The three men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery last year as he was jogging in a Brunswick, Ga., neighborhood were found guilty of felony murder Wednesday, offering a semblance of closure for Arbery’s family and supporters, who have been calling for justice for more than a year.

Addressing the crowd outside the courthouse, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, spoke of the family’s struggle to get any kind of justice.

“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. But God is good,” she said. “Back in 2020, I never thought this day would come.”

Her son could now rest in peace, she said.

Lawyers for convicted defendant Greg McMichael were disappointed by the verdict.

Laura Hogue told Leigh McMichael, Greg’s wife, that she was “floored with a capital ‘F.’”

Travis McMichael was convicted of murder alongside his father. His attorney Jason Sheffield said the three men “truly believe they were doing the right thing to protect their neighbors and friends.”

“We thought the jury would see that the state had it wrong, but they made an everlasting decision and we respect the time and integrity that they brought to the process,” Sheffield said.

The McMichaels’ attorneys vowed to appeal, a process that can begin after sentencing.

William “Roddie” Bryan, the McMichaels’ neighbor, was also convicted of murder. Kevin Gough, his attorney, criticized the verdict but said “that is the American way.”

“We may disagree as to whether we were successful in getting them a fair trial, but we certainly respect the efforts that were made,” Gough said.

He said he will seek a new trial.

John Perry, senior pastor of Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church and former president of the Brunswick NAACP chapter, hailed the verdict as proof that the courts can still deliver justice for African Americans.

“As a community leader, I’ve been encouraging people to do it the right way and trust that the system will prevail,” said Perry. “And so to hear the guilty verdicts literally brought tears to my eyes. Our system isn’t perfect, it’s in need of a lot of tweaking, but this proves that it’s not totally broken.”

Perry added that the verdict has helped restore his faith in his White neighbors.

“We were shaken by only having one Black juror,” Perry said. “But this particular case showed that there’s an awakening in the consciousness even of our White community and that they want to see justice despite skin color.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton said that, in Brunswick, criminal justice has taken a “turn” from previous cases.

“Let the word go forth all over the world that a jury of 11 Whites and one Black stood up in the Deep South and said Black lives matter,” Sharpton said as he left the courtroom, embracing Arbery’s mother. “And almost 10 years after Trayvon [Martin] … we knew if we kept marching and we kept fighting, we would make you hear us. We have a lot more battles to fight, but this was an important battle today — this has proven our children know their value.”

Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William Bryan were convicted of felony murder on Nov. 24 in the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. (Joy Yi/The Washington Post)

A lot has changed in Brunswick and surrounding Glynn County, Ga., since Arbery, 25, was murdered. The chief of police has been removed, there are new county commissioners, and voters installed a new district attorney. But Perry hopes calls for change don’t disappear after this verdict.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said the verdict was based on facts and evidence of the case she and her team presented to the jury.

“The jury system works in this country, and when you present the truth to people and they can see it, they will do the right thing,” she said. “And that’s what this jury did today in getting justice for Ahmaud Arbery.”

The verdict comes just days after a Wisconsin jury acquitted 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse on charges related to his fatal shooting of two White men and wounding of another in Kenosha during chaotic protests of a White police officer shooting a Black man, Jacob Blake. That jury’s verdict reignited discussions about who is able to obtain justice in the legal system, and it became a referendum for some about how the nation prosecutes vigilante violence.

Before the verdict, many saw a need for broader change to curb and hold accountable vigilante behavior.

Robert Bloom, a law professor at Boston College, had predicted acquittal in Arbery’s case and noted the recent not-guilty verdict in Rittenhouse’s trial. The White teenager tearfully testified that he fired in self-defense. Prosecutors said Rittenhouse was the instigator.

Vigilante behavior is “not something the criminal justice system can deal with well,” Bloom said. He said it is up to legislatures to change laws.

The Arbery jury’s decision had local and national politicians weighing in and making statements about what the verdict means for the country’s path toward racial justice in the legal system.

Stacey Abrams — a Democratic candidate for Georgia governor in 2018 and founder of voting-rights organization Fair Fight — tweeted that the jury “believed the evidence of their eyes and saw the meanness in the killers’ hearts” shortly after the verdict was reached.

“Nothing can ever assuage the loss of #AhmaudArbery for his parents and loved ones, and the work of local organizers [and] the Brunswick community should not have been so vital to securing justice,” she said. “Georgia must move forward on criminal justice reforms — not retreat.”

Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) expressed similar sentiments on Twitter and lamented that Arbery will not be able to spend the upcoming holidays with his loved ones.

“There is no verdict, no decision that can heal the wounds of losing a loved one. The sorrow we feel stays with us. It lives in all the love for our children we never had the chance to express. It lives in all the joy we never got to experience,” she said. “Today, I am praying that we will end this epidemic of senseless gun violence in America, and one day, no parent will ever have to go through that pain.”

Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) called the verdict 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,” he tweeted. “Ahmaud should be with us today.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) noted how Wednesday’s verdict could not right all wrongs.

“Today, justice was served in the courtroom,” she said. “But the word ‘guilty’ cannot bring Ahmaud back and my heart is with his family. No one — no matter their race — should go from a peaceful jog to being chased and killed.”

President Biden said Arbery’s death signals the amount of work the country has to do to move forward on its path to racial justice.

“Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and to his community,” Biden said. “But the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished.”

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