On Jan. 7, 2022, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced the three men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020, to life in prison. Travis and Gregory McMichael were both sentenced to life plus 20 years without the possibility of parole. William Bryan was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after serving 30 years. Walmsley said the McMichaels showed no remorse and called their words and actions disturbing and chilling.
Prior to sentencing, Arbery’s dad, Marcus, told the court he will never get the chance to speak with his son again.
He said his son felt the most alive and free when he jogged and the defendants took that from him. He said when he closes his eyes, he still sees his son’s execution and added he wished he could have done more to protect his son.
“These killers should remember what they did for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Jasmine Arbery said the loss of her brother has devastated her and her family and asked the judge to sentence the men to the maximum allowed by law.
But the strongest statements came from Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, who spoke about her youngest son born on Mother’s Day in 1994.
“He had a smile so bright he lit up a room,” she said, adding he never missed a day in telling his family how much he loved them.
“And your honor, we loved him back,” she said. She went on to say, “They chose to lie and attack my son. They each have no remorse and do not deserve any leniency. This wasn’t a case of mistaken identity or mistaken fact. They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community. They chose to treat him differently than other people who frequented their community, and when they couldn’t sufficiently scare him or intimidate him, they killed him.”
Prior to sentencing, the attorneys for the defendants asked the court to consider their backgrounds and good deeds and offer the possibility of parole.
“Judge, you can send a message that four minutes of conduct does not erase a life well-lived,” said Bob Rubin, who represented Travis McMichael.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said the McMichaels have acted as vigilantes on this and other occasions.
However, Gregory Mc-Michael’s attorney, Laura Hogue, said her client, who was a former police officer, “has lived a good life, a life dedicated to service.” Hogue said it wasn’t vigilantism, instead more like neighborhood watch.
Dunikoski fired back, saying neighborhood watch is supposed to be about witnessing and calling police, not getting their guns and chasing after
William Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, had said his client should be granted life with the possibility of parole due to his cooperation with the investigation and the fact that his client has shown remorse. After the judge read their sentences, Dunikoski requested a condition be added to their sentence stating that the defendants can’t profit or benefit off of their actions. She said if they do, all those funds should go to the family of Arbery. The judge asked for the terms to be submitted in writing to the state for consideration.
Family attorney Ben Crump said, “Arbery was stalked, cornered, and lynched in broad daylight. These brutal crimes nearly went unpunished because of the deep corruption that pervades so many of our systems. But because of the video, and the public cries for accountability, Ahmaud’s killers have finally been held to account — first by the jury and in today’s sentencing. What we’ve called for from the outset is that Ahmaud’s killers be treated as a Black man would be — no more, no less. And today tells us, there is progress.
“But we are not done. The tragic murder of Ahmaud Arbery must not be in vain. America, we are showing progress. Now is not the time to retreat. We must continue to demand better from law enforcement, from our justice system, and from our society as a whole.”
Prior to sentencing,
Cooper-Jones denied a request by the state prosecutors of making a deal in the federal hate crime trial about to start in February. The agreement would have put the men in federal prison for 30 years, in addition to the time they received in court, said attorney S. Lee Merritt.
“She rejected that offer because we believe that today, the state will move forward with life sentences without the possibility of parole, and we think that’s the appropriate sentence,” Merritt told the media prior to sentencing.