The three white men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black jogger, are appealing their federal hate crime convictions. They claim that the government failed to prove that they chased Arbery because he was Black, according to CNN.
The appeals were filed earlier this month by the men’s attorneys, who all asked for a chance to present their case in court. In 2021, Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
During a federal trial, all three defendants were found guilty of interfering with another person’s rights, which is a federal hate crime, and attempted kidnapping, CNN reports. The McMichaels were also found guilty of a weapons charge in their cases. The father and son received life sentences, while Bryan was given a 35-year sentence to serve concurrently with his state term.
Both the elder McMichael and Bryan argue in their appeals that prosecutors failed to prove they acted the way they did “because of” Arbery’s race. However, Travis McMichael’s appeal concentrated more on the matters to do with his convictions on attempted kidnapping and weapons use charges.
“The evidence against Bryan did not present a man who saw the world through a prism of racism. He was not obsessed with African Americans such as his co-defendant Travis McMichael,” according to defense attorney J. Pete Theodocion, who filed an appeal on Bryan’s behalf.
“There is simply insufficient evidence in the record to suggest Bryan would have acted any differently on the day in question had Arbery been white, Hispanic, Asian or other,” the attorney wrote in the filing. Every crime committed against an African American is not a hate crime. Every crime committed against an African American by a man who has used racist language in the past is not a hate crime.”
Arbery was killed on February 23, 2020, while out on a jog in the Satilla Shores community outside of Brunswick, Georgia. Video of the fatal shooting was released in May 2020 and sparked nationwide outrage.
In the federal trial of the three men, witnesses testified about racist messages the men used. According to the remarks witnesses shared in court, which were both private and public, the men used derogatory terms and racial slurs to refer to Black people, which was critical evidence for prosecutors to prove racial bias on their part.
While defense attorneys acknowledged their clients used racist language during the trial, they denied their actions were motivated by racism.