On Friday afternoon, Georgia Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley announced that Travis and Gregory McMichael, two of the men convicted of the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, were sentenced to life in prison, plus 20 years, without the possibility of parole. William "Roddie" Bryan, the third man convicted in the case, was sentenced to life plus 10 years with the possibility of parole, and will be up for parole in 30 years, when he is about 80 years old.
During the sentencing, Judge Walmsey asked for a moment of silence for one whole minute, to represent part of the five minutes Arbery had spent running from his life in terror from these three men. Although defense attorneys argued for leniency based on the three men having no priors and being deserving of a chance at "redemption," Judge Walmsey's sentencing reflected the recommendations from the prosecutors and the wishes of Arbery's family. The men were sentenced to life for the murder, with additional time added for assault and false imprisonment.
Arbery's family spoke of their heart-wrenching loss at the sentencing hearing.
"Ahmaud had a future that was taken from him in an instance of violence," Jasmine Arbery said as she wept. "He was robbed of his life pleasures, big and small. He will never be able to fulfill his professional dreams, nor will he be able to start a family, or even be a part of my daughter's life."
"The loss of Ahmaud has devastated me and my family," she said, "so I'm asking that the man that killed him be given the maximum sentence available to the court."
Ahmaud Arbery's mother, Cooper-Jones, began her impact statement by speaking directly to her son.
"This verdict doesn't bring you back, but it does help bring closure to this very difficult chapter of my life," she said. "I made a promise to you the day I laid you to rest. I told you I love you — and someday, somehow, I would get you justice. Son, I love you as much today as I did the day that you were born. Raising you was the honor of my life, and I'm very proud of you."
These situations are somewhat fraught for those of us who believe in prison abolition, or even just the idea that "life without parole" isn't a thing that should exist. The idea of going "Yeah! Prison!" is not a particularly comfortable stance for many of us who believe that the prison system is inherently bad (and ineffective!). It's certainly not for me. And that's something that, I think, makes people struggle a lot with abolition in the first place. The way I look at it, however, is that we do not currently have the structures and systems in place necessary for abolition to happen— which will require a lot more than just not sending people to prison.
Also, let's be real — not gonna shed any tears for these creeps while so many rot in prison for crimes they didn't commit or crimes for which they were clearly over-sentenced. Triage is necessary in all things, and racist murderers who almost got away with their crime because authorities just wanted to "let it go," because one of them used to be a cop are no one's biggest priority. When everyone is afforded the kind of leniency and benefit of the doubt that these men were initially given, and the "chance at redemption" that Travis McMichael's attorney argued for, then perhaps we can worry about them.
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