When the judge read the verdict in the trial of Travis McMichael, there was an outburst in the courtroom from a man sitting behind him. The judge stopped and asked that the man be removed. Then he continued to read the verdict, which found Travis McMichael guilty on all 9 counts.
Next he did the same for Greg McMichael who was found guilty of 8 out of 9 counts. Finally the judge turned to William Bryan and pronounced him guilty on 6 of 9 counts.
If you’re wondering how there could be multiple counts of murder for the death of one man, this ABC News story does a pretty good job of explaining it. Georgia doesn’t have degrees of murder like most other states. Instead they have malice murder and felony murder.
Malice murder is when a person “unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied, causes the death of another human being.” No evidence of premeditation is required…
Felony murder applies when someone who has no plans to kill intentionally commits another felony and a person dies as a result. The person must be convicted of the underlying felony to be found guilty of felony murder…
In this case, the prosecution is saying that the three men demonstrated “malice aforethought” when they illegally chased Arbery through the streets in pickup trucks and shot him. That’s the basis for the malice murder charge.
But they’re also saying that the three men intentionally committed four felonies — two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment — and each of those felonies caused Arbery’s death.
The McMichaels and Bryan could each be convicted of multiple counts of murder, which would then be merged for sentencing.
So because there are four underlying felonies which led to a murder, each defendant was also charged with four counts of felony murder plus the additional charge of malice murder. Travis McMichael was found guilty on all counts. Greg McMichael was found guilty of all counts of felony murder but not the one count of malice murder. And William Bryan, who is the person who filmed the incident, was found guilty on three out of four underlying counts which means he could only be found guilty of three counts of felony murder. He was also found not guilty on the malice murder charge.
However, the ABC explainer also notes that the penalties for malice murder and felony murder are the same: life in prison is the minimum sentence. The prosecution did not seek the death penalty in this case so that’s off the table. That means the only choice left for the judge at sentencing is whether the defendants are eligible for parole or not.
After the verdicts were read, the defense asked the judge to poll the jury, which involved asking each juror to confirm that he or she had agreed to the verdicts as stated. Here’s the clip of the verdicts:
After the verdict, Arbery’s mother spoke outside the courthouse saying she never thought this day would come. She also said her son could now rest in peace.
BREAKING: "I never thought this day would come—but God is good."
— ABC News (@ABC) November 24, 2021
It’s worth noting that 11 of the 12 jurors in this trial were white and one was black. That produced some controversy but it seems like it didn’t impact the outcome here at all.