7 January 2022
Sentences for the men who hunted down and murdered Ahmaud Arbery were handed down in a Brunswick, Georgia courtroom today. Two of the men, Greg and Travis McMichael, were sentenced to life without parole plus additional years. William Bryan was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole and a consecutive number of years. This means, for Bryan, that after he is eligible for parole in 30 years, this additional sentenced will be added on.
There is no way to celebrate the sentencing of men to prison, but these men participated in a crime so hateful and cruel no other alternative was possible. It bears remembering, though, that had this case been left in the local jurisdiction, there would have been no trial, no conviction, no sentencing.
The local Glynn County authorities tried their hardest to cover up, gloss over, minimize this case. The District Attorney at the time, Jackie Johnson, has herself been indicted for the way she handled the case.
Because of the tenacity of Ahmaud Arbery’s mother and the work of various other civil rights activists, this case not only was brought to trial, but was taken out of the hands of the local authorities. So many things had to go perfectly for a guilty verdict to have been rendered.
As a citizen of Glynn County I am still amazed that a nearly all-white jury handed down a guilty verdict.
But, as the prosecutor pointed out, even though the actual chase and killing of Ahmaud Arbery involved minutes, this event was a product of years of preparation. The men involved spent years festering in a stew of racial hatred, suspicion, and entitlement. That has not gone away. It was obvious from the testimony of some of the people in the Satilla Shores neighborhood that they shared the ingrained racism of the defendants.
I do not believe that the case of the District Attorney has been taken out of the hands of local authorities.
When the Ahmaud Arbery case was first being tried, members of the families of others who had been violently treated by local police (and police pretenders) were present. The parents of a young woman who had been shot through the windshield of her parked car and killed were present. The police officers involved were protected and not prosecuted by the office of Jackie Johnson. There are many other cases handled by the DA’s office that we don’t even know about.
I don’t think there can be justice when a young man is hunted down and shot in the street for nothing more than being in a neighborhood where men are prepared to kill if they cannot intimidate. We will soon see if this justice extends to the people who tried to cover it up.