Three white Americans were sentenced to life in prison on Friday for pursuing and then shooting a young black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, whom they suspected of being a burglar in February 2020 in Georgia, in the southern United States.
Travis McMichael, 35 and perpetrator of the fatal shots, and his father Gregory McMichael, 66, were given life sentences without the possibility of early release.
Their neighbor William Bryan, 52, who participated in the prosecution by filming it, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of requesting early release after 30 years in prison.
“Because he was black”
The racial dimension of this case was underlying during the trial which ended on November 24. The McMichaels and their neighbor decided to chase Ahmaud Arbery “because he was black and he was running in the street,” Linda Dunikoski said.
In this state still deeply marked by racism and segregation, the three men had long enjoyed a certain leniency on the part of the authorities: the services of the local prosecutor, for whom Gregory McMichael had long worked, had not carried out any interpellation.
It had taken nearly three months and the release of a video filming the death of the young African-American for the investigation to be handed over to the state police and for the three men to be arrested.
The case had fueled the major anti-racist protests that rocked the country in the summer of 2020, in the wake of the death of another African-American, George Floyd, suffocated under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis.
On February 23, 2020, the 25-year-old was jogging when he was chased by the three men. After an altercation, Travis McMichael opened fire and killed the jogger. The three defendants then assured to have taken him for a burglar operating in the vicinity and had invoked a law of Georgia then authorizing ordinary citizens to make arrests.
The trio were convicted of murder in late November in Brunswick, Georgia. The twelve jurors, including one black man, had deliberated for more than eleven hours to reach this unanimous verdict.
The three defendants are also indicted for racist crime by the federal justice and will be tried again in February.