The family of Ahmaud Arbery, whose killers were sentenced to life in prison without parole, thanked the outpouring of community support and commitment of civil rights advocates who have sought justice for his murder.
“I sat in that courtroom for five weeks straight,” his mother Wanda Cooper-Jones told reporters outside Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia on 7 January.
“But I knew we could come out with a victory,” she said. “I never doubted it. I know today would come.”
She said the city of Brunswick “thought I would have to fight this fight alone, so they chose to ignore me.”
“They didn’t know I had you guys standing with me,” she added. “Thank you for standing with my family.”
Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan Jr were sentenced on Friday, nearly two years after chasing the Black 25-year-old jogger in their pickup trucks before fatally shooting him.
The men, who are white, were sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole, after they were convicted of murder in November 2021.
More than two months passed before they were ever charged with a crime, after shooting Mr Arbery at point-blank range with a shotgun, and only after phone-recorded video parked international outrage and allegations that the men committed a “modern-day lynching” of a Black man.
Attorney Benjamin Crump told reporters outside the courthouse that he is reflecting on “all the Black people who have been lynched in the history of America, in Georgia, who never, ever got their day in court, nobody ever heard their evidence, and … they never got accountability.”
“Nobody never went to prison for killing them,” he said. “Today, your son made history.”
Attorney Lee Merritt said he was reminded of “so many communities, so many families who are actively denied justice.”
“You all refused to let Ahmaud Arbery’s name die,” he said.
The three men convicted of his murder will return to court for a federal hate crimes trial next mont, after the US Department of Justice determined they targeted Mr Arbery because of his race.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Mr Bryan told investigators that Travis McMichael, after shooting Mr Arbery, used a racist slur as he stood over his body.
In April, a federal grand jury indicted the men for civil rights violations and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels also were charged with one count each of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm used to kill Mr Arbery.
The federal indictment also alleges that the men “attempted to unlawfully seize and confine [Mr Arbery] by chasing after him in their trucks in an attempt to restrain him, restrict his free movement, corral and detain him against his will, and prevent his escape”.
Arbery family attorney Lee Merritt said the family is preparing for that trial, in which “the issue of motivation, the issue of hate, which we believe was motive and a factor behind this murder, is finally addressed,” he told reporters on Friday.
Jury selection in the hate crimes trial is scheduled to begin on 7 February in US District Court in Brunswick, Georgia – nearly two years after the men killed Mr Arbery on 23 February, 2020.
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