool photo by Sean Rayford

A jury found three men guilty of murder on Wednesday in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, but though all defendants were facing a charge of “malice murder,” only one man, Travis McMichael, was convicted on that charge.

In finding Mr. McMichael, the man who fatally shot Mr. Arbery in February 2020, guilty of that charge, the 12 jurors found that he had deliberately intended to kill Mr. Arbery.

The jury acquitted Travis McMichael’s father, Gregory McMichael, as well as their neighbor, William Bryan, on that charge, suggesting that they did not believe either man intended to kill Mr. Arbery. But jurors still found both men guilty of murder under Georgia’s “felony murder” statute, which allows a person to be convicted of murder if the person causes someone’s death while committing another felony.

Both malice murder and felony murder carry the same sentence — life in prison — though a judge will decide whether any of the men will have an opportunity for parole. The jury’s acquittal of Gregory McMichael and Mr. Bryan on malice murder could factor into the judge’s decision on whether to allow them to seek parole in the future, experts said, though it would be considered among a host of factors.

Sarah Gerwig-Moore, a professor at Mercer University School of Law, in Macon, Ga., said that without hearing from the jurors themselves, it is difficult to know their reasons for only finding Travis McMichael guilty of malice murder.

“It’s hard to read those tea leaves,” Ms. Gerwig-Moore said, adding, “Because Travis McMichael was the man who shot Ahmaud Arbery, there’s a chance that the jury could have seen him as the primary aggressor, and that may be one way there’s that distinction in guilt.”

Tariro Mzezewa

Allen Booker, a city commissioner who represents a majority of Brunswick’s Black residents, said he was overjoyed for Arbery’s family. “However, the verdict doesn’t bring their son back to them.”

Richard Fausset

Kevin Gough, an attorney for William Bryan, just told me, “While we disagree with the verdict, we must respect it.” He says Bryan will file a motion for a new trial next week.

Credit…Pool photo by Stephen B. Morton
Rick Rojas

Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, said today’s result seemed unimaginable in the months after her son’s death, when earlier prosecutors assigned to the case argued that the shooting did not constitute a crime. “To tell you the truth, I never saw this day back in 2020,” she said. “I never thought this day would come, but God is good. Thank you — thank you for those who marched, those who prayed.”

Rick Rojas

She said of her son, “He will now rest in peace.”

Richard Fausset

Outside the courthouse after the verdict, Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, just smiled a little, something that hasn’t been seen much from her over the past two years, as she has lived every mother’s nightmare. The Rev. Al Sharpton is speaking now to a crowd of supporters about her strength and resolve.

Rick Rojas

Sharpton expressed joy and gratitude over the verdict, describing the result as a breakthrough after disappointments in the way this case had been handled earlier and with the criminal justice system more broadly. The steadfastness of the Arbery family “proved that if you hold on, that justice can come,” Sharpton said.

Credit…Pool photo by Stephen B. Morton
Richard Fausset

Outside the courthouse, John Howard, 60, a white man from Hazlehurst, Ga., said that justice had been served today. He called the killing of Ahmaud Arbery “a lynching” and said it seems like race relations were actually better when he was younger. The nation’s divide is deeper, he said, but at the same time, he said it feels like people are coming together to protest injustice. “Black and white citizens are getting fed up with it,” he said. “Enough is enough.”

Tariro Mzezewa

“Thank God,” said Theawanza Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery’s aunt, as the judge read each “guilty” verdict. Another of his aunts, Diane Arbery Jackson, simply said, “This is amazing.” They were both in tears.

Tariro Mzezewa

The day had been emotional for Arbery’s family, with many crying as the video of his killing was replayed for the jury in the morning. At various times during deliberations, those gathered in the overflow room prayed together for a guilty verdict.

Rick Rojas

After being found guilty of murder, all three defendants now face up to life in prison.

Rick Rojas

The defendants also face federal hate crime charges, and are scheduled for another trial in February.

Richard Fausset

Outside of the Glynn County Courthouse, Derrianna Heidt, a Black resident of Brunswick, Ga., said she was ecstatic. As the mother of a 4-year-old boy, she said she hopes the verdict means that her son can go outside “not even worried about who’s looking at him.”

