Arbery’s Verdict: What is malice murder?
A jury found three men guilty of manslaughter in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery on Wednesday, but although all defendants were facing a charge of “malicious manslaughter,” only one man, Travis McMichael, was convicted on that charge.
Finding Mr. McMichael, the man who fatally shot Mr. Arbery in February 2020, guilty of that charge, twelve jurors found that he intentionally intended to kill Mr. Arbery.
The jury acquitted Travis McMichael’s father, Gregory McMichael, as well as his neighbor, William Bryan, of that charge, suggesting they did not believe anyone intended to kill Mr Arbery. But jurors still found both men guilty of manslaughter under Georgia’s “felony homicide” statute, which allows a man convicted of manslaughter if the person causes someone’s death while committing another crime.
Both felony murder and felony manslaughter have the same maximum punishment – in this case up to life in prison – so the jury acquitted Gregory McMichael and Mr.
Sarah Gerwig-Moore, a professor at the Mercer University School of Law in Macon, Ga., said without hearing from the jurors themselves, it’s difficult to know their reasons for finding Travis McMichael only guilty of culpable homicide.
“Those tea leaves are hard to read,” said Ms. Gerwig-Moore, “since Travis McMichael was the person who shot Ahmaud Arbery, there is a chance the jury could see him as the primary attacker, and that Maybe there’s a difference in guilt in a way.”
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