Biden Says Guilty Verdicts For Ahmaud Arbery’s Murder Case Is ‘Not Enough’

Biden Says Guilty Verdicts For Ahmaud Arbery’s Murder Case Is ‘Not Enough’

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
|
November 24, 2021

President Biden weighed in on the guilty verdicts in the Ahmaud Arbery case, saying the conviction of the three men reflects the “justice system doing its job,” but “alone is not enough” to achieve “racial justice.”

“While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough,” Biden said in a statement an hour after a jury reached a verdict Wednesday afternoon. “Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin.”

Biden claimed his administration will strive for “equal justice under law” in light of the conviction of Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers.

“My administration will continue to do the hard work to ensure that equal justice under law is not just a phrase emblazoned in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans,” Biden said.

The president’s comments come after jurors in Brunswick, Georgia, found Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan guilty of murder charges in the shooting death of Arbery after an emotional trial that lasted 13 days and 11 hours of jury deliberation spanning two days. All three men face minimum sentences of life in prison.

Arbery was jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, when Travis and his father, Gregory, pursued him in their pickup truck. Travis McMichael then shot Arbery three times with a shotgun at close range on Feb. 23, 2020. Bryan, who was driving behind the McMicheals, recorded the fatal encounter. No one was charged in the case until Bryan leaked the video he recorded online two months later, prompting state officials to take over the case from local authorities.

The three men claimed they were attempting to make a citizens’ arrest of Arbery as a suspect in a series of burglaries.

Travis McMichael was found guilty on all nine counts, including the serious charge of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony. Gregory McMichael and Bryan were acquitted of the charge of malice murder.

Under Georgia law, malice murder is similar to a first-degree murder charge and applied when a person is found to “deliberate intention unlawfully to take the life of another human being” in which they weren’t provoked and demonstrated “an abandoned and malignant heart.” The charge of felony murder applies when a death results in the course of another felony — regardless of whether the person intended to kill someone. Both carry a sentence of up to life in prison.

Biden said Arbery’s killing was a “devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country.”

Last year shortly after Arbery’s death, Biden, who was then the Democratic presidential candidate, joined the chorus of Democrat politicians, celebrities, and civil rights groups expressing outrage, saying the shooting amounted to a lynching “before our very eyes” and demanding a “transparent investigation.”

“By now many of us have seen that harrowing footage of Ahmaud Arbery out on a jog on a beautiful day in February in Florida, in Georgia, shot down in cold blood, essentially lynched before our very eyes, 2020 style,” Biden said during a virtual roundtable in Jacksonville, Florida, with local African-American lawmakers on May 7, 2020.

“This family and the country deserve justice, and they deserve it now. They deserve a transparent investigation of this brutal murder. But our nation deserves it as well. We need to reckon with this goes on. These vicious acts call to mind the darkest chapters of our history,” Biden added.

Vice President Kamala Harris said the verdicts “send an important message, but the fact remains that we still have work to do.”

“Ahmaud Arbery was a son. He was a brother. He was a friend. His life had meaning,” she said. “We will not forget him. We honor him best by continuing the fight for justice.”

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) tweeted the guilty verdict “upholds a sense of accountability but not true justice.”

“True justice looks like a Black man not having to worry about being harmed — or killed — while on a jog, while sleeping in his bed, while living what should be a very long life,” Warnock tweeted. “Ahmaud should be with us today.”

Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), whose district includes the area where Arbery was killed and where the trial took place, said in a statement that “justice was served” and prayed for the victim’s family.

“The right to a trial by a jury of your peers is fundamental to a free and fair society. Today, justice was served. I thank the jury, judge, and legal counsel for their commitment to our orderly system of justice. I pray for the family of Ahmaud Arbery and hope that this verdict brings some much-needed comfort ahead of the holiday season,” Carter said.

The three men were also indicted on separate federal charges, including hate crimes and attempted kidnapping, and are expected to stand trial in February on those charges.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

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