Judge in Arbery case will decide whether defendants receive parole

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The three men convicted Wednesday of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder are to be sentenced to life in prison under Georgian law and a judge will decide whether they qualify for parole from the age of 30 or whether they should die in prison instead .

All three men – Travis McMichael; his father, Gregory McMichael; and their neighbor William Bryan — were taken to Glynn County Jail after being convicted of murder in Travis McMichael’s fatal shooting of Mr. Arbery in February 2020.

Each defendant faced one charge of willful murder and four counts of felony murder. Jurors only convicted Travis McMichael on the murder charge, meaning they concluded that he intended to kill Mr. Arbery. They acquitted the other two men of that charge but found them both guilty of felony murder, which applies when someone commits a felony and causes someone’s death.

Both types of murder carry the same penalty, for which a judge must hand out a life sentence, but the judge can decide whether a suspect should be given a chance at parole. Even if the judge allows the possibility of parole, under Georgian law the defendants would not be eligible until they have served 30 years in prison. Both charges could also lead to the death penalty, but the prosecutors have not asked for it in this case.

Judge Timothy R. Walmsley, who oversaw the trial, will determine the men’s sentences after an unscheduled hearing. During the hearing, prosecutors and lawyers for the men can argue for their preferential sentences, and relatives of Mr Arbery can also issue a victim statement to the court.

“The judge has seen the whole thing,” said Sarah Gerwig-Moore, a professor at Mercer University School of Law, in Macon, Georgia. take that into account in the sentencing.”

When sentencing the men, the judge will take into account a series of aggravating and mitigating factors. Experts said the jury’s decision to acquit Gregory McMichael and Mr. Bryan of intentional murder was unlikely to have serious consequences, although the judge might consider it was Travis McMichael, not the other. two men pulling the trigger.

“The fact that they didn’t actually fire can be considered,” said Melissa D. Redmon, a former district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Georgia School of Law. “Yet according to the law, they have the same debt.”

Even if the judge allows one of the men to seek parole after 30 years, Ms. Redmon said, it’s rare for people serving life sentences to be paroled once they qualify. At that point, people serving those sentences will be eligible for parole at least every eight years.

The three men, who are all white, are also being charged with federal hate crimes after Justice Department prosecutors accused them of interfering with the right of Mr. Arbery, who is black, to use a public street because of his race. . They also charged all three men with attempted kidnapping, and they accused Travis and Gregory McMichael of using, carrying and brandishing a firearm. That trial is scheduled for February.

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