The three men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery in February 2020 were sentenced to life in prison Friday.
The three men who pursued and killed Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced to life in prison on Friday. This sentencing is the latest in a series of high-profile criminal cases over the past year that should give Americans renewed confidence in the jury system.
- Travis McMichael was convicted on nine counts including malice murder and felony murder. Gregory McMichael, his father, was convicted on eight counts. Both men were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
- Their neighbor William Bryan, who joined the chase and filmed the murder, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years, when he will be 82.
- Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 year old black man, was jogging through a Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood when the McMichaels suspected without evidence that he was the culprit behind several recent break-ins.
- Instead of calling the police, the McMichaels took the law into their own hands and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck. Armed with shotguns, they chased down and confronted Arbery, who attempted to defend himself from his attackers but was shot and killed by Travis McMichael.
- Local prosecutors swept the case under the rug as a favor to Gregory McMichael, a former police officer. One prosecutor, former District Attorney Jackie Johnson has been indicted for obstruction of justice for her mishandling of the Arbery case.
- In May 2020, Gregory McMichael leaked the video of Arbery’s murder to the media in attempt to “clear up rumors.” This prompted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to take over the stalled investigation, and the three killers were indicted after a three-month delay.
- The New York Times published a video compilation of the Arbery family’s personal statements at the sentencing hearing. Their grief at the loss of their son and brother is palpable.
- The Washington Post walked through how “a shaky phone video” changed the course of the Ahmaud Arbery case.
- The Huffington Post blamed “archaic citizen’s arrest laws,” not the actions of three evil men or corrupt local law enforcement officials, for Ahmaud Arbery’s death and the delayed indictments.
- Charles C.W. Cooke argues in National Review that the American jury system is a bulwark against ‘wokeness,’ citing the just verdicts in the Smollett, Rittenhouse and Arbery trials.
- Jonah Goldberg wrote in his weekly “G-File” column for The Dispatch that the smartest thing both parties could do is campaign on making the government accomplish its basic tasks –running schools, criminal justice, etc.- instead of fanciful, “transformational” visions.
- Fox News also covered the Arbery family’s statements before the sentencing, especially his mother’s response to a remark about her late son’s “dirty toenails” made by a defense attorney during the murder trial.
One of the recurring themes of the past two decades in American life is institutional failure. In no particular order: the Iraq War; Hurricane Katrina; www.healthcare.gov; the Catholic Church abuse scandal; pandemic school closures; US Capitol security; the CDC and FDA’s pandemic response; the Afghanistan withdrawal – just to name a few. One exception to this litany of failure is our jury system.
America has seen numerous high-profile and controversial trials in the past year alone. Besides Arbery’s killers, convictions include: Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd; Kim Potter, for the accidental shooting of Daunte Wright; Jussie Smollett for faking a hate crime against himself; Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, Silicon Valley’s Bernie Madoff, for fraud; and Ghislaine Maxwell for sex trafficking girls for Jeffrey Epstein. Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of killing a child rapist and another man in self-defense during the 2020 Kenosha riots. Even the overturning of Bill Cosby’s conviction demonstrated that the letter of the law must be followed, even for the most vile members of society.
In each of these cases, even the most difficult like Kim Potter, juries took their duties seriously, deliberated carefully and reached unanimous verdicts. These verdicts stand in stark contrast to periods in American history where juries failed in their civic duty. It should comfort Americans that the all-white juries of the Jim Crow south or juries that miscarried justice in the 1990s to acquit the four LAPD officers who beat Rodney King and O.J. Simpson are seemingly a thing of the past.
We all should feel a sense of patriotic pride that in the United States of America we can have confidence that if twelve of our fellow citizens are asked to serve on a jury, they will do their duty responsibly and with honor, even in the most controversial and high-profile cases. America is great because its people are good, and our jury system is living proof of that.
© Dominic Moore, 2022