WASHINGTON (AFP) – Three white men convicted of murdering African American jogger Ahmaud Arbery after chasing him in their pickup trucks were sentenced to life in prison on Friday in a case that highlighted United States (US) tensions over racial justice.
Travis McMichael, 35, and his father Gregory McMichael, 66, were sentenced to life without parole, while their neighbour, William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, 52, who had a less-direct role in the murder and cooperated with investigators, was given life with the possibility of parole.
The three were convicted in November of multiple counts of murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment for chasing down 25-year-old Arbery on February 23, 2020 as he ran through their Satilla Shores neighbourhood near Brunswick, in the southern US state of Georgia.
Pronouncing the sentence, Georgia Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley called the murder “a tragedy on many, many levels”.
Weighing the verdict, Walmsley said he kept thinking of “the terror of the young man running through Satilla Shores”.
“He left his home apparently to go for a run and he ended up running for his life,” Walmsley said.
“He was killed because individuals here in this courtroom took the law into their own hands.”
The Arbery case had added to a burst of nationwide anger and protests in 2020 over police killings and mistreatment of African Americans, sparked initially by the death in May that year of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Before the sentencing, members of Arbery’s family asked the court to give the three the harshest possible penalty.
“They each have no remorse and do not deserve any leniency,” said Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones. “This wasn’t a case of mistaken identity. They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community.”
His father, Marcus Arbery said, “The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every single day next to his father. I’ll never get that chance to sit next to my son ever again, not at a dinner table, not at a holiday and not at a wedding.”