The three white men convicted in November of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, were found guilty on Tuesday in a separate federal hate-crimes trial that centered on video- and text-based evidence of racism. The federal jury found that Travis McMichael, 36; Gregory McMichael, 66; William Bryan, 52, violated a federal hate-crimes statute in the killing of Arbery. The three were convicted on all counts, which included violating Arbery’s civil rights, kidnapping, and for the McMichaels, one count each of brandishing or discharging a firearm during a violent crime. It took the jury roughly four hours of deliberation to come to a decision. Although experts viewed the case as a “slam dunk,” hate-crimes prosecutions are still rare because of how difficult it is to prove motivation, Northeastern experts say.
But often victims want answers to the question of why a crime was committed—questions that can complicate the prosecution in certain cases, says Jack McDevitt, director of the Institute on Race and Justice at Northeastern. “When we talk to victims of hate crimes, they say it’s really important that people be held accountable for the motivation, as well as the actual crime,” McDevitt says. “The family in this case can have some measure of satisfaction that the state and federal government did their jobs.”