The 25-year-old was jogging through Brunswick, Georgia, when he was confronted by the McMichaels, who claimed he was a suspect in a series of alleged local break-ins.
The McMichael’s were both sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Ahmaud Arbery’s parents spoke to the judge at a Georgia courthouse on Friday, saying they believe their son’s killers should be sentenced to life in prison without parole. They say that the defendants “lynched him in broad daylight” and targeted him because he felt most “free and alive” when he was outside.
Gregory McMichael, 66, his son Travis, 35, and neighbor William Roddie Bryan, 52, appeared in court on Friday in Brunswick, Georgia. On February 23, 2020, they chased Arbery—a 26-year-old black man—through a street in Satilla Shores. The three men said they thought he was a burglar. Travis pulled the trigger with his father nearby. Bryan filmed the incident on his phone.
In November, they were all convicted of murder – which carries a mandatory life sentence. Prosecutors chose not to seek the death penalty.
The judge will only decide on Friday whether or not to grant any of the men parole. If he does, they still have to serve some time behind bars before they are eligible to be considered for release.
If not, all three men will die in prison.
The minimum sentence that Travis McMichael faces is life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years. The minimum sentence for Gregory McMichael is life in prison without the possibility of parole for 35 years. Prosecutors are asking Bryan be given parole at some point, but it’s unclear whether he’ll be released.
Marcus, the father of Matthew Shepard, spoke first at the trial of one of his son’s killers. He said: ‘The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every day next to his father. I’ll never get the chance of sitting next to my son ever again. Not at a dinner table, not at a holiday, not at a wedding. I pray that no one in this courtroom has to do what we had – bury their child.’
Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper Jones, pleaded: ‘They were fully committed to their crimes – let them be fully committed for the consequences.’
The woman also mentioned her son’s toenails the day of the murder—something that was brought up in court by the defense attorney, who tried to arouse outrage by mentioning his long, dirty nails.
Wanda, on Friday, said: ‘I wish he would have cut and cleaned his toenails before he went out for his jog that day. I guess he would have if he knew he would be murdered.’
She then pleaded with the judge: ‘Your honor, I am standing here before you today as the mother of Ahmaud Arbery asking you to please give all three defendants who are responsible for the death of my son, the maximum punishment which I do believe is life without bars without the possible chance for parole.’
The men’s lawyers are asking that their clients be granted parole after twenty years. Prosecutors are asking the judge to refuse any of the men parole.
Cooper Jones spoke about Ahmaud as a ‘loving’ baby who ‘never seemed to tire of cuddles, hugs and kisses.’
His father Marcus told how he loved to run more than anything because it made him feel ‘free’.
‘Not only did they lynch my son in broad daylight but they killed him when he was doing what he loved more than anything – running.
‘That’s when he felt most alive. Most free. And they took all of that from him.
‘When I close my eyes, I see his execution over and over. I’ll see that for the rest of my life.
‘When I became a father my life became bigger than me, it became bigger than me about my family, protecting him, protecting my boy. I know in my head that there is nothing I could have done that day to have saved my son.
‘To save him from this evil and hate. My heart is broken and always will be.
‘If I could trade places with Ahmaud, I would in a heartbeat but I can’t’. I’m standing here to do what he can’t – that is to fight for him. His memory, his legacy and to tell you who he was. That’s the one thing you didn’t hear in this courtroom. More than anything else, you should know who my boy was.
‘We love our son and we will never have him with us to celebrate anything. Thanksgiving, Christmas…his birthday his killers should spend the rest of their lives thinking about what they took from us.
‘It should be behind my bars.
‘Me and my family have got to live with this for the rest of our lives. They should stay behind those bars the rest of their lives. They didn’t give him a chance.’
Ahmaud’s mother spoke directly to him, saying: ‘This verdict doesn’t bring you back. But it does help bring closure to this very difficult chapter of my life