Following the travesty that was the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, it was good to see the right verdict come down in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial. This verdict gives us some hope in the justice system. As expected, the claims of self-defense failed. Arbery was an unarmed jogger who, as the prosecutor said, did not even have a cell phone on him. He was merely doing what he did every day according to his mother. He never imagined this day would be different.
The Arbery story is sad, as Ahmaud was a young man with his entire life ahead of him. He once dreamed of professional football, but his family said he was not big enough (he was 5’10”). Ahmaud’s family said he that while he was no saint, having had brushes with the law that all ended in probation, Judge Wamsley would not allow the defense to put Ahmaud on trial by denying their motions to bring in prior criminal acts and Arbery’s mental health. Arbery was the victim; the defense had no right to try to paint him in any other light.
Immediately after high school, Arbery’s family said that he enrolled in South Georgia Technical College but was forced to drop out because of finances. At the time of his death, he had been saving to return to school to achieve his goal of becoming an electrician like three of his uncles. The Houston Chronicle also reported that Arbery ran “just about every day.” It was the way he cleared his mind. He took that same route every day, so one might think Greg and Travis McMichael had seen him on other occasions and knew he was no burglar. Who knows what was really in those men’s minds that day to presume such a thing about a young man they should have seen on multiple occasions. Whatever their goal that day, they changed the lives of numerous people, including their own.
Though the attorneys for the defendants thought they had stacked the deck by keeping Blacks off the jury, that plan did not work as planned. They apparently chose white people who listened to the evidence and decided based on that evidence alone. According to ABC News, the jury deliberated for 11 hours. They convicted Travis McMichael—the shooter—on all nine counts, and his co-defendants were convicted on only some of the charges. All three face a maximum of life in prison, and that is where they belong.
None of this will bring Ahmaud Arbery back to his family, but as Senator Raphael Warnock said, the killers will be held accountable. Warnock went on to say: “True justice looks like a young Black man not having to worry about being harmed—or killed—while on a job, while sleeping in his bed, while living what should be a very long life.” Many of us crave a world in which everyone is treated equally. This verdict is a great first step toward that reality. May Arbery rest in peace with the knowledge that his life moves us one step closer to that equality.
Shirley is a former entertainment writer and has worked in the legal field for over 25 years