Tariro Mzezewa

The judge asked the jurors one by one if they stood by their verdicts, and each replied yes. The judge thanked them for their service and dismissed the jury.

Richard Fausset

After listening to the verdicts read by the judge over a loudspeaker, a crowd outside the courthouse started chanting, “Ahmaud Arbery!”

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times
Tariro Mzezewa

In an overflow room beside the courtrooom, Ahmaud Arbery’s family jumped, clapped and cried out as the guilty verdict for Travis McMichael, the first defendant, was read.

The jury has found William Bryan, who filmed the fatal encounter with Ahmaud Arbery, not guilty of malice murder. He was found not guilty of one count of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault, but guilty of three counts of felony murder and three other charges.

Credit…Octavio Jones/Reuters

The jury has found Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael’s father, not guilty of malice murder, but guilty of all other counts he faces, including felony murder.

Credit…Pool photo by Stephen B. Morton
Rick Rojas

The jury has found Travis McMichael, the man who shot Ahmaud Arbery, guilty on all nine counts, including malice murder and felony murder.

Credit…Pool photo by Stephen B. Morton
Tariro Mzezewa

Barbara Arnwine, a lawyer with the Arbery family and the Transformative Justice Coalition, says a verdict will be read at 1:30 p.m.

Richard Fausset

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Two blocks from the Glynn County Courthouse on Wednesday, Arthur Reed, 27, was installing a fresh stretch of sidewalk in front of a small one-story cottage. Over the din of a buzzing concrete saw, Mr. Reed was asked about the work of the 12 jurors who were inside the courthouse at that very moment, deciding the fate of the three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.

Should they find the men guilty? “I believe they should,” said Mr. Reed, who is Black, “But how it all goes, we’re only going to see.”

Mr. Reed was asked to unpack the comment. What, exactly, did he mean by that?

Mr. Reed hesitated, and laughed. “We’re only going to see,” he said. And then it was back to the concrete.

As the attention of the world focused on Brunswick, population about 16,000, much of the city was busy at work on what was, in some ways, just another Wednesday, though it was hard to imagine the jury’s work not being on the minds of just about everyone in town. There was a sense of life being punctuated — by the most explosive murder case this region has seen in decades — but also of life just rolling along on Thanksgiving Eve. In a newspaper box downtown, a story about the jury’s work was featured above the fold of The Brunswick News. Above the story, a box of text promised an article about the Glynn Academy’s competitive cheer squad, which, the paper said, “continues to make waves.”

The scene outside the courthouse on Wednesday was dominated by TV news crews and other journalists. They outnumbered the peaceful protesters, perhaps 50 in all, many of them older women who are part of a group called the Transformative Justice Coalition. They had a table with snacks and water. Occasionally, they burst into cheers of “Justice for Ahmaud.” Members of New Black Panther Party, who showed up earlier in the week, some of them with weapons, were not to be seen Wednesday morning.

Cherry Simmons, 36, was standing under the oak trees in front of the courthouse waiting for Mr. Arbery’s parents to arrive. Brunswick, she said, was “comfortable,” but there was much to be desired, particularly on the matter of race.

Ms. Simmons, who is Black, said her brother has been harassed by the police for driving a nice car with tinted windows.

She said she was optimistic — moderately so — that the jury would return guilty verdicts. “The prosecutor did a really good job,” she said. “So I feel like it’s going to go in the right direction.”

She also said she was worried that people might get “wild” if things went the other way. “Because Ahmaud was very much known in Glynn County,” she said. “Everybody knew him.”

Just beyond the courtroom, and a lot full of TV news trucks, a crew of white men were taking down an outdoor stage that had hosted demonstrators rallying on behalf of Mr. Arbery’s family. A man in a ball cap who declined to give his name was stacking sheets of plywood into the back of a pickup truck. The Rolling Stones were on the radio, with Mick Jagger singing “Angie” in his Southern pantomime.

The man said that the case was more complicated than the pro-Arbery protesters would admit. He spent some time describing the contents of the video of Mr. Arbery’s killing, focusing on the moment when Mr. Arbery — unarmed, running down the road and pinned in by two pickup trucks — turns to his left, where the defendant Travis McMichael was waiting for him with a 12-gauge shotgun in his hands.

