(CNN) –– A jury found the three white men who killed Ahmaud Arbery guilty of a federal hate crime charge. The decision supports prosecutors’ argument that the men chased the 25-year-old through the streets of the Satilla Shores neighborhood because he was black.
Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan were found guilty of interference of rights, a federal hate crime charge.
They could now receive up to life in prison for the federal convictions.
After deliberating for more than three hours, the jury has reached a verdict in the federal trial, Judge Lisa G. Wood announced Tuesday morning.
The McMichaels and Bryan were sentenced to life in prison in state court. However, the federal charges they face, including a hate crime and interference with rights, carry additional penalties for acts that prosecutors say were racially motivated.
The arguments in the federal trial for the death of Ahmaud Arbery
During closing arguments Monday, prosecutor Tara Lyons emphasized the state’s position that Arbery was killed two years ago in a neighborhood outside of Brunswick, Georgia, because he was black.
“On February 23, 2020, the three defendants did not see 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery as a human being,” Lyons said in federal court in Brunswick.
Since the start of the trial, prosecutors have focused on testimony detailing how the three defendants spoke privately and publicly about Black people using inflammatory and derogatory language, including racial slurs.
Defense attorneys have not denied the use of such language. However, they argued that the facts of the case show that her response to Arbery was not due to his race.
Federal prosecutors and Arbery’s family have said he was running when he was killed. Defense attorneys in both trials contended that the McMichaels, suspecting Arbery of breaking into a home under construction several times, chased him through neighborhood streets in a pickup truck to arrest him before police. Travis McMichael argued that he shot Arbery in self-defense while they were fighting over McMichael’s shotgun.
Bryan joined the chase in his own truck after seeing the McMichaels follow Arbery running in his truck and recorded video of the gunshots.
The count of the facts
Prosecutors in both trials admitted that Arbery was at the construction site several times, including on the day of the shooting, but each time without entering or taking anything, and never doing anything that would allow the men to chase or stop him. They argued that the white men apparently visited the site without being pursued, and that they did not actually see Arbery at the site that day and did not know that he had committed a crime.
The three men were tried in a Georgia court and convicted of multiple counts of murder in November. The McMichaels were sentenced to life in prison without parole, while Bryan received life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Before the federal trial, the McMichaels initially agreed to plead guilty. But, the judge overseeing the case rejected the plea deal due to sentencing concerns. All three men have since pleaded not guilty.
Jurors deliberated for more than two hours on Monday before retiring for the night. Deliberations resumed Tuesday around 9 am Miami time.
Just after 9 a.m., US District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood announced an unsigned question from the jury, asking, “what part of the verdict form should I read?”
The judge told the lawyers that she planned to respond, “The clerk of the court will read your unanimous verdict.” All parties agreed.
The jury was made up of eight white jurors, three black jurors and one Hispanic juror, according to details provided in court.