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The three Georgia men arrested following outrage over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery are now formally charged with multiple counts of murder.
The Cobb District Attorney announced Wednesday that Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan have been indicted by a grand jury on felony murder charges in the death of 25-year-old Arbery, who was allegedly chased down and shot to death by the trio in February.
The indictment formally charges each of the three men with nine counts: malice murder; four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault; false imprisonment; and a count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
A charge of malice murder for all three men likely means the grand jury believes all of them showed an "abandoned and malignant heart" in carrying out a killing, according to the Georgia state Code. Both malice murder and felony murder charges carry a penalty of life in prison, according to 11 Alive.
Although most grand juries have not been in session due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Cobb District Attorney Joyette Holmes said that a judicial order allowed for grand juries impaneled before the crisis to reconvene, the AJC reported.
Holmes was appointed to lead the case after multiple other prosecutors recused themselves due to personal ties to the defendants.
On Feb. 23, Gregory McMichael, 64, spotted Arbery jogging through his neighborhood and claimed he assumed he was responsible for a number of burglaries in the area, according to ABC News. Gregory McMichael and his son Travis, 34, proceeded to chase down Arbery in their vehicle. The were joined by Bryan, 50, who filmed the confrontation and death of Arbery.
The video was leaked on social media in early May and ignited national outrage and protests. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the investigation and arrested the McMichaels within days, while Bryan was arrested later that month — unveiling a number of details that cast doubt on the idea the men were attempting to perform a citizen's arrest on Arbery.
A state investigator testified earlier this month that Bryan had told investigators Travis McMichael said "f-----g n-----" while Arbery laid dying on the ground, NBC News reported. Special prosecutor Jesse Evans said Arbery “was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed.”
Defense attorneys for the McMichaels previously defended their clients by cautioning against a rush to judgement. An attorney for Bryan has claimed the man was only a witness to Arbery’s death.
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