“He confronted him who had the gun,” the man said of Mr. Arbery. “Now, if you’ve got a gun, I’m not going to confront you. I’ve got more damn sense than that. I would try to run the other way.”

The man was asked what he would do if he were a juror.

“Well,” he said. “It’s hard to say.”

Another man told him to stop talking. “Bubba,” he said, “we need you over here.” There was still work to be done.

Tariro Mzezewa

The jury is currently on a lunch break. Demonstrators, lawyers and other are using this as a chance to take a break as well.

Richard Fausset

Credit…Pool photo by Octavio Jones

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — In her closing argument this week, Laura D. Hogue, a lawyer for Gregory McMichael, tried to persuade jurors that Ahmaud Arbery should not be considered a victim.

Turning Mr. Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought him to the Satilla Shores neighborhood in his khaki shorts with no socks “to cover his long, dirty toenails,” she said.

Ms. Hogue’s comments about Mr. Arbery’s toenails have sparked outrage among many observers, who said they amounted to a racist depiction of a Black man.

On Wednesday, the Rev. Al Sharpton echoed the criticism, as he stood with Mr. Arbery’s parents in front of the Glynn County Courthouse, where a jury was deliberating the fate of Mr. McMichael and the two other white men accused of murdering Mr. Arbery in February 2020.

“I’ve never sat in a courtroom where a victim was akin to an animal, talking about dirty toenails — like he was not even a human, but an animal,” said Mr. Sharpton, who said that he heard, at trial, “some of the most racist statements made in a court of law in the decades that I’ve been out here.”

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

On Wednesday morning, Franklin J. Hogue, Ms. Hogue’s law partner and co-counsel for Mr. McMichael, sent a text message to a New York Times reporter addressing Ms. Hogue’s use of such language. Mr. Hogue noted that the prosecution had called Mr. Arbery a “jogger” in its opening statement, “implying that his purpose for visiting Satilla Shores” on the day of his death “was to to ‘jog.’”

Mr. Hogue said that the “only evidence” the prosecution presented about Mr. Arbery jogging was when he was captured on a surveillance camera running away from a partially constructed house he had been inside of. Moments before, a neighbor had called the police to notify them of Mr. Arbery’s presence in the house, which Mr. Arbery had visited numerous times before.

Mr. Hogue continued: “If one wants to rebut that scant evidence presented at trial, then for those on our jury who may actually jog — and some do, as we learned about them — they may find it a reason to doubt the state’s theory of ‘jogging’ to be reminded that this ‘jogger’ was wearing no socks and had unkempt feet.”

Ms. Hogue, whose practice is in Macon, is a well-known criminal defense attorney in Middle Georgia. According to her firm’s website, she is a former prosecutor and past president of the Macon Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.

Ms. Hogue’s comments have sparked intense conversation among some of her fellow criminal defense attorneys in Georgia. Their job is to serve as zealous advocates for their clients. But some believe that she crossed a line with her comments about Mr. Arbery.

Tanya Miller, an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer who also served as a state and federal prosecutor, said that Ms. Hogue’s comments were “consistent with the dehumanization of Black people.”

Ms. Miller, who is Black, said that the characterization reminded her of the depiction of Black people in the film “Birth of a Nation,” in which “the Black man is this monster, lurking, salivating, waiting to steal your women,” she said. “It is a whistle.”

Tariro Mzezewa

In the overflow room, Ahmaud Arbery’s family and supporters clapped when prosecutor Linda Dunikoski walked in. “Linda, girl, you killed it,” one of Arbery’s aunts says. The family members have become fans of Dunikoski and how she handled herself in court.

Tariro Mzezewa

As jurors watch video of Ahmaud Arbery being shot and killed, his family reacts in a room where they are huddled beside the courtroom each time the sound of the gun is heard. “Jesus,” one of his aunts keeps saying, shaking her head.

Tariro Mzezewa

The jury also heard the beginning of the 911 call that Gregory McMichael made on the day that Ahmaud Arbery was killed, saying, “There’s a Black man running down the street,” when the operator asked what his emergency was. The jury is now returning to the deliberation room.

