The father-son duo that killed Arbery will not have the opportunity for parole, while the third participant can file for release in 30 years.
Two of the three men convicted of murdering unarmed Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery will spend their remaining years in prison, Georgia Judge Timothy Walmsley ruled Friday, with Gregory McMichael and son Travis McMichael each sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 20 years. William Bryan, the third participant in Arbery’s death, was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. This past November, all three men, who are all white, were each found guilty of various felony murder counts for their respective roles in shooting Arbery to death in February 2020.
Before reading his ruling, Walmsley asked the courtroom for a minute of silence, to demonstrate just a fraction of the time Arbery spent running for his life from his killers. He then read aloud a number of quotes from the convicted killers, calling the selections “disturbing” multiple times, while highlighting the context they offer toward the case — and his sentencing as a result.
“Instead of closure, perhaps it’s best to see today’s proceedings as an exercise in accountability,” Walmsley noted at one point, noting that closure is inherently unattainable through the sentencing process.
Delivering his victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing, Arbery’s father Marcus described the pain of seeing the McMichael family together during the trial, while knowing he’d never see his own son again.
“You know something that just does not sit right with me at this time?” Arbery asked. “The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every single day next to his father. I’ll never get that chance to sit next to my son ever again.”
Speaking with CNN before entering the courthouse, Arbery’s mother urged a life sentence without parole for Travis McMichael — the man who fired the fatal shot — telling the network that “Ahmaud didn’t get a chance to live. So with that being said, Travis should not get a chance to live as a free man.”
She also said that her family’s newly established Ahmaud Arbery Foundation will be working to overturn Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law, which the defendants used as a justification for killing Arbery.
Gregory and son Travis, along with Bryan, murdered Arbery after chasing him down through a residential neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia, in a pickup truck. During their trial, the trio claimed without evidence that they believed Arbery had been responsible for a number of break-ins in the area, and had killed him in self-defense while attempting to detain him. While the murder charges were eligible to be punished with the death penalty under Georgia law, prosecutors had requested a maximum of life in prison without the possibility for parole instead. As the sole recipient of the possibility for parole, Bryan will be allowed to file in 30 years.