Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were found guilty of interference of rights, a federal hate crime, and attempted kidnapping in 2021. Both the McMichaels were each convicted of a weapons charge and are serving life in prison. Bryan was sentenced to 35 years, which will be served alongside his state sentence.
While all the men’s attorneys filed the appeals earlier this month, the elder McMichael and Bryan claimed prosecutors didn’t show enough evidence proving they targeted Arbery because of his race.
“The evidence against Bryan did not present a man who saw the world through a prism of racism,” Defense lawyer J. Pete Theodocion, who filed an appeal on behalf of Bryan, wrote in the filing. “There is simply not sufficient evidence in the record to suggest Bryan would have acted any differently on the day in question had Arbery been white, Hispanic, Asian or other.”
During the trial, prosecutors used witness testimony as key evidence that the McMichaels and Bryan terrorized Arbery out of racial animus. Witnesses told the court the murderers would speak about Black people using racial slurs and derogatory language in both public and private settings.
While the defense attorneys admitted their clients did make racist remarks, they claim that’s not enough to prove they were motivated by hate.
“Every crime committed against an African American is not a hate crime. Every crime committed against an African American by a man who has used racist language in the past is not a hate crime,” Theodocion wrote.
Travis McMichael is also appealing his conviction, but it’s more focused on the kidnapping and weapons charges rather than the hate crime, according to reporters.
Arbery was fatally shot in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020. The McMichaels were chasing the Black jogger while armed and in a vehicle while Bryan recorded the horrific incident on his cellphone.
The video went viral on social, sparking nationwide outrage and protests months before George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers. It wasn’t until after the shocking footage hit the internet that authorities arrested the father, son, and neighbor.
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