Rick Rojas

The jurors have asked to review some of the media evidence in the case, including video footage and a 911 call that Gregory McMichael, one of the defendants, made while pursuing Ahmaud Arbery.

Tariro Mzezewa

The judge has brought the jury back into the courtroom to play the evidence, after being sure he knows exactly what the jurors want to review, including a short video of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing that will be played three times.

Tariro Mzezewa

Some of Ahmaud Arbery’s aunts and supporters are starting to gather in a room beside the courtroom. Many are wearing clothes with his face and name on them. They are feeling confident that the jury will return a guilty verdict.

Tariro Mzezewa

As the Rev. Al Sharpton led a prayer outside the courthouse with Ahmaud Arbery’s parents, inside the courtroom, a small group of his aunts and friends held hands in a circle and said their own prayer.

Tariro Mzezewa

After deliberating for more than five hours on Monday, following the conclusion of closing arguments, the jury has returned to the courtroom in Brunswick, Ga., this morning and resumed deliberations in the case of the three men accused of murder in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.

Tariro Mzezewa

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Jurors are expected to return to Glynn County Superior Court on Wednesday to deliberate for a second day in the trial of three men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery.

The jury is tasked not just with finding the defendants guilty or not guilty on one charge, but with sorting through several complicated charges and different forms of culpability that can depend on one another.

The group of 12 deliberated for more than five hours on Tuesday after Linda Dunikoski, the lead prosecutor, rested her case on Tuesday morning.

The indictment charges the defendants, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan, individually and as “parties concerned in the commission of a crime.” If the jury finds that one of the men committed a felony, it can convict all of them of that crime, on the basis that they were acting together.

To convict the men on the charge of malice murder, the jury would have to find that they had deliberately intended to kill, without considerable provocation.

The men are accused of four other felonies besides murder, but those charges could also lead to a murder conviction. In Georgia, causing a person’s death in the course of committing another felony is murder, regardless of whether the death was intentional or accidental. To convict the men of felony murder would not require jurors to find that the men intended to kill Mr. Arbery.

The judge told jurors that in the case of Mr. Bryant, the defendant who recorded the video of Mr. Arbery’s killing, they can also consider the lesser offenses of simple assault, reckless conduct and reckless driving instead of aggravated assault.

In Georgia those are misdemeanors, not felonies, so a conviction on one of the reduced charges would not expose Mr. Bryan to a felony murder charge in connection with that count.

On Monday, after about five and a half hours of deliberating, jurors told the judge that they wanted to continue deliberating. They soon changed their minds and decided to conclude deliberations for the day.

Credit…Octavio Jones/Reuters

The murder trial of three white men accused of chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery has renewed interest in race relations in the coastal city of Brunswick, Ga.

Community leaders have cast the high-profile trial as a gauge of racial inequities in Brunswick, a port city of 16,000 between Savannah and Jacksonville, but they also invoke the city’s distinct but largely forgotten role in civil rights history.

“What happened was an ugly encounter and an aberration,” Robert E. Griffin, a veteran civil rights activist, said. “I would never say racism doesn’t exist here, because it does. But we also have a history of Blacks and whites being able to sit down, talk and work together peacefully when other places didn’t.”

In the early 1960s, Brunswick, like many other Southern cities, bore the scars of Jim Crow laws. At one point, local officials were so firmly against integrating a public pool that they filled it with dirt rather than allowing Black and white children to swim together, Mr. Griffin said.

But change was quietly brewing. A coalition of Black and white Brunswick residents, led by faith leaders, was working together to integrate public spaces — without violence or publicity.

“We were meeting at night in the back of a bank. Black people and white people,” said Mr. Griffin, 84, who attended the meetings as part of the local N.A.A.C.P. “We would talk about the best ways we could make progress.”

He said the group met with white business leaders and persuaded them to hire Black workers and to integrate their establishments. “It wasn’t easy, particularly during that time period,” Mr. Griffin said, “but most of the people we worked with were reasonable and didn’t want bloodshed.”

Brunswick’s unlikely efforts earned the city national praise and a reputation as a “model Southern city.” The city’s approach was even profiled in a documentary called “The Quiet Conflict.”

Despite those early victories, stubborn economic, racial and social divides remain, serving as a backdrop to the trial.

Mr. Arbery’s fatal shooting in February 2020 — along with the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that year — was central to major protests and the national attention to systemic racism and policing.

“This is about the inequality of justice and conditions for minorities and especially for African Americans here in Glynn County,” said the Rev. Darren West, 52, who led rallies and marches after Mr. Arbery’s death. “In some ways, the city’s ‘quiet conflict’ legacy has masked the long history of inequality and injustice.”

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transcript

Judge Allows Nearly All-White Jury

Judge Timothy R. Walmsley of Glynn County Superior Court acknowledged that many Black jurors were excused by the defense. The jury is made up of 11 members who are white and one who is Black.

This court has found that there appears to be intentional discrimination in the panel. That’s that prima facie case. And I guess before I get into this, one of the challenges that I think counsel recognize in this case is the racial overtones in the case. Quite a few African American jurors were excused through preemptory strikes exercised by the defense, but that doesn’t mean that the court has the authority to reseat. The court is in a position where it’s got to make another finding, which is that the defendants are not genuine when they gave reason, and that the reason they were claiming is not the real reason those particular jurors were struck. The court is not going to place upon the defendants of finding that they are being disingenuous to the court or otherwise are not being truthful with the court, when it comes to their reasons for striking these jurors. So because of that and because of, again, the limitations I think [unclear] places upon this court’s analysis, I’m denying the motion.

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Judge Timothy R. Walmsley of Glynn County Superior Court acknowledged that many Black jurors were excused by the defense. The jury is made up of 11 members who are white and one who is Black.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Elijah Nouvelage

The jury that will decide the fate of the three white men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery is composed of 11 members who are white and one who is Black.

The lopsided balance — especially in a case that has been widely perceived as an act of racial violence — has been a cause of concern for civil rights activists. And it prompted legal experts in recent days to speculate that the racial makeup of the jury played a role in prosecutors’ decision not to make racial animus part of their case against Mr. Arbery’s assailants.

How did such a jury get chosen?

Even as he approved the selection of jurors earlier this month, Judge Timothy R. Walmsley of Glynn County Superior Court, who is presiding in the trial, declared that there was an appearance of “intentional discrimination” at play.

But Judge Walmsley also said that defense lawyers had presented legitimate reasons, unrelated to race, to justify unseating eight Black potential jurors.

And that, the judge said, was enough for him to reject the prosecution’s effort to reseat them.

What may have seemed like convoluted logic to non-lawyers was actually the judge’s scrupulous adherence to a 35-year-old Supreme Court decision that was meant to remove racial bias from the jury selection process — but has come to be considered a failure by many legal scholars.

The guidelines established by that ruling, Batson v. Kentucky, were central to the intense legal fight that erupted in court over the issue. The argument raised fundamental questions about what it means to be a fair and impartial juror, particularly in a high-profile trial unfolding in a small community where nearly everyone has opinions about the case.

Defense lawyers told Judge Walmsley there were numerous reasons to unseat several Black candidates for the jury. One man, they said, had played high school football with Mr. Arbery. Another told lawyers that “this whole case is about racism.”

But the resulting makeup of the jury profoundly dismayed some local residents who already had concerns about whether the trial will be fair.

“This jury is like a black eye to those of us who have been here for generations, whose ancestors labored and toiled and set a foundation for this community,” said Delores Polite, a community activist and distant relative of Mr. Arbery.

More broadly, the racially lopsided jury, in a county that is about 27 percent Black and 64 percent white, underscores the enduring challenges that American courts face in applying what seems to be a simple constitutional principle: that equal justice “requires a criminal trial free of racial discrimination in the jury selection process,” as Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh put it in a ruling from 2019.

Tariro Mzezewa

Credit…Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press

Regardless of the jury verdict in the state of Georgia’s prosecution of the men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, all three will face hate-crime charges in federal court in February.

The suspects — Travis McMichael; his father, Gregory McMichael; and William Bryan, known as Roddie — were each charged by the Justice Department last spring with interfering with Mr. Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race, and with attempted kidnapping.

Travis and Gregory McMichael were also charged with using, carrying and brandishing a firearm. Travis McMichael is accused of shooting Mr. Arbery.

The men intimidated Mr. Arbery “because of Arbery’s race and color,” the eight-page federal indictment said. The McMichaels and Mr. Bryan are white; Mr. Arbery was Black.

Mr. Bryan told investigators that he heard Travis McMichael use a racial slur after shooting Mr. Arbery, fueling the notion that the killing was motivated by race. Mr. McMichael’s defense team has denied the claim.

The men did not face hate-crime charges at the state level because Georgia had no such law at the time of Mr. Arbery’s death. The state Supreme Court struck down a hate-crime statute in 2004 for being too vague, making Georgia one of the few states without such a statute.

But Mr. Arbery’s killing united Republican and Democratic lawmakers, leading them to pass a new hate-crime law months afterward.

Georgia’s new statute allows for extra penalties for people who commit crimes against others based on their race, gender, sexual orientation and other identities. Law enforcement officials are required to file reports of these kinds of crimes so the state can track them.

Hate-crime cases can be difficult to prosecute because of the need to prove that the motive is directly tied to a victim’s identity. Still, the application of the laws often provides reassurance to victims and their families because it acknowledges the distinct nature of those crimes.

“There’s a feeling it wasn’t just an ordinary crime, there was something particularly egregious about this offense, and hate-crime laws offer us a way of recognizing that and offer sort of an official way for our society to say these behaviors are particularly awful,” said Phyllis B. Gerstenfeld, a criminal justice professor at California State University, Stanislaus, with expertise in hate crimes.

The first test of Georgia’s law may be the trial of Robert Aaron Long, the man facing the death penalty for a shooting rampage at three spas in the Atlanta area in March. The use of the law in a case that has drawn national attention, however, does not mean its use will become widespread.

“Just because the law is seen as valid and has been used in a high-profile case or two, it still doesn’t mean that it’s going to necessarily have a lot of practical use,” Ms. Gerstenfeld said.

Credit…Pool photo by Stephen B. Morton

For more coverage of the verdict and case, go to our live briefing.

The three men who were found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery are Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and their neighbor William Bryan, 52.

Prosecutors argued that in February 2020 the men set out in two pickup trucks in an effort to detain Mr. Arbery, an avid jogger and former high school football player who spent nearly five minutes trying to run away from them.

Eventually trapped between the two pickup trucks, Mr. Arbery ended up in a confrontation with Travis McMichael, who was armed with a shotgun and fired at Mr. Arbery three times at close range. Mr. McMichael testified that he feared that Mr. Arbery, who had no weapon, would get control of the shotgun from him and threaten his life. Mr. McMichael testified that he feared that Mr. Arbery, who had no weapon, would get control of the shotgun from him and threaten his life.

Travis McMichael is a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard who said in court last week that he had tried to employ his use-of-force training from the Coast Guard to “de-escalate” the situation when he pointed his gun at Mr. Arbery.

In the months leading up to the shooting, he had become increasingly concerned about a spate of property crimes — car break-ins, gun thefts and potential trespassing at a house under construction — in their usually quiet neighborhood of Satilla Shores outside of Brunswick, Ga. On New Year’s Day, he reported to the police that a Smith & Wesson 9-millimeter pistol had been stolen from his unlocked Ford pickup truck.

Gregory McMichael is a former police officer and investigator with the local district attorney’s office — a connection that some have argued helped him avoid arrest immediately following the shooting. At his bond hearing, prosecutors played a recording of a voice mail message that he had left for Jackie Johnson, the former district attorney, shortly after the shooting, asking for her advice.

The third defendant, Mr. Bryan, lives in the same neighborhood. From the beginning, Mr. Bryan portrayed himself as a concerned citizen and a bystander who was drawn by the commotion and pulled out his phone to film the encounter. But a few months after the shooting, the authorities said that was hardly the full story: He had contributed to Mr. Arbery’s death by attempting to “confine and detain” Mr. Arbery with his vehicle, they charged.

Mr. Bryan’s lawyers said that he was unarmed at the time of the shooting, and that he did not have a conversation with the McMichaels before the pursuit